December Garden – Tidy, Protect & Maintain
Clearing borders of dead or dying plants helps create tidy displays, showing off those still in bloom. The spent debris makes a great soil improver for next year, so get it rotting down. Prune harshly to improve the shape of your trees and shrubs, look out for flaws such as split or broken branches, and make sure you cut them back so they are healthier next year.
Don’t rely on bought garden compost; it’s the perfect time of year to create your own! Keep any plant cuttings and kitchen scraps, mix them together and allow them to rot down ready to be used next spring. Leaves and manure are great for creating an alternative to compost; leaf mould can act as soil coverage during those harsh winter months and manure can be rotted down and used to rejuvenate your soil with nutrients. If you’re looking for something a little more natural, green manures like clover or rye are great for improving soil nature’s way!
Mulch requires very little work, and is great for applying to the roots of established or flowering plants. Let earth worms do all the hard work; they will eventually drag and blend the mulch into top soil.
Don’t let ivy be a pest; it may seem like any other climbing plant usefully covering your bare walls and fences. Unfortunately no matter how much you try and keep it in bounds, ivy always has a way of escaping! It has a habit of smothering other garden plants and annoying neighbours, so make sure you keep cutting back those escaping shoots or get rid of it altogether.
December is all about protection for your plants and garden wildlife. Protect ponds by catching any fallen leaves with a small net and trimming off any dying or tatty foliage so they don’t pollute the water. You may wake up on those winter mornings to find your pond covered in ice, fish can withstand such low temperatures but can’t survive too much in the water. Float a tennis ball on the surface to stop ice taking over your pond and keep your fish and pond wildlife safe!
Wind can cause major problems, sometimes loosening plants causing disease to spread or making them become completely dislodged from the ground. When plants are loosened it forms a gap between them and the soil, allowing excessive moisture and frost to reach the roots. Check that newly planted plants are firmly back into place and reduce the height of overly tall plants will reduce wind rock. If you are extremely worried about some of your tender plants, the best thing to do is move them inside when the weather becomes more severe.The cold weather doesn’t just affect your plants, don’t let your containers crack as the frost starts to set in, wrap them with bubble polythene or fleece. If you have lots of containers pack them together and wrap protection around as a group. Your garden furniture is also at risk, cover furniture with polythene sheeting to protect it from becoming damp and possibly rusty.
Remember to replenish and add water for birds to drink out of. Watch out for bird nests when pruning. Many gardeners assume that birds aren’t hungry when they look plump, birds actually fluff up their feathers to minimise the loss of heat from their bodies when they are seriously hungry.