December Planting - Many trees and shrubs are dormant now and so itís a good time to plant them as they less likely to be stressed during the process. As a general rule, never plant if the soil is frozen or waterlogged as this will be very difficult to do and will subsequently cause untold damage to the roots. Always use a quality planting compost and mix this into the soil in the before planting. Take a look around the winter garden and locate areas that are bare of interest and colour. There are many shrubs that perform during the depths of winter that can be planted now. For plenty of ideas visit your local garden centre or plant nursery where you will find displays of seasonal plants that are looking great now. Depending on your space you can simply buy some winter bedding plants, a dogwood for coloured winter stems or a tree with amazing winter bark.
For instant colour and interest, plant up a container or two of winter bedding and small colourful plants to bring some drama to the patio and garden. Make sure you place them in a prominent spot so that you can see them from a window or put them by the front door to welcome your visitors. Mulching - Garden mulches help to suppress garden weeds, improve and retain soil moisture and will also insulate plant roots against extreme cold or heat. Now is a great time to apply new mulches or to top up existing mulches. After heavy winter rain, top up around the base of your trees and shrubs. Donít add fertiliser or plant food at this time of year as it could promote early growth that would be affected by frost and freezing winds.
For areas where you are applying a fresh mulch, remove all perennial weeds and clear away any garden debris so that the mulch protects the surface of the soil. Mulch around cane fruit with a rich soil conditioner or a well rotted compost.
For containerised plants, mulch over the roots to protect the root ball from extreme cold. Itís also worth wrapping the sides of the pots and containers with bubble wrap to add further protection to the pot and your plants. You can also bring them into the sheltered space next to a house wall, or place then in a cool greenhouse to overwinter.
Weeding ĖEvery perennial weed removed now will save you hours of work in the spring and help you prepare the soil for spring planting. In the flowerbeds and vegetable patch spend a sunny afternoon digging out creeping buttercups and other persistent, perennial weeds.
Soil preparation Ė Winter is a really good time to dig the garden, especially bare vegetable patches and new borders. Dig over any bare soil in the garden, when the ground is not frozen or waterlogged. This allows the frost to break up thick clods and also to expose garden pests to the birds. Dig in plenty of Farmyard Manure or Soil Conditioner to improve the structure of the soil ready for planting. Donít dig between trees and shrubs or you may risk damaging the plant roots. Fruit - In the fruit garden itís a good time to winter prune tree fruit. Remove any dead, diseased or crowded stems and branches. Pay particular attention to the centre of the tree which can become tangled and overgrown. The outer stems and branches should be simply trimmed, if necessary, to keep the tree in shape. December is an excellent time to plant new fruit tress if the ground is not frozen.
Vegetables Ė If you want something easy to grow next year then start looking out for seed potatoes in the garden centre and choose a few tubers of varieties that you want to grow. Last season seed potatoes sold out in most places, so buy them early to get the best choice. Take them out of their bags and spread them out on a tray, placed in a light, frost-free place to sprout. Itís essential to protect them from frost, but donít keep them too warm or the sprouts will grow long and be brittle. A cool greenhouse is ideal. In the vegetable garden continue harvesting winter crops such as leeks, sprouts and cabbages.