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Gardener’s Countdown to Christmas

by User Not Found | Dec 02, 2013

December in the GardenTop 10 Jobs for the Garden in December

Are you a seasoned gardener who has carefully cared for and tended your garden all year, or are you well-meaning but busy bee who has done little hard graft since the glorious days of summer? Whichever you are, Christmas is upon us and there is no time to complain and much work to be done. Temperatures are dropping and the wonderful ecosystem that is your back garden will be thriving next Spring with some targeted TLC this month. These are our top ten jobs for Irish gardens in December. If you have any questions or need advice on something not covered here, pop over and ask us on our Facebook page, we’d love to help.

1. Get winter ready

Tender plants should be moved to warmer spots now such as sheds, porches or garages. Horticultural fleece is a wise investment – this and some mulch will go a long way when protecting plants from frosty nights. Half hardy plants such as dahlias and agapanthus will benefit from a thick layer of mulch to keep them snug. Protect pots early by covering any large outside containers with bubblewrap, fleece or hessian, to help prevent the pots cracking in the cold frosty weather and remove any saucers from under pots which could gather water which later freezes and cracks the pot. Scatter salt/grit on any regularly used paths during freezing weather to keep them free from ice.

2. Prune trees (real ones that is!)

Winter is an excellent time to prune trees and fruit trees, apart from plums, should only be pruned during this dormant season to prevent disease infection. This helps maintain healthy growth and improves cropping. Make sure your secateurs and pruning saws are clean and sharp so you don’t introduce diseases to the cuts that you make. Remove mummified fruit from fruit trees along with the spur, to stop disease spreading. You can use a sealing product if you wish to seal pruning cuts to protect from frost and infections.

3. It’s tough being a bird in Winter – help them out

If you have an excess crop or some bruised apples or pears chop some in half for the birds – they are great for thrushes, tits and starlings. Leave them on the bird table or spear them on a few twigs and watch them enjoy the feast. As the weather gets colder, put out high-fat (high-energy) foods such as suet balls or black sunflower seeds will help our feathered friends to get through the worst of the Irish weather.

Bird Feeding

4. Get planting

It’s not too late to plant Spring flowering bulbs. Most will still flower next Spring even if they’re planted in December – but beware - daffodils and crocuses do need as long as possible in the ground so results with these could be mixed. Tulip bulbs, however, can be planted right up until Christmas and will still flower perfectly well in the following spring because they only need a short season of growth. Add some fertiliser to encourage bulb root development like J. Arthur Bower’s Fish blood and bone which is perfect for this purpose.

5. Bare all

Get bare-root hedges, trees and shrubs in before Christmas if possible or contact us now and order yours. Bare root trees have an extensive, well developed root system, as a result of being allowed to develop naturally in the field. When planted during the dormant season, and with care, this root system remains intact, and the trees will establish more readily and will be given the very best chance of survival into the Spring. All our bare root trees and hedging are grown in Ireland. If you’re planting bare root trees or shrubs, check out Teresa’s Top Tips for Planting Bare Root Trees and Hedging.

6. Give your veg the gift of compost

December is a great time to use some of the homemade gold in your compost heap and work the goodness into your vegetable patch for next year. The contents of the compost heap, well-rotted manure or even composted bark can be worked into the bottom of the trench, where the worms will redistribute it to improve soil consistency. If your soil is very heavy, fork over the bottom of the trench before adding the organic matter in a generous layer and turning in the next spit.

Thinking of taking the plunge into home composting? It’s easier than you think and you’ll save money – check out our Short Introduction to Composting.

7. Pick veg and herbs for the festive table

In the vegetable garden you can carry on harvesting winter crops such as parsnips, kale, leeks, winter cabbage, spinach and Brussels sprouts. Don’t forget to pick Brussels sprouts from the bottom of the stalk upwards. Stake or earth up Brussels sprouts to prevent wind rock. If you have any cabbages or other plants in the cabbage family, make sure that they are protected with garden netting to protect the crop from hungry pigeons! You can have fresh herbs like mint and chives with your Christmas dinner if you move them indoors now and force them on a windowsill.

8. Beware downey mildew

Watch out for pale blotches and fuzzy grey mould on leaves of winter-flowering pansies that can be symptoms of downy mildew. Affected leaves will turn brown and gradually die. There are no fungicides available to treat downey mildew so remove infected leaves as soon as the discolouration appears and dispose of them.

9. Take cuttings now

Take root cuttings of suitable herbaceous plants. Propogating does take patience but the rewards far outweigh the wait. Not all plants are suitable but try some of these: Acanthus, anchusa, Anemone x hybrida, dictamnus, Echinacea purpurea, Geranium endressii, Gypsophila paniculata, Limonium latifolia, Papaver orientale, phlox (not variegated varieties), Primula denticulata, stokesia and verbascum. You can give your green fingers a helping hand with some organic rooting gel.

10. Put your garden to bed

There’s still a few final jobs worth doing before your put your feet up for Christmas. Check stored fruit and vegetables for signs of pest or disease attack. Don't forget that most herbaceous plants shut down completely in winter so add markers and labels to remind you where they are and stop you panicking in the spring. Give your roses a final check for mildew and if infected spray them immediately with a systemic fungicide like Rose Clear Ultra. Tuck one or two slug pellets (that is all it takes) around your more precious border plants, since slugs and snails are busy for most of the winter. Finally, give your garden one last tidy up – collect leaves using your mower (this also helps them break down faster into leaf litter) and add mulch to your borders where needed.


Angela's Bio

I've been a Horticulturalist with CountryLife Tullamore since April 2010. I am passionate about all things gardening and have been involved in the gardening industry from a young age as my family had an export plant Nursery and Garden Centre, where the seeds of my garden interests were sown. I have a National Diploma in Horticulture from Merrist Wood College, Surrey, UK. and a Certificate in Training and Continuing Education from National University of Ireland Maynooth. My experience has involved working and managing various Award Winning Garden Centres from 3 to 5 star grades. I also have delivered FETAC courses in Horticulture and evening classes at Athlone Institute of Technology – if you have a question or query on anything gardening related I would love to help!