Rushlake Green Village Leaf

Gardening Diary
December 2010


' Winter eateth
what summer getteth'

Those of us who use a well known internet auction site will have noticed a new ploy to worry us into buying, namely a countdown to Christmas, irritating yes but taking out working hours, lack of light, uncertain weather, planning and buying for Christmas, the diligent gardener should be rightly worried by the number of useful hours left before Christmas and the subsequent surfeit of lampreys and heavy pudding leaves us prone and incapable. Furthermore as of the 21st, as the old saying goes ' As the days get longer, so the cold gets colder '. Having added to your stock of worry and woe here are a few gardening tips and reminders for December.

What can the garden provide at Christmas time?
In the vegetable plot, Brussels sprouts are in full swing along with cabbage, savoy, leeks, cauliflower, Jerusalem artichokes ( Due to well known physiological side effects, be careful not to serve in polite company), kale, swede, turnip and celery whilst carrots, beetroots, onions, parsnips and potatoes may be available from your stores.

Roots of mint, placed in a deep seed tray and covered with potting compost in the greenhouse will give you shoots for early picking.

Branches of Jasmin nudiflorum, some of the winter flowering viburnums, winter flowering heather, euonymus, mahonia and of course holly all make excellent foliage decoration. Christmas rose, helleborus niger and the silvery seed pods of honesty all help to bring some cheer. Though it may be considered old fashioned, I still like to dry some thistles, Sea Holly or even Jerusalem Sage as everlastings to admire their architecture.
Many of the above shrubs are amongst the easiest to grow, being very undemanding of conditions.

If current dire predictions are borne out and we are all subsisting in medieval poverty this time next year, the prudent householder may wish to plan their garden with the aim of saving some money come next yuletide.

Ground preparation and jobs for this month
Frosts last month finished off the last of the roses so cut off the spoiled flowers and some top growth, this will keep them looking tidy and reduce wind rock during winter. Carry on collecting the last of the leaves for the leaf bin, we need all the soil conditioner we can get in our clay based gardens. Any leaves or small annual weeds on the borders can be lightly forked in and will add to the humus content.
Autumn digging of the vegetable plot should have been completed by now, the reader having remembered not to manure the areas for next years root crops. The gales of last month may have loosened any newly planted shrubs and trees and wall flowers so make a point of treading them in firmly, also frost may have raised cuttings. If the weather is not actually freezing, those with outdoor vines can prune them now, vines are all too often allowed to get into a tangle of old and unproductive wood and would benefit from cutting back to two eyes. Likewise large-flowered late summer flowering Clematis can be cut back to three to five feet from the ground.

In sheltered areas we can plant broad beans, garlic and shallots now, these often give a better crop for being started off early and relieves some of the expanse of bare soil in the veg. plot.

Fruit pruning as touched on last month should be completed now, remembering that pruning plums and cherries now can lead to silver leaf disease. Always a good idea to burn prunings as a disease preventative.

This is the time of year that rabbits can become a menace to newly planted trees, if you notice evidence of bark being chewed, tie a rag soaked in a suitable animal repellent to the base of the stem. For those of us who enjoy foraging and feel righteous in sparing the farmed beast the rigours of the slaughter house, now is the time to mount an all night vigil with a torch, a thermos of cocoa and a twelve bore.

Now is a good time to dig over the beds for next years annuals though remember that most annuals flower best on a not over-fertile soil, if the soil is reasonable there's no need add manure or compost.
Good half hardy annuals include petunias, marigolds, ageratum, zinnias, asters, stocks and for the hardy annual I would include sweet alyssum, annual chrysanthemum, scarlett flax, sweet peas, godetia, clarkias, calendulas, nasturtium and coreopsis.

And finally . . .
A most enjoyable pastime for old chaps like me comes now, on days too wet to get into the garden, namely the ritual preparation of tools for winter storage. Untold pleasure can be got from the slow, methodical cleaning, sharpening and oiling of garden tools. Once cleaned and sharpened use engine oil mixed with some paraffin and apply with a rag, then stand back clasping a mug of tea and admire your tools hanging in their rightful places on the shed wall. After all this self indulgence it is time to get back out there and see to any maintenance issues in the garden. Did that fence stand up to those gales we had in november? Will it stand another one? Last winter did for the pointing on the patio, has it been seen to before this winters cold freezes all the underlying water and lifts it? Does the gravel path need freshening up? Is the shed roof watertight? The calculating gardener knows that though we will soon be facing the long gloom of Lent, he or she will soon be far too busy to be seeing to general maintenance.

Merry Christmas from the team at Green and Great Gardens.

Content supplied by Ross Atabey from Green & Great Gardens your local landscaping and garden specialists. For further advice contact Ross on 07941 315214 01435 812 153 or visit