Month By Month Gardening

December Gardening Advice

December Gardening Advice
As another year draws to a close, we find ourselves reminiscing over our gardening successes, and our garden failures – from the devastation of blight, to the late season charm of chillies burning brightly in the greenhouse. And whilst we hold ourselves in limbo during this darkest of months, take stock in knowing the days will soon begin to stretch out once more.

Whether it’s the tastiest of veg or the most blousy of blooms, enjoy this time to flick through seed catalogues and go online for garden inspiration. Write your lists, create your plans and dream big.

In the flower garden


If you’re considering buying a Christmas tree this season, why not think about a pine tree that can be planted after the festive period? The potted Christmas tree has been steadily increasing in demand, as consumers have become more environmentally conscious. By planting your young tree out into your garden, it could grow on to become an established tree for years to come. Not only giving you and your family pleasure, it’s a great addition for garden wildlife too.

Another option is renting a Christmas tree. There are companies that will lease out a potted tree, quite often dropping it off and picking it up from your home. Once returned, they re-plant the tree so it can grow on for another year.

However, if you do opt for a pre-cut tree, don’t be too quick to throw it away in the New Year. Its needles can be chopped up and used as mulch for acidic plants, such as blueberries. The branches can also be used as support canes for growing peas.

If you have growing ivy or holly, consider creating your very own Christmas wreath. By using cuttings of evergreen, branches of crab apples and pyracantha berries, you could create a unique masterpiece. These cuttings will also make excellent mantle and table displays. And with mistletoe hanging from a doorway, it’s a great way to make friends and share the spirit of the season.


Although winter has arrived, it doesn’t mean you have to starve your garden of colour during these cold months. Garden nurseries will now be stocked with winter pansies, polyanthus and primroses, so why not add these to your grey garden space? Consider planting outside your windows, beside pathways, or just outside your door so you can easily appreciate the floral displays throughout the season. Hanging baskets, window boxes and patio pots are ideal for showcasing these winter blooms. As flowers fade, deadhead to prolong their flowering season.

Root cuttings can be taken from herbaceous perennials. This will increase your flower border supplies and save you the expense of having to buy new plants next season.

Seeds such as begonia, geraniums and snapdragon can now be sown in the greenhouse.


As December rumbles on, you may want to consider pruning deciduous trees. With leaves now fallen, the tree’s structure is clearly visible. Think about the three ‘Ds’: dead, damaged and diseased. Prune any branches that fall under these categories, but remember overall structure, and try not to prune too hard. As winter is a time of dormancy, many ‘sap’ based shrubs and trees, such as vines and acers, can also be pruned. If you have wisteria, give it a winter prune by cutting summer side shoots back to no more than three buds.

Leaf mould

Continue to keep borders and paths clear of fallen leaves. If you have the space, why not create a large bin for leaves to breakdown naturally, thus creating your own supply of leaf mould? Four posts, forming a square, pegged into the ground and surrounded with chicken wire is an easy and cheap solution. Otherwise, leaves can be gathered in large black bags or unused large containers and dustbins. Insert several holes for drainage and store out of sight.

Freezing temperatures

Keep an eye on weather reports and overnight temperatures. If you have plants in the greenhouse then a heater might make all the difference on a cold night. Fallen snow can weigh down, and possibly damage, plants and structures, so use a soft broom to gently brush away heavy deposits on greenhouses and polytunnels. Shake snow from plants and avoid walking on lawns, as you risk damaging them. Outside taps and pipes should be insulated and protected to prevent them from bursting. If possible, gather up garden hoses and bring into the shed for protection.

If you haven’t done so already, move outdoor pots and containers into a shed or greenhouse where they’ll be protected from the harshest of weather. If you don’t have an outbuilding, try grouping them together in a protected area of the garden. Keep them raised and off the frozen ground, as the cold ground can damage pots. If your containers are too heavy, think about wrapping horticultural fleece around potted plants. Bubble plastic is another option. A wrapped potted plant won’t only benefit from the added warmth, but it could prevent the cold from cracking the pot as well.

Garden wildlife

Ensure all bird feeding stations are clean and replenished regularly. Hanging fat balls are great for feathered wildlife. A fresh water supply will also help birds this time of year. Prevent water features and ponds from freezing over, as it can damage structures and harm fish and garden wildlife.

On the veg patch

Christmas veg

If you’re growing veg for Christmas Day, then check your crops regularly for pests and diseases. Remove any decayed or fallen foliage and keep the area weed free. When lifting carrots, parsnips or leeks, ensure you prise them gently from the cold ground with a hand fork. The later you can leave digging up the veg, the fresher they’ll be on the big day.

Primary cultivation

As veg plots start becoming bare, remove old debris and add to the compost heap. If the ground’s not too hard, turn over the soil to help aerate it and expose dozing pests. Try applying a thick layer of compost or well-rotted manure over the plot as this will do wonders for your vegetables next year. As the matter breaks down, it’ll release vital nutrients, improving soil fertility and structure.


If you’ve been growing rhubarb for some years, dig up the crowns, split them top to bottom with a spade, and then re-plant. Not only are you reinvigorating the crowns, but increasing stock. If you’ve purchased new varieties, get them into the ground as soon as possible. By leaving a newly planted crown untouched for at least a year, you’ll allow it to become established, enabling it to produce quality stalks for years to come.

It’s now time to take hardwood cuttings of currants or gooseberries, as well as prune fruit trees such as apple and pear. Think about the three ‘Ds’, as mentioned earlier. Ensure all trees and fruit bushes are tied to their stakes, as windrock can cause damage. If you have fan-trained peach and nectarine trees, they may need fleecing to protect them from peach leaf curl fungus. Do not prune stone fruit trees such as cherry, plum or peach, as this will leave them exposed to silver leaf disease.

Other jobs

Add festive colour to the home with poinsettias, hyacinths or cyclamen persicum. However, keep watering to a minimum, and place them in a draught-free environment, out of direct sunlight.
Keep paths and patios clean of mud and leaves. Pressure washing the area will prevent anyone from slipping.
Turn over the compost heap, as it’ll help speed up the decomposition process.
Keep horticultural fleece close to protect tender plants in case there’s a sudden drop in temperature.
Order seed catalogues, eat another mince pie and plan for 2022 growing season.

Written by Ade Sellars, garden writer and presenter.

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