A lot of what you do this month will depend on the weather, and much of that work will be about clearing up and preparing for the year ahead.
If snow is forecast, and it’s possible to do this, tie in any splayed out branches of upright conifers and yew. If you can’t manage to do that just do your best to remove and snow from trees and shrubs (especially evergreens) before it freezes as the weight can break branches.
Clear snow from cold frames and greenhouses that contain plants so that it doesn’t block out the light, and don’t forget structures like fruit cages too. Scatter salt or grit on regularly used paths during freezing weather to keep them free from ice.
Keep bird food and water supplies topped up, and spend time cleaning bird tables and feeders. Put up nesting boxes.
This is the time of year when the bones of your garden become apparent. You can see the skeleton and assess the need for evergreen and structural plants to provide a strong framework. If in doubt, call a garden designer!
If the weather is reasonable this is also a good time for jobs such as repairing fences and sheds, and treating outdoor timber with preservative. Organise your storage space, clean and sharpen tools and service lawn mowers and other machines, and clean empty pots and seed trays ready for the spring.
TREES & HEDGES
Recycle your Christmas tree – many garden centres offer a shredding service. Check on tree ties and make sure any newly planted trees are still firmly in the ground.
Plant bare root deciduous hedging such as hawthorn and beech as long as the ground isn’t frozen. This is also a good time to renovate any very overgrown deciduous hedges, but just cut back one side this year, and the other side next year. Cut the top about 6 inches below the desired final height.
SHRUBS & CLIMBERS
This is an ideal time to move deciduous shrubs.
If you’re growing ornamental Elder (Sambucus) or Catalpa and want to restrict their growth, then now (the dormant season) is a good time to pollard them. Large overgrown Philadelphus can also be cut hard back in winter or early spring.
Prune large deciduous climbers that have got out of control (Virginia Creeper, Climbing Hydrangea). Prune Wisteria by reducing last year’s growth to spurs of two or three buds.
PERENNIALS & BIENNIALS
Continue to clear up the borders removing dead leaves and other growth to clear space for spring bulbs which are starting to come through now.
Cut away old foliage from Lenten Hellebores as the flowers start to appear at the base of the plant.
White frost is a beautiful thing but resist the temptation to walk across it until it has thawed properly or you will leave blackened footprints where the grass is bruised. If you have to walk across the lawn make a temporary path with heavy duty mesh or interconnecting wooden slats.
Keep an eye on your pond if its likely to freeze over and follow instructions in my ‘Jobs for the Garden in December’ blog.
Continue to protect plants (and pots) from frost. Wrap them in horticultural fleece or bubble wrap if severe weather threatens. Check for moisture – if they are protected from rain, containers can dry out at this time of year. Check for waterlogging too – and make sure your pots are draining well.
PEST & DISEASES
Continue to inspect stored tubers and rhizomes and discard anything showing signs of rot.
Picture credits: Janet Bligh & Firgrove Photographic