December 2016 Newsletter

We all have enough to do in December and it would be great if it was a quiet month in the garden. 

However it’s one of the best month to get a lot of jobs done. Especially as a lot of the preparation that takes place now will really start your 2017 off with a bang. 

Below is a checklist of jobs that we have recently discussed around the table. A few of them are quite physical so remember to warm up before any exercise. One our colleagues whose name shall not be mentioned because he paid us not to, recently put their back out down the allotment so feel free to use some exercises recommended by the NHS. 

Just so you know 120,000 UK children will be homeless this Christmas according to Shelter.Can you help by wearing “Slippers for Shelter” at work and school this December 9? Click here to go to Shelter’s website if you think your school or workplace can help.

 

Jobs to do... 

Prune shrubs & fruits

First things first; you need 1) clean & 2) sharp secateurs. Just clean your secateurs with washing up liquid and a scrub brush before starting to trim.

Wisteria can be cut back to 2 or 3 buds. Here’s a great video.

Climbing roses need to have old diseased foliage cut away. Here’s our favourite video.

Fruit trees that have fruit with stones such as cherry trees should not be cut now as it makes them susceptible to silver leaf fungus.

It’s good to clean up your grape vines too, check out this video.

It’s the best time to do Japanese Maples, get some ideas with this video.

Apples & pear trees can also be pruned during December.

Raspberries can be cut back to within about 3 inches (8cm) of the ground.

 

Protect your plants 

Move your containers to a sheltered spot away from the wind & rain but near a wall that gets the sun can help protect the plants and root systems from frost.

Have strong autumn winds moved tree stakes or tree ties? Check and re-set as necessary. Check your climbing plants too and see if they are secure.

Put autumnal leaf fall to work as a mulch on your borders and bedding. However if you are adding any more than a light layer of leaves, make sure you shred them first otherwise a dense blanket of leaves can lock in too much moisture.

Wrap fleece around tender plants such as ferns, banana plants & fig trees.

Tall brussel sprouts can take a battering from the wind, so if you have any don’t forget to check them and possibly firm the soil around the stems.

 

Tackle pests & diseases 

If your roses suffer from rose black spot don’t forget to clear all leaves and throw them into your black bin or compost bin. To better manage black spot, there is some good information here.

If you have any broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels & kale in your garden or allotment remove yellowing foliage as they can harbour pests & diseases.

Wash your greenhouse thoroughly, this means the glass, the floor and the shelves (often called staging) with horticultural disinfectant, this should help eradicate both pests and diseases.

Aphids will try to over-winter in your garden, keep an eye out for them.

If you grow vegetables think about how you will rotate crops in 2017 to reduce the chance of soil exhaustion and disease.

Add a glue band to any fruit trees you own. This stops a whole host of insects especially the Winter Moth from climbing the tree to lay their eggs over winter.

On warm days don’t forget to vent your greenhouse.

Now is a good time to wash and disinfect your bird bath, bird feeders and bird tables. If you don’t use a 100% biodegradable solution such as Citrox make sure everything is rinsed thoroughly so as not to taint the food or water.

 

Prepare your veg plot

Use fleece to protect hardy salad crops such as corn salad, winter purslane and provencale mix.

Prepare for the upcoming frozen ground by lifting root veg such as leeks, parsnips & celeriac and heeling them in. Full details on this trick of the trade can be found here. A lot of people swear that parsnips taste better when they experience a couple of frosts by the way.

Pigeons will be hungry over the winter try and keep brassicas covered with netting.

If you have any empty ground, dig it over and apply a topping of well-rotted manure. The RHS have a great article on when and where to apply manure here.

Now is a great time to divide your rhubarb to give the plants added vigour. Our friends at Kitchen Garden have put together a video here on the best practice for doing this. 

Now is a good time to turn your compost heap thoroughly.

How old are your strawberries? If they are coming up to 3 years old it’s time to change them for new plants that will give you much better harvests. Most strawberry plants lose their vigour once they are 3 years old.

 

Use the right tools for the job

Whilst you are not using your lawnmower and shears quite so much, now’s a good time to get them sharpened for all those jobs in 2017.

Make sure you keep any heavy snow off your greenhouse as it can break the glass. We use the Sno Blad for the job.

Have you covered your outdoor taps and put hoses away?

Hang your tools off the ground and if possible try to store in a dry location.

Don’t be afraid to wash wood and metal with mild soapy water. Just make sure you dry the tools thoroughly before adding linseed oil to both the wood & metal. Do not add WD-40 or motor oil to gardening tools as this can taint your soil & plants next year.

  

Put your lawn to good use

Work off those roast potatoes by gently spiking your lawn with a garden fork. It will help drainage and improve aeration which allows air and water to penetrate lawn thatch.

Use those leaves on your lawn as a mulch or a place for insects to hide but keep them off the lawn to ensure your lawn has light.

 

 

More friendly advice from us

Don’t slip over on a slippery patio or deck. Scrub with a broom or use a pressure washer to remove the build-up of algae. We use a liquid patio cleaner.

Use plastic sheeting over your compost heap to reduce the chance of your compost getting either to wet or too cold which can slow the composting process.