December: to-do list

1. Dig over heavy soil to aerate it. Turning over the ground several times reduces soil pests by exposing them to hungry birds.

2. Clear away any debris to prevent harbouring slugs and snails, once again exposing them for our feathered friends to find.

3. Avoid walking on the lawn, if possible. Carry out any lawn repairs if conditions allow.

4. Remember to check any ponds and bird baths daily, take measures to stop them freezing over. Don’t even think about using any chemical anti-freezing agents, these are highly toxic to birds (and fish!). My father used to put a tennis ball in our small pond and a hay bale in our large pond. The floating movement of each stops the water freezing so swiftly. Bird are unlikely to bathe when temperatures are sub-zero, so place twigs across bird baths to provide perches for easy drinking.



5. Lag outdoor taps and hose points to prevent them from freezing. I use bubble wrap!

6. Plant fragrant winter-flowering shrubs such as Daphne, Sarcococca confusa and hookeriana varieties and Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’. Come January you’ll have a beautifully scented (if somewhat chilly!) early morning saunter with a cup of tea.

7. Bring pots of bulbs into cool rooms in the house once flower buds are showing through.

8. Bring any roses grown in containers into the greenhouse (if you are lucky enough to have one) and prune them hard. This will encourage them to flower earlier in the next season.

9. Prune outdoor roses any time between now and spring. Even in colder areas. Continue to plant new roses, ensuring roots are well splayed out in the planting hole. Give them a nice blanket of mulch.

10. In the vegetable plot, clear up any remaining plant debris and compost if disease free.

11. Prune freestanding apple and pear trees, currants and gooseberries. Plant any new fruit trees or bushes, if the soil is workable.

12. Prune grape vines by mid-December to reduce sap ‘bleeding’. Reduce side shoots to within one or two buds of the main stem.

Now sit back, admire all your hard work, nibble a mince pie and have a very Happy Christmas!


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