What a horrible month November was! I don’t know about you, but where we were the weather was consistently horrible. Weeks upon weeks of rain makes it difficult to work outdoors. A lot of our customers install patios and paths which has been especially tough sledding in the last few weeks.
Last month, it was all about preparing your garden for the upcoming elements and those of you that did are sitting pretty after your garden was relentlessly battered for days on end during the last few weeks! As we go into December, it is much the same. There are a few jobs that need doing to make sure you garden is protected, but leading up to the shortest day of the year (21st December) there are less and less hours to do these jobs in, so a quick start is important!
Plants are tricky this time of year, but there are still jobs that can be done, including beginning to grow certain crops and plants indoors ready for spring. This gives them a head start by preventing them having to compete with weeds in the early stages of their growth cycles by safely growing them away from the harsh outdoors. One of the main things you can start growing this time of year are onions. If you are growing them from seeds rather than sets, now is the perfect time to start. Growing from sets can be done as of January up until April, but seed planting can be done in December. There is a wider selection of seeds available as opposed to sets, so if you have a specific type of onion you want to grow, planting seeds this time of year is probably the best option. Put them somewhere warm to germinate and move them outside as soon as the soil warms up.
Similar to onions, shallots can be planted towards the end of the month to be ready for mid-June. Plant them directly outside if your soil is dry enough, but if not, plant them into plugs just deep enough to sit in the compost and keep them in the greenhouse until the soil beings to dry out.
Of neither of these appeal to you, now is the perfect time to take the time to plan what you do want to grow in the next year. With less happening outdoors, you can spend time creating a calendar from scratch of what to plant and when. A little research will go a long way! If this doesn’t sound like something you have the time to do, you can use a service which delivers exactly what needs to be planted on a monthly basis. Our absolute favourite is the Seed Pantry grow club. You can dip your toe in the water with a smaller box each month or go for the larger box and have a fully stocked pantry all year round! Each box comes with expert grow guides to give you the best chance of success and you choose exactly what goes in them. You will only be able to select from those options that should be planted at this time of year, meaning you can't go wrong with what you choose. A simply fantastic idea!
Click the image below to grab yours now! Tulips, onions, shallots and more for December 2019!
General maintenance tasks
If you didn’t get around to it last month, try and make sure you give your paths and patios a good clean down to prevent them becoming death traps. Algae builds up quickly in these wetter months, so give the patio a good wet down with a pressure washer to remove as much green as possible. Once you’ve done this, get yourself some sharp sand and tip this out onto the patio before using a wire brush to spread it all across the paths and patios. This stunts algae growth by acting as a grit-like substance – it also provides extra grip too! This is a simple job that everyone with slabbed paths and patios should be aiming to do when they get the chance.
Your lawn also needs extra protection during the colder months. Snow and frost wont cause irreparable damage to your lawn as grass is a tough old weed! However, try to avoid walking on the lawn when it is frosty or snowy as this is what will likely cause the most damage. If you get a mild day, it is more than acceptable to mow the grass, just make sure you raise the blades – short grass at this time of year will really suffer. You are more than able to leave your grass be until spring if the weather is too much, so don’t feel obliged to get the mower out.
If you have a pond, this should also be looked after. Pumps and taps should have been removed already to prevent frost damage, but there is more to do to ensure the balance of the water is maintained. The biggest issue is fallen leaves; these can sink to the bottom of the pond and decompose, which is a threat to the wildlife that relies on your pond to thrive! Carefully scoop out any fallen leaves and dispose or compost.
Dig over empty borders and start the process of enhancing your soil for spring. Pile manure on top if you wish and allow worms to begin breaking the soil up. You can also aerate the rest of your plant beds and even your lawn by spiking with gardening forks to improve drainage – this will give you better quality soil come spring.
This is peak season for pruning. Fruit trees and rosebushes especially will still need to be pruned. If you want the best yield or most vibrant display in spring and summer, don’t let your plants waste their energy over winter by allowing unnecessary or dead branches to draw attention from important areas of the plant! You are also likely to have a few potted plants could also use a bit of pruning or deadheading. Once you’ve done this, group all your potted plants together in the most sheltered area of your garden to protect them against the elements to come.
If worst comes to worst and the weather simply prevents you from getting outside safely, there is work you can do from the comfort of indoors - December is a great time to sharpen your tools. Get yourself a good whetstone and begin sharpening your tools you will regularly use. Just like a knife in the kitchen, sharpening your tools makes working with them safer. A sharp tool means you won’t have to put so much physical force into using them – a highly recommended job. If this is a task you don’t like the idea of, you can always pay to send them off and get serviced.
On top of your tools, it’s also important to maintain your plastic pots by washing them down. We are all aware of how much damage plastic can do to the environment, so by washing and reusing these pots, that means less plastic will need to be purchased.
Your garden is at it’s worst at this time of year, let’s not deny it. But while it may look uninhabitable, the wildlife that has chosen to make itself at home in your garden will need looking after more than at any point in the year.
The key takeaway here is don’t be too tidy – animals need cover either for shelter or to hibernate in, so make sure you leave somethings untouched no matter how much your perfectionist cylinders may be firing. Something as simple as fallen leaves tipped against a fence can act as a perfect home for toads, hedgehogs or vital insects over the winter months. Alternatively, stacks of wood and pruned branches can do the same job. Also, if you aren’t a fan of mowing your lawn anyway, here’s a great excuse – leaving some uncut grass is great for insects over winter.
On top of providing extra shelter, continue to regularly provide feed for the birds that live in or hibernate in your garden. It’s a tough time of year for them too, so make sure you are feeding with regularity as we discussed in last month’s article.
Photography & reflection
Once these jobs are out of the way, it leaves a lot of time to reflect and plan. Photography is a great way to picture your garden from an objective point of view. By taking lots of photos from all sorts of angles, you will give yourself a clear picture of what your garden looks like at its worst! From here, you can use the pictures to plan how your garden can improve its visuals for this time next year. A little planning goes a long way. Good gardens look good in summer, but great gardens also look good in winter, so use photography to really understand how you can improve the look of your garden all year round!