Although the days have shortened, it’s fair to say that many of us have been enjoying a very mild autumn this year. There’s still plenty red, yellow and orange foliage on display and as we head into December, daytime temperatures are still in the teens for some areas of the UK. This gives us an ideal opportunity to get some extra gardening jobs done before Christmas and get a head start on next year.
Get ahead with your planting jobs
We are still in one of the best times to be planting your root ball hedging and to continue planting bare roots too. Bare root and root ball hedging and trees are best planted when the plants are dormant from late autumn to late winter.
Make sure you protect your newly planted hedging with rabbit guards, to shield the young plants from harsh weather and help them establish quicker with less failures.
For the deciduous trees, shrubs and hedges in your garden, such as Beech (Fagus) and Hazel (Corylus), this dormant season is the time to start pruning and renovating as it is easier to see what you are doing when the branches have no leaves.
Complete any pruning of Maple (Acer) and Silver Birch (Betula pendula) before the end of the year, when sap production is at its lowest and the tree is dormant. Evergreens are best left until early Spring before they are pruned.
Christmas Tree Care
Inside the home it’s time to enjoy the sight and smell of a real Christmas tree. You can avoid early needle drop on your Christmas tree by choosing a pine (Pinus) or Fir (Abies) tree instead of the traditional Norway spruce (Picea abies); these hold their needles for longer.
You should also avoid placing your tree near sources of heat such as a fire or radiator and water it regularly. Cut trees will last longer if stood in a bucket of water or placed on a stand with a reservoir.
After the festivities are over, remember to remove all the decorations before disposing of your tree responsibly – many local authorities arrange for trees to be recycled.
There’s lots to enjoy in your garden this time of year, here’s our round-up of winter gardening jobs and activities;
Plant a bare root fruit tree
There’s still time to plant a fruit tree, if you buy one that is at least 2 years old it will have a good chance to fruit in the first full year of planting. Unless you are sure your variety of fruit tree is self-pollinating, having a second tree in close proximity will ensure pollination occurs. Apple, pear, cherry, raspberry and plum trees will all do well in the UK climate, either planted and grown to their full height or kept in pots. So plant now, sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour (pun intended!).
Pick up leaves from your paths and patios, and brush or jet wash to stop slippery patches of mud and moss forming.
Add winter colour
The secret to year-round interest in your garden? Hedges, trees and shrubs! From the colourful dogwoods (Cornus), Photinia Red Robin, Fuchsia, Coprosma and Berberis to vivid evergreen plants such as Cherry Laurel, Privet or a more contemporary topiary plant, there’s plenty of inspiration to plan a winter display in your garden.
Use your leaves
Don’t let all those fallen leaves go to waste. You can add fallen leaves to your compost bin, as long as they are mixed with plenty green material and not too wet. You could also use them as leaf mulch and place around plants and flower beds as insulation.
Leave wild areas
Sometimes the best thing we can do for nature in our garden, is nothing. Leave areas of dead or rotting wood for insects and fungi to benefit from. Beetles, caterpillars and even some butterflies can overwinter as adults amongst rotting wood piles.
Give a gift that grows
Make a natural Christmas decoration
For a truly unique, thoughtful and low-cost gift, why not have a go at creating a festive wreath or decoration from the foliage and berries in your garden? Use greenery such as Holly (Ilex aquifolium) and Yew (Taxus baccata), then include berries like Firethorn (Pyracantha ‘Red column’) and finish off with pine cones or baubles. Your natural decorations will look and smell so festive – a wonderful eco-friendly alternative to trim your home this Christmas.
Look after garden birds
Remember to feed your garden birds to help them through the winter months and clean your feeders regularly to stop the spread of disease. They will also appreciate a fresh supply of water, especially during a prolonged period of frost or snow. Winter is a great time to spot birds in your garden, as there are fewer leaves for them to hide behind!
It can be quite nice to escape all the festivities and take yourself off into the garden for some fresh air and peace and quiet. Work off your Christmas feasting by sweeping, tidying, raking and digging – gardening is a great way to remain fit and healthy!
Tidy your shed or greenhouse
Take advantage of having less to do in the garden in December by getting your shed or greenhouse all clean and organised. Remember to empty hose pipes or other water containers before the frost arrives.
Plant a winter flowering shrub
Protect shrubs and trees from cold weather ahead
You can protect your trees and shrubs from frost by packing the branches with straw or bracken, and securing this with fleece and ties. Check your tree ties and stakes and replace, tighten or remove as necessary, ready for any stormy weather this winter.