What to do in the garden in December

Winter finally arrived in this corner of Suffolk with a few hard frosts at the end of November, preceded immediately by a prolonged period of heavy rain.  We do not normally experience too many pre-Christmas frosts nowadays, but it will be interesting to see what December has in store for our trial ground.  Next summer seems a long way off at present, but it will not be many weeks before our trials team makes the first seed sowings in readiness for next year’s displays and crops.  We hope you will be doing the same for your garden.

GroBox line-up

With Christmas also looming on the horizon, we have pulled together a few ideas on inexpensive gifts for gardening friends.   There are lots of things you can buy a gardener, and something else is always needed whether it is a new plant, new tools or something as extravagant as a bumblebee lodge or a polytunnel.  So take a look at our ideas and find something to suit your budget.

RSPB Give Nature a Home

Newly introduced for 2015 and especially for those who are relatively new to ‘growing their own’ we have introduced a range of Grobox and Gromats pictured above.  You should also take a look at the RSPB range of seeds we’ve developed specially chosen to help our birds, butterflies and bees.   There are three seed collections and three shaker boxes of seed blends which will both help our native birds and pollinators, but also make great stocking fillers this Christmas too.

But before we send you out to your labours in the garden this month, may we just take this opportunity to wish you all a happy Christmas and a fantastic year in the garden throughout 2015.

 

Jobs in the flower garden in December

Pansy seedsDecember is generally one of the quietest months in the garden, but why not plant up a patio pot or two with pansies,  primroses and polyanthus to bring some welcome colour in the weeks ahead?

If you have an unheated greenhouse with space at the moment, plant some bowls with crocus or hyacinths.  With the protection the greenhouse gives, they will probably flower ahead of those planted outside and can be brought into the house in early spring to cheer up the home.  There is also just about time to plant tulip bulbs outside;  they are still on offer in our local garden centres.

Crocus

On the subject of early seed sowings, summer bedding favourites such as geranium (Pelargonium zonale) and fibrous-rooted begonia (Begonia semperflorens) can be sown  from January onwards, either in a heated propagator or on a warm windowsill.  If you are looking for the classic red geranium, always a great favourite with our customers, look no further than our Moulin Rouge F1, which boasts an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society, which means it should perform really well in your containers, beds and borders.  This one really looks superb in traditional terracotta pots on a terrace or patio.

Fibrous-rooted begonias are unbeatable for edging beds and borders, and they never seem to know when to stop flowering.  They remain neat, compact and full of flower from early June onwards.  This year, some of ours at home were still in bloom until the middle of November, which just goes to show what great value they are.  Begonia Mr F’s Special Mixed F1 includes both green- and bronzed-leaved types and is a real star performer.  Remember that both begonias and geraniums will need frost protection as they develop next spring before being planted out to their flowering positions in late MaBegoniasy.

Seed of sweet peas can also be sown in January, so now is the ideal time to place an order for our seed.  Sowings can be made in pots of good quality compost in an unheated greenhouse.  Although sweet peas are hardy annuals, it is a good idea to protect the emerging seedlings and young plants with some fleece when hard frosts threaten, but they need very little pampering.

We are rather proud of our range of sweet peas, which includes lots of individual varieties, plus many blends and mixtures.  As you browse our selection, you will see that several of our sweet pea varieties are labelled as ‘Bred by Dr Keith Hammett’, who is the world’s leading breeder of these beautiful flowers.

Sweet Pea Jimelda

We have become great friends with Keith and have the highest regard for his work – that’s why we like to single out his varieties for you as being something rather special.  For example, Keith is responsible for our latest exclusive introduction Jimelda, which we have named in honour of husband and wife actors Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton.  We really love this crimson and cerise bicolour, and it will certainly stand out in your garden.

Roses, especially taller ones, can be pruned back to about half their height ahead of more severe pruning early next spring.  Remove all rose leaves on the soil’s surface to prevent the build-up of disease through the winter months.

If you notice any hellebore leaves with brown patches (leaf spot), remove these by cutting the whole leaf stem off at the base.  Taking off these diseased leaves also makes it easier to see the flowers when the appear.  Follow this with a mulch of well-rotted organic matter such as leafmould to give the plants a boost.

Azaleas are popular house plants at this time of year, and they benefit from correct watering.  Keep the pot in a saucer and poor just a little water at a time into the saucer when you notice the surface of the compost is dry.  Rain water is best for this purpose, but boiled (not boiling!) water is a reasonable alternative as it has less alkalinity than water straight from top.  Always ensure the water you use is at room temperature.  Tap water tends to make the foliage turn yellow.

 

Jobs in the vegetable garden in December

Brussels sprouts

Out in the vegetable garden or on the allotment, seed of broad beans Aguadulce and Superaguadulce can be sown direct in their cropping positions when soil and weather conditions permit.  The plants are usually as tough as the proverbial old boots, but the beans they produce early next summer are deliciously sweet and tender.

Taller varieties of Brussels sprouts can sometimes work loose in the soil due to high winds.  It is worth checking plants and firming the soil in with your heel around any which look a little wobbly.  On exposed sites it may even be worth staking them for extra stability.

While parsnips are often ready by October, the flavour always seems to improve once the roots have experienced a frost or two.  We believe the frost makes them sweeter and tastier – and a lot of gardeners believe the same is true of Brussels sprouts.

parsnipsWhile conditions allow it is a good idea to continue digging over any bare patches of the vegetable garden or allotment.  If you have well-rotted farmyard manure or other bulky organic matter to incorporate as you dig, so much the better.

December is a good month to start making plans for next year’s vegetable garden and ordering seed of favourite varieties. So put on a pot of tea and sit back in a comfy chair to peruse your catalogue or browse through the website’s vegetable seed offerings.

If you like the idea of growing some large onions from seed (and incidentally the largest bulbs are always produced from seed rather than from sets), you must try The Kelsae, which is capable of yielding large, heavy bulbs even with the minimum of attention.  It remains one of the finest strains for producing large, heavyweight bulbs and is a showbench classic.

The Kelsae

Serious onion growers sow their seed in gentle warmth in late December or in January to give the plants as long a growing season as possible.  Growing large onions is one of the most satisfying aspects of vegetable gardening.  For the best results and heaviest bulbs, sow seed of The Kelsae from December onwards in gentle warmth – and even if you don’t win first prize at your local horticultural show, the bulbs make excellent eating, with a lovely mild flavour.

Aubergine MoneyMaker f1Aubergines need a fairly long growing season, although they are not difficult.  Their seeds can also be sown in gentle warmth from January onwards – the earlier you start it, the better.  Our Moneymaker F1 is many people’s idea of the best of the purple-skinned varieties, being heavy yielding and well suited to our climate, but if you are looking for something rather different and very colourful, take a look at our aubergine Mixed, which includes long thin fruits, red and green Asian types, plus small red ones and both large white and purple types from the Mediterranean area.

Many of our customers also grow potatoes, and as we begin delivery of our seed potatoes in January, it is certainly not too early to take your pick from our extensive collection.

We have a superb offer, which combines great old favourites, such as Epicure, King Edward and Desiree, with the best of modern breeding, such as Vivaldi, Picasso and Apache.  Few crops are as rewarding or satisfying to grow as potatoes.  Even seasoned gardeners still get a thrill when they put their fork into the soil to reveal the first new potatoes of the summer.  By the way, all our seed potatoes are certified ‘Safe Haven’ or equivalent status, so you can be assured they are of the finest, healthiest quality and will give you superb results.  All our seed potatoes are also grown in mainland Britain.  To grow the best, you must plant the best.

 

Jobs in the fruit garden in December

Apple trees

Apple and pear trees can be pruned during December.  Take a look at the tree and first remove any damaged, broken or crossed branches, especially those which are growing into the centre of the tree.  Nowadays spur- and tip-bearing fruit trees tend to pruned similarly.  Cut back this year’s growth on main branches by around a third.  Do not prune side-shoots (laterals), as these will develop fruit buds in their second year.

Autumn fruiting raspberry canes can also be pruned back in December.  Cut back all canes to within 2-3in of the soil surface, as next year’s crop will be borne on stems produced next summer.  With the canes gone, cut out any suckers, remove all nearby weeds and finish off by giving your canes a good mulch with well-rotted organic matter to give them a great start to their new growth next year.

On less wintry days in December, it is possible to get out there and plant fruit trees during this month.  Although fruit trees are all dormant now it is the perfect time to ensure the root balls establish well as next year gets underway.

Take a look at our range of fruit trees on offer and consider planting a mini orchard in your garden this season!

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply