What NOT to do in the garden in December

December 13th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

©Jans Canon. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

What should we be doing in the garden in December? Well, the books and magazines have some pretty mad ideas.

“Sow begonias” No. The chance of the tiny seedlings damping off is pretty much 100%. Wait.

“Prune summer flowering shrubs and roses” No. A few mild days will prompt new growth that will be frosted as soon as we get a cold snap. Shorten them to prevent wind rock, yes, but leave the final pruning till later.

“Replace worn turf at the edges of lawns” No. As soon as we get a hard frost the turf will curl up and dry out.

“Protect carnations with black cotton against birds.” What?! Apart from the fact that so much cotton is now synthetic and not actually cotton at all and is too tough for even a big fat pigeon to break if it gets tangled, I’ve never seen a bird do anything to a carnation except eat a few aphids off the buds.

“Treat tulip clumps with a contact weedkiller and then a weed preventative.” Really? How many clumps of tulips do you have? How long will it take to pull out any weeds by hand? And how long will it take you to go to the garden centre, hunt for safe weedkillers and weed preventers, come home and treat the weeds? Need I say more?

“Spray rhododendron buds with bird deterrent”. No. Bird deterrents are for buildings, not buds, and not even the “Buy this item and get 90 days Free Amazon Music Unlimited” will tempt me.

“Cover ground around newly planted camellias and rhododendrons with 12in of straw to prevent roots being frozen.” How’s your straw supply holding up? Got pet rabbits? How long do you intend to spend collecting the straw from the four corners of the garden where the wind has dumped it?

So, take what you read about December jobs with a little scepticism, And, if in doubt as to whether you should do it now or at all: probably – don’t. Except:
“Feed the birds.” Yes. In winter, it’s essential

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Is one of our best known gardening writers. A graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Graham was previously Gardening Correspondent of The Observer.
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