This Month In The Garden – December 2019/January 2020

Jeremy in the garden

Over the next couple of months there are likely to be quite a few days when the weather won’t be conducive to working out- of- doors. There are, however, plenty of jobs to keep you busy if you can get outside. That means it is a good idea to keep both in mind and have a list of the things that you can do under cover or indoors as well as planning what you will do in the garden. There is also Christmas  and the New year to celebrate  so gardening may not be a  high priority, especially in December …

If you have a greenhouse the glass should be cleaned to let in as much light as possible. There may also be some tidying and sorting to be done. Seed sowing is best done in fresh compost so, if you have got any old stock buy a fresh supply when you want to start sowing and use the old stuff as general compost. Tidying the shed and seeing that tools are cleaned is another job for when you don’t want to be outside. Then, of course, there is always the dreaded pot and seed tray washing to be done. Although many of us are worried by the excessive use of plastic it is difficult to manage without plastic pots and seed trays but we can keep using them for as long as possible rather than sending them to the tip. Alternatives or recyclable plastics are coming on to the market so it is worth looking out for advice on the subject.

If you are a vegetable gardener or you like to grow flowers from seed there is one important job you can do from the comfort of an armchair and when it is dark outside. That is to order your seeds for next year. You can, of course, buy seeds from garden centres and hardware stores but the varieties and colours available are never as great as buying  by mail order on-line or from a specialist catalogue.  You may well have seeds not used from previous years and many of these will still be usable. Most seed packets have a ‘use by’ date as a guide. Tomato and brassica seeds are particularly long lived while other varieties need to be sown fresh every year. Parsnips are a notable example. It is a good idea to keep your seeds in  a cool dry place in  a shoe box or some other container and sort them in date order, divided with a heading card  according to the month of sowing. 

Lawns might need cutting at any time if it is dry enough but there will be times when your mower is not needed and it will be worth arranging for it to be serviced when things are not too busy. Blunt mowing blades can do more harm than good. Tools like shears, loppers, secateurs  and knives are best kept sharp by frequent attention all the time they are in use but, if they have become blunt, a mower firm will probably provide a sharpening service.  There are a variety of gadgets that you can use to do your own frequent sharpening but I have found that the simplest and best is a sharpening whetstone, lubricated with water. They are available in a wide range of prices and  would make a good Christmas present.

You might be able to find another opportunity for spending money on the garden   with reduced price spring bulbs in  a garden centre Most varieties can still be planted in time for spring flowering and you can justify the purchase by calling it saving rather than spending.

Turning our attention at last to the garden itself, there are a number of jobs you can do at this time of year.  We have already had some frosts in November and we can expect the weather to get colder.  Plants which are susceptible to low temperatures can be wrapped in horticultural fleece or have fleece ready if a really cold spell is expected. Snow is increasingly rare but it is still a possibility so remove top netting from fruit cages or knock snow off as soon as possible to prevent damage to the net or frame. When it is not frosty continue pruning dormant trees and shrubs; particularly apple and pear trees. Don’t prune plum trees now. Wait for late summer after fruiting.  Flower beds can be tidied up and dead growth cut down as spring approaches. A period of dry weather in winter is a good time for treating sheds and fences with wood preservative.

Over the next couple of months have a walk round the garden now and again looking for opportunities for alterations or improvement and make plans accordingly.

Jeremy Arthern

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