Gardening in December

December can be a very demanding and stressful month for a multitude of reasons, but gardening isn’t one of them. The winter garden is slow and presents an opportunity to pause and reflect. We can enjoy every gardening job December has to offer without a sense of urgency, so let’s see what we can be doing!

If you haven’t already….

  • Write your Christmas list! What do you need to successfully grow your own food next year? Make sure to do your research and choose good quality products. Perhaps add a Harvst Sprout or WaterMate to your list?
  • Gather your gardening equipment such as cold frames, nets, horticultural fleeces, plant supports and pots that aren’t in use. Give them a good clean and store them somewhere safe where they can’t blow away in the winter storms! Taking good care of the equipment we already have is not only good for our wallets, but the environment too!
  • When they are a few inches tall, plant out broad beans that have been started in trays. Water to help them settle in but don’t cover them with a cloche. They need to be exposed to the elements to grow into good hardy plants. 

What to do now….

  • Sit down with a cup of tea and go through your seed box. Check what you have, and what you need to order. We have a great variety of seeds for sale here.
  • Protect outdoor taps from freezing. Either insulate the taps with a cover or, if not in use over the winter – turn the tap off at the stop-cock. 
  • Soft fruit bushes can be pruned now. Remove one third of old wood on your blackcurrant bushes. This ensures that enough of the old wood is removed whilst leaving enough new wood for a good crop next year. 
  • Earth up winter brassicas to make them more stable in strong winds. Brussel sprouts are particularly prone to this and may also need a support cane. 
  • Keep on clearing your brassica beds as you harvest and add the green waste to your compost heap. Chop up the plant material with a spade to speed up the composting process. 
  • Keep on protecting your brassica beds with netting if you have a problem with pigeons. They tend to get extra hungry in the winter so keep an eye on your brassicas! 
  • Regularly check on your stored produce like potatoes, carrots and apples. Remove any bad ones to stop rot spreading. Also, make sure to eat the less than perfect ones first as the pristine ones will store the longest!
  • Repair anything broken in the garden like sheds, fences, trellises and plant support. You do not want to leave this job till the busy spring! 
  • Prepare beds for next year by weeding and feeding the soil with your choice of fertiliser. Mulching with compost, grass clippings or well rotted manure is a great choice as it not only feeds the soil but adds organic matter as well. It will also stop the soil from drying out, stop the weeds growing and help against soil erosion. 
  • Protect vulnerable plants from frost as we head for the coldest months of the year. Either mulch heavily or bring them under cover if possible. 
  • Lift and store your beetroot in a cold, frost-free shed. Place them in a large pot or crate and lay the beetroot in layers of just moist sand or old compost. 
  • As soon as you have finished harvesting a bed or area, make sure to weed and add a layer of mulch. This will stop the weeds taking over and also feed the soil and its inhabitants throughout the winter. In spring you can lift off any cover if necessary or just move the cover slightly to plant or sow. This will save you lots of time in spring when gardening is at its busiest. Compost, well rotted manure, leaves, grass clippings, weeds that have not gone to seed, hay, straw or hay silage can all be used. 

Quick jobs 

Sometimes we only have five or ten minutes to spare, but it is remarkable how much you can get done in those minutes! Also, imagine you did one of these jobs every day of the year. 365 small jobs creates miracles! 

  • Check on your potted plants. Make sure they don’t dry out after freezing but equally remove any saucers and raise the pots off the ground with a few stones so that they do not become waterlogged after rain. 
  • Protect your outdoor salad with a horticultural fleece. It will protect your crop from strong wind, frost and hungry animals like pigeons. 
  • Go for a 5 or 10 min walk around the garden and collect any equipment currently not in use. Store them somewhere safe. 
  • Remove the netting from fruit cages in case of heavy snow which can break it.
  • Tidy up your brassicas by removing the lower leaves when they start to look old and tired. It helps in preventing both slugs and disease.
  • Check your plants and remove any foliage that is yellow, dead or looking diseased to prevent moulds and fungal diseases from spreading. 
  • Watch out for hungry animals like pigeons, squirrels and deers. Protect your crops with suitable netting or move what you can under cover. 
  • Go on a slug hunt! We are not giving up now because it is the overwintering slugs that will cause havoc next year. Look under things like pots, pieces of wood, clumps of soil and stones. Dispose of them and any eggs you find. 

What should I be sowing this month?

This month we can sow broad beans and winter endives outside, plus onion seeds somewhere more protected. In the Sprout mini greenhouse we can keep on sowing spinach, lettuce, salad leaves, pea shoots, radish, spring onions, parsley and coriander. 

What should I plant this month?

December is a great month to plant gooseberries, currant bushes, raspberries, cane fruit and all types of fruit trees. 

What should I harvest this month?

December can be a surprisingly good harvesting month offering calabrese, kohlrabi, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts, celeriac, celery, swede, lettuce, winter radish, spring onions, parsnip, Jerusalem artichokes,  leeks, chard, beetroot, turnips and spinach.

Gardening with children 

Gardening with children is wonderful and chaotic! It is the very best place for them to learn about and connect with nature, wildlife, biodiversity, sustainability and growing food. It is important to let them have a go and fail but it is also important to give them an opportunity to succeed! Here are some ideas that you can do with your children this month! 

  • Make a wreath: Go out in your garden and collect what is there and have fun creating your own! Twigs, rosehips, sprigs of foliage with berries on, sprigs of evergreen foliage such as conifers, ivy, moss, pine cones, crab apples and so on. 
  • Create a table decoration: just as above! Go out and see what you find in your garden. Pinterest is a great source of inspiration to get your creative side going.