December is not only the month to deck the halls with boughs of holly—it’s also the time to deck the garden out. Or at least, spend some time ensuring that it remains fully functioning and joyful during the colder weather. While you’re roasting chestnuts on an open fire, jack frost is busy nipping at your plants. So here are my top gardening jobs for December, to make sure your garden stays as jolly as you are this month.
A winter chill can devastate tender plants, even when they’re tucked away in a greenhouse. Vulnerable plants need to be kept away from temperatures below 5 degrees, so unheated greenhouses need special attention when the temperature plummets.
At this time of year, although water is often in full supply, it can cause issues if it begins to freeze. So firstly, start by taking some time to insulate your outdoor taps. Simply use a tap cosy, or similar, to provide protection from the elements and then fix in place—if nothing else, this can be done with garden twine.
This will prevent your pipes from freezing, which can be really damaging and costly. So too, your plants will need your help when water becomes solid and they can’t absorb it from the soil. In the event of potted soil freezing, containers will expand and could crack. See my blog for helpful advice on how best to avoid this.
Once your taps and plants are suitably wrapped up warmly, it’s time to make sure ponds and bird baths are prevented from freezing too. Animals need our help to keep their sources of water accessible.
During really cold snaps, it’s unlikely this will prevent all of the water remaining ice-free. So I would recommend placing two or three footballs (or plastic containers) situated near the edge of the water so that birds can easily access the water’s surface. A pond aerator will have a similar affect as this, but they can be costly.
Finally, if despite your best efforts, freezing does occur, then make sure to thaw the ice as often as possible. To do this, use a hot kettle to melt the ice, as smashing it can harm pond inhabitants. For bird baths, leave a tennis ball floating on the surface, which will leave a natural space if the ice covers the rest.
With your garden taken care of, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the sights of this season’s sights. Enjoy festive berries, deep green evergreens and the fading russet reds of deciduous growth—this natural decoration is the perfect backdrop to a Christmas at home.
Happy Christmas to you all!