December Garden Notes
December is rarely as cold as the calendar would indicate. Hard frosts and freezing days are usually the province of late January and February, whereas the run up to the end of the year is usually dark, damp and dismal. Finding time to brighten the garden will provide a useful distraction to the run-up to the festive season. Alternatively use the time to plan your flower borders, bearing in mind any colour theme you wish to follow and the eventual flowering height of plants.
Beds and Borders…
Your winter garden needn’t be short of perfume. Witch Hazel (Hamamelis), winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera ‘Winter Beauty’) and Daphne will add attractive fragrance to your winter border.
Now is a good time to check variegated shrubs such as eleagnus, osmanthus, phormiums and pieris for the odd rogue branch that is growing plain green leaves rather than the highly attractive gold or silver-edged foliage. Prune out these branches.
With winters not so cold and periods of heavy frost that last for weeks rarely being experienced, grass is tending to grow throughout the year. If your lawn starts to look long and untidy then give the lawn a light trim without cutting it too short.
Raise the height of cut slightly higher than that for summer, since the grass grows more slowly during winter. Mowing when the grass needs it will help the lawn to withstand the last of any warm, dry weather and help resist treading when the cold and wet weather arrives. Keep off the grass if frosty or very wet to prevent damage. Remove fallen leaves that may blow from other areas of the garden.
For best results choose a mild, dry day when the blades of grass have had time to dry out. Dry grass is easily cut by the mower blades and will be picked up by your machine, whereas wet grass tends to be mashed up and mutilated by the blades and the roller. If finding a dry day is a problem drag the reverse side of a brush over the lawn, wait 30 minutes or so and then the lawn should be dry enough to cut.
If your starting to notice moss in the lawn as the weather cools and grass growth slows down, it’s a great time to booked a scarification treatment for Spring, your too late to do anything radical this autumn as you'll be left with a much-disfigured lawn opening channels for further moss invasion.
Worm casts play havoc making lawns look messy and ultimately encourage weeds and weed grasses, you can give extra help to deter earth worms by collecting up leaves, this removes surface food which encourage worms to cast.
Keeping the edges neat and tidy is something you can do in winter. If you have time, use a half-moon edger to cut the lawn edges back to its original shape.
Patio Tubs and Baskets…
Alpine plants growing in sink gardens or stone troughs will flower better next spring if they are protected from regular winter rains with a sheet of clear Perspex. As their name suggests these high-altitude plants are not too bothered about really cold weather, but they do tend to rot off if roots are permanently wet or rain is allowed to stagnate on the foliage. Many of these alpine plants are naturally dormant under snow cover where they have cold but dry conditions, so water from the sides if necessary and place the troughs in the best light conditions possible.
Grow your Own…
Winter is a difficult time for garden birds such as wood pigeons. When food is scarce, they will descend on winter greens, stripping the leaves and fouling the crop. Protect brassicas left outside with some netting protection to keep the pigeons from ruining your crop. Brussels sprout plants should be staked to ensure they are not rocked around or blown over by high autumn winds. Firm the soil with your heal to ensure winter brassicas are solidly fixed into the soil.
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