Now winter's here it's time to feed your garden birds
Despite the limited daylight hours and the shortest day of the year, there’s still plenty of gardening to do in December.
The first ‘must’ for me is feeding the garden birds. Winter’s a tough time for our feathered friends and it gets tougher as we creep towards spring, so keep up a regular feeding regime.
Other musts include pruning Japanese maples and vines – if you leave it much later, the sap will start to rise and pruning then will cause bleeding. Conversely, you must leave the faded flower heads of hydrangea on the shrub. Aside from the fact they look quite striking when covered in frost, if you look carefully you’ll see they’re protecting the newly swelling buds further down the stem.
Down in the veg patch you must lift your last leeks and parsnips before the ground becomes frozen. If you don’t plan to eat them immediately, heel them in: just dig a small trench at the side of a bed and put the veg inside in bunches, covering the roots and most of the stem with soil and softly treading it down. They’ll stay fresh here until spring returns.
Tip of the month
Protect potted plants from the worst of the winter weather by grouping them in a sheltered area by your house; then wrap particularly tender plants with horticultural fleece for extra protection
Q: I don’t like to use chemical pesticides in my vegetable garden but my broad beans get covered in blackfly each year. Do you have any suggestions?
A: You could always try companion planting. This is where two plants are planted together in order to benefit each other beyond the aesthetic. For broad beans, try planting spinach alongside. The beans provide a level of shelter to the spinach, stopping it from bolting, and in return the spinach keeps the ground around the beans shaded and cool, which serves to deter the blackfly.