December in the garden

by Andy Cawthray, 3rd December 2020

Just remember – by the end of the month the days will be getting longer again!

December for me is not so much about the lack of daylight but about the fact that once the shortest day is over, the nights begin to draw out. This might not be immediately noticeable, but the knowledge that the days are getting longer is good enough for me. Either way, time spent in the garden is very limited so it’s important to make good use of the time you do have.

The must-do jobs include quite a bit of winter pruning. Freestanding apples and pears need to be pruned according to the variety. Other vines, birches and acer also need a prune now to minimise the risk of bleeding. Likewise, tackle your climbing roses, removing damaged or diseased growth and tying the new shoots you want to keep. For the older flowered shoots you want to keep, prune them back by two-thirds.

In the vegetable patch, lift the last of the leeks before the ground gets frozen and then heel them into a trench in a convenient location. They’ll keep for several months this way. On the patio, cluster together any container plants to help protect against the frost, but be sure to fleece up any half-hardy plants.

If you haven’t already done so, clean out the greenhouse. Wash the glass, floor and staging with horticultural disinfectant to kill any overwintering pests and diseases.


Tip of the Month 

Sort through your gardening equipment, work out what you need or if anything needs replacing, then make a gift list to yourself!


Ask Andy

Q: I’ve planted some spring bulbs but they’re already starting to show above the soil. Should I be worried they could get damaged by the cold weather or the snow?

A: Bulbs shoots are surprisingly tough considering they look fresh and fragile, so don’t worry if they’re already starting to poke through the soil – they’ll survive very low temperatures and a good coating of the white stuff. However, if they’re planted in thin plastic pots and are poking through, then protect the pot from hard frosts or chilling winds as these can cause damage. It can result in the first few sets of leaves yellowing or looking burnt, and is especially common in daffodils.

Got a gardening conundrum? Ask Andy by emailing


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