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Gardening Jobs Ė December

December can still be a lovely time to work in your garden. Choose a sunny day and wrap up warm. Give your garden a thorough inspection. If the ground isnít too hard, there are still a few things that can be planted. Fruit trees and fruit bushes are best planted whilst they are dormant during the winter months. Harvest winter veg. as required. If you planted new potatoes in September then December is the time to start lifting them.

The Vegetable Patch in December

Sow garlic, shallot and onions

You can still plant garlic, shallot and onion sets. Planting them now gives them a head start and ready to leap into full growth as soon as spring arrives.

Sow autumn sowing broad beans
If you are going to sow broad beans early then make sure you choose a variety designed for overwintering, such as Aquadulce or Sutton. Germination may be slow, so it is worth starting them in pots in a greenhouse or covering the soil with cloches.

Dig your patch and add plenty of bulky organic matter

Ground that hasnít got any crops can be dug over. Add plenty of manure, home compost or leaf mould to add structure to the soil. Leave the earth in big lumps, any frosts will break them down.

Keep your patch tidy
Remove as many weeds as you can, and anything that may provide a hiding place for slugs and pests such as wood, bricks and plant pots. You want the ground to be as open and exposed as possible so that the cold weather and birds can help rid the soil of any pests that might like to munch through your veg early next year.
Harvest winter vegetables
There are plenty of veg ready around now including winter cabbages, cauliflowers, parsnip, celeriac, salsify and scorzonera, brussel sprouts, leek, swede, spinach, turnips, kale and Jerusalem artichokes.

Check any stored vegetables
If youíre storing any vegetables, check them every couple of weeks to pick out any that have started to rot.

Stake tall brassicas
Ensure any tall brassicas, such as sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli, are staked to prevent damage from wind rock.

Check the pH of your soil
pH is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 being neutral, below 7 is acidic (or ericaceous) and above 7 alkaline (or limey). A level of 6.5 to 7 is good for most plants. If your soil is acidic then you can raise the pH a little, for example from 5.5 to 6.5 by adding lime.

The Fruit Garden in December

Cover rhubarb with forcing pots
Towards the end of December, cover your rhubarb crown with a forcing pot or tall bucket. This will give you some lovely tender rhubarb shoots early next year.

Plant fruit trees and soft fruit bushes
As long as the ground isnít frozen, you can still plant fruit trees and fruit bushes. These are best planted whilst they are dormant. Most will be delivered as bare-root plants.

Plant strawberry runners
Bare-root strawberry runners can be planted in pots or in a strawberry bed, ready for next year.

Cut down autumn fruiting raspberry canes
All autumn fruiting raspberries canes should be cut down to about 3cm (1in) above soil level.

Check all support systems
Look over all your stakes and support systems replacing any that are damaged. Tighten any wires that are sagging.

Prune and mulch blueberries
Cut down some of the old growth after leaf-fall to encourage new shoots in the spring

Prune blackcurrants and redcurrants
blackcurrant pruning and redcurrant pruning should take place when the plants are dormant during winter.

Take hardwood cuttings of blackcurrants, redcurrants and gooseberries
Choose this years growth, and make a straight cut below a bud at the base, and an angled cut above a bud at the top. Cuttings should be 20cm (8in) long for blackcurrants and 30cm (12in) long for redcurrants and gooseberries. Insert the cuttings directly into soil or into a pot filled with cuttings compost.

Prune apple and pear trees
Prune while the trees are dormant. Donít leave it too late as pear trees in particular start growing again very early in the season.

Other Gardening Jobs in December

Browse the seed catalogues and plan youíre planting
December is a great time to browse the seed catalogues and plan your growing for next year. Buy your seeds now so that youíre ready to get planting early next year. Some seeds like tomatoes, chillies, capsicum, aubergine and broad beans can be started as early as January.

Feed the birds
Garden birds will be finding it more and more difficult to find food. Put out nuts and seeds to help them. Remember to break the ice on birds baths so that they have access to fresh water.

Michael Gourlay Chairman

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