Jobs to keep you warm in December’s garden

Well, the weather has certainly changed over the past couple of weeks. After a long and mild autumn with some wonderful autumn colours, winter suddenly arrived with storm Arwen with its gale force winds that caused damage across the country. Since then we’ve had some very frosty days and many places have had several inches of snow. We’ve escaped the snow and only had a few flakes, but from my office window that looks west to the Yorkshire dales, I could see snow on the hills further up Wensleydale.

I suppose, at the end of the day it is December and officially winter, so frosty weather and snow is to be expected.

I don’t mind the cold so much, but what I don’t like are the short days, especially when it’s dry and you have things that you want to do outside in the garden.  Having said that, we’ve not had much time for gardening over the past month as Jill and I have been busy travelling around giving talks to garden clubs, WI’s, U3A’s and other groups. Although a few of the talks are in the day, the majority are at night, which means travelling both ways in the dark, so we don’t get to see much of the countryside, although at this time of the year we do see lots of Christmas lights. Earlier this week we were in Grassington (Darrowby in the new All Creatures Great & Small – I’m a Herriot fan!) and there we were greeted by an amazing display of lights as we drove through the old market square.

Some of you may already know that for many years I’ve written for Garden News, Kitchen Garden magazine and other publications, but hot off the press –  as from December, Jill and I have joined the Dalesman magazine. I’ll be writing the gardening pages and Jill will be sharing some of her wonderful recipes and quick cook tips.

We are both absolutely delighted to have been asked to write for this iconic magazine.

We’ve got another couple of busy weeks of talks on the run up to Christmas and then we can slow down in time for a Christmas break and hopefully if the weather is fine, we can catch up with a few jobs in the garden, in between the odd sherry and mince pie!

We wish you all a very safe and Happy Christmas and look forward to catching up in 2022.

Take care,

Martin & Jill

Jobs for the December garden.

 If you buy a real Christmas tree, when you get it home trim off the bottom couple of inches from the trunk and stand it in water as you would cut flowers. In the house, keep it watered in a container and as cool as possible, away from radiators to reduce needle drop.

Skimmia 'Rubella' to add colour to a winter basket web

To add some winter colour to your patio or front door step, plant up a container with a selection of hardy plants to give winter colour and interest.

 Once herbaceous perennials start to die down, they can be trimmed down to ground level with shears or secateurs. Any with attractive seed heads can be left over winter to add structure to the garden and for the birds to feed on.

Cutting down the frosted stems of dahlia web

Make sure any border-line hardy plants growing in pots such as agapanthus or shrubby salvias are protected by standing them close to a warm wall or cover them over with fleece when the temperatures drop below freezing.

Outside taps should be well insulated to prevent them from freezing during very frosty weather. Strips of bubble wrap are ideal for the job.

Protect taps from frost - web

Hardy vegetables such as kale, Brussels, leeks and parsnips can all be harvested from the garden as you want them.

Evergreen foliage always looks great in the house over the festive season and to make it last and stay fresh for as long as possible, make sure you condition the stems first. After cutting the branches, trim to length and stand them in a bucket of water for 24 hours to fully hydrate, before arranging them around the house.

Poinsettias make ideal Christmas houseplants, but they need to be kept warm as they hate being in a cold room or on a draughty windowsill! Protect them on the way to the car, then when you get home stand the plant in a light, warm position and make sure the compost is kept moist, but not soggy.

There is still time to plant tulip bulbs in the garden or containers but try to do it before the end of the year.

Continue to prepare the veg plot for next year by mulching beds and clearing any late weeds.

For more weekly gardening tips and advice from Martin visit “Pots & Trowels” on Facebook or subscribe on YouTube for free.

Happy gardening

 Martin Fish.