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Jobs for December 2023

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Flowers

Prune back Roses by up to half to prevent them from rocking in the winter winds. Remove dead  or diseased wood on Climbing Roses, and take back older flowered side shoots by two thirds of their length. Side shoots on wisteria should be pruned back to two buds to flower next year.

Dig over empty beds and add manure or compost as long as the ground is not waterlogged or frozen.

Group potted plants together in a shelter spot to protect them from harsh winter weather. Raise containers on pot feet to improve drainage.

 

Vegetables

Harvest – leeks, winter cabbages, parsnips, cauliflower, kale, Brussel sprouts, celeriac, celery, beetroot, chicory, carrots, swede, Jerusalem artichokes, and perpetual spinach.

Dig up forcing chicory and pot on. Place pots in a dark spot to force chicons for winter salads.

Dig over beds and add manure, as long as the ground is not waterlogged or frozen. If necessary, heavy clay soil can be covered with plastic until it is easier to work. Ground can also be covered after digging to stop the winter rains leaching away the nutrients. Remove weeds as you work, as they can act as over-wintering hosts for pests and diseases.

 

Fruit

Apple, pear, and quince trees can be pruned between now and the end of February. Prune vines before the new year to prevent bleeding when the sap begins to rise.

Take hardwood cuttings of currants and gooseberries.

Plant fruit bushes, raspberry and blackberry canes, and fruit trees while they are dormant. Ensure fruit trees are staked at the time of planting as rocking in the wind can destroy the root system.

Clear up any rotting fruit from the ground and remaining on the tree, they can harbour Brown Rot spores, which will infect next years crop.

Stop winter moth damage to fruit trees by applying grease bands. If the grease start to dry out apply a fresh layer.

Remove netting from fruit cages to allow the birds to pick off pests, and to prevent snow from damaging the cage.

Check stored fruit for any sign of rot and remove promptly.

 

Trees and Shrubs

Prune Acers and Birches before the new year to prevent bleeding when the sap begins to rise.

Plant deciduous trees and shrubs as long as the ground is not waterlogged or frozen. Use Rootgrow mycorrhizal fungi to give the roots a boost, water in well, and apply a thick mulch of compost. Bare rooted trees, shrubs, and hedging can also be bought and planted now.

Hard pruning to renovate old trees and shrubs can take place between now and February.

 

General Tips

Insulate outdoor taps.

Greenhouse – wash all the greenhouse glass inside and out with horticultural disinfectant, such as Agralan Citrox, to remove bugs and fungal spores. Remove or cover any plants before starting, and make sure the greenhouse is dry and well aired before it is shut up for the night. Wash pots ready for use in the spring.

Insulate your greenhouse with fleece or bubble insulation, and make sure the heaters are working. Alternatively make an insulated tent within the greenhouse with a soil warming cable to keep the chill off.

Remember to ventilate the greenhouse on warmer days. Water plants sparingly and in the morning to keep the atmosphere as dry as possible, this will help prevent moulds and damping off diseases.

Look out for aphids, which can appear on warmer days. Squash or spray if necessary.

Bring in strawberry plants to produce an early crop in spring.

Lawn – avoid walking on the lawn when it is frosty or covered with snow, as this damages the grass. Spike the grass to improve aeration.

Remember to get the mower serviced now before the spring rush, and get shears sharpened.

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