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Things to Keep You Busy in the December Garden


Even the keenest of gardeners can be loath to venture out on grey, sodden days. With the approach of winter, the garden, stripped of its dignity, takes on an air of quietness. After all the activity of autumn there is now an absence of urgency, a calm repose. But cold, clear winter days can be used to tackle those jobs that get overlooked during busier times.

Winter is the best time to prune back overhanging trees and shrubs that may be obstructing pathways. Have a look at the shape of your deciduous trees and shrubs to see if they can be improved. With no leaves on it’s easier to see what you are doing now. You will need a good pair of secateurs, a pair of loppers and a pruning saw for cutting off larger branches. Cut out any dead wood. If the plant is taking up too much space in a smaller garden, it can be trimmed. The main point to remember is that the harder you prune, the stronger will be the resulting growth, so when restricting growth, light pruning every winter will have a much more satisfactory effect than hacking back hard occasionally.

One advantage of winter is that we can now see the bare bones of the garden, so take time to look at the hard landscaping and structure of your garden, noting how it could be improved in the coming year. Think about your perimeter fences – the backdrop to your spring, summer and autumn display. With bad weather and winter storms causing inevitable damage in some cases, use this time to consider if you need to make changes. The choice of fencing materials can subtly affect the overall feel of your garden. What kind of look are you aiming for? For example, hazel hurdles can give an earthy, organic feel. Panel fencing will give privacy, but if not chosen carefully, can lack elegance. If you have a vegetable garden, you may need to keep out the rabbits. Now is a good time to put in rabbit-proof fencing before they descend to eat the spring greens!

Gardening in the winter can be more relaxed, having none of the urgency of the spring and summer months. You can take it at an easier pace and, whenever conditions allow, dig over a border in preparation for the spring. It’s unlikely you will be alone in the garden. You’ll probably have your local robin alongside, sitting on your spade while eagerly waiting for you to uncover a worm, giving a festive air to the garden. It’s a timely reminder to feed garden birds now as the weather gets colder and food becomes scarcer.

You can do much to attract birds into the garden by planting shrubs and trees with berries that will attract them. My holly tree is full of red berries at the beginning of December but is usually stripped bare by Christmas Day. If you want to keep some for decoration, bring some sprigs in in early December and store in a cool, dry place ready for the festive period.

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