Column: ​Winter planting and spring preparation

​As the year comes to an end our gardening columnist Kate Giffen shows us how we can prepare our gardens for next year – and make the most of Christmas!
Frosty chard in the garden.Frosty chard in the garden.
Frosty chard in the garden.

We have had the first frosts already, so although some of the gardening tips from last month can be brought over to December, just be careful about covering up any sowings with fleece or glass, or even cloches if you have them. Here are a few extra things you can do in the garden this month….

There is still time to plant bulbs in containers such as snowdrops, daffodils, narcissus, tulips, daffodils, grape hyacinths, hyacinths and cyclamen.

Alliums are also beautiful, structural plants that attract pollinators and are fun to grow and great as cut flowers.

A simple door decoration made from cuttings.A simple door decoration made from cuttings.
A simple door decoration made from cuttings.

Dividing herbs such as chives for overwintering is a great way to preserve and multiply your herbs.

Clean out shed, green house and clean down tools and pots. Be ruthless about what you think you will use in the coming year and recycle or give away any superfluous equipment.

December is also a good time to get pruning but I would seek advice from an experienced gardener.

Some plants and shrubs like to keep a bit of growth on to help with overwintering.

Hydrangeas for example will benefit from keeping the old flower head on the plant to help shelter the new bud from frosts.

You also get the added bonus that the old flower heads are actually beautiful in their own right as well.

If you do a bit of pruning, then why not make a simple green door decoration with these stems and other cuttings from the garden including fragrant herbs such as rosemary.

If you leave cuttings to stand in a bucket of water until you need them, it will help to lengthen the life of the decoration. I recently did a very simple bunch decoration for the front door with ivy, conifer and even a bit of

bamboo.

Any cabbages or Brussels, etc that you have grown could do with lifting now, or if you are leaving them for your Christmas dinner, remove any brown leaves.

These tend to harbour pests and diseases so it’s best to get rid of them and put them on the compost heap if they are looking fairly pest free.

So yes, this time of year, is a great time to sort out your compost. People get quite passionate about composting and once you get into it, you can see why.

It’s best to do a bit of research first to help you decide what kind of structure would suit you best and there is loads of help available online or at your local bookshop. There’s an idea for a Christmas present!

Also use December for reviewing your year and planning your growing for next year.

Ask yourself what worked well and where and when did you plant it. What didn’t work so well and why.

Are you going to try again? Would it work better somewhere else? Think about what you maybe had a glut of that you might want to cut down on next year.

What about succession planning? Did you have a good supply of things you liked throughout the growing season or would it be worth choosing a different variety that produces at a different time of year. Our raspberries for example were excellent but all came at once around July.

I am going to get some later fruiting varieties that continue well through the summer and into autumn.

I would also have a think about whether you grew something that you didn’t actually like or use. Don’t grow it again unless think maybe you could swap it out with someone else. Also was there anything you really, really wanted to grow but didn’t. What stopped you? Maybe this coming year is the time to try again.

So above all, my top tip for December would be to take time to look back with a real sense of achievement at all you have done and get excited about next year’s growing.

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