Brechin Castle Garden Centre December Garden Tips
- Keep off water-logged or frosty lawns
- Compost fallen leaves
- Harvest winter vegetables
- Condition and improve your beds and borders
- Plant deciduous hedging
- Use pot feet to raise pots and containers off the ground
- Store terracotta pots in a frost free shed or garage
- Insulate garden taps to prevent freezing damage
- Check greenhouse heaters
- Insulate your greenhouse with bubble wrap
- Move house plants off cold windowsills at night
- Take extra care to keep Poinsettia bracts coloured for longer
- Make a Christmas wreath with garden evergreens
Unless your soil is water logged dig organic matter into your beds and borders, a good farmyard manure, like Westland’s, is ideal and incorporate as much as possible. Not only will you be adding goodness into the soil your digging will expose pests that your hungry garden birds will readily consume.
If the weather stays dry you can continue to plant evergreens.
Perennials, such as crocosmia, will be long past their best and should be cut back, if you have not done so already.
Finally, any spring bulbs that have not been planted yet should be put in the ground as soon as possible. Ideally you should plant them pointing up but if you are in a hurry you can clear away some soil, throw down your bulbs then pull back the soil over the bulbs. As a rule of thumb you should plant bulbs at a depth of about three times their own height. The bulbs may be late in the spring but they should flower in the spring.
Depending on your choice of deciduous hedging it can be used as screening (Beech and hornbeam) or as an effective barrier (Hawthorn). You can plant hedging at this time of year provided the soil is neither water logged nor frozen. Dig a trench along the line of your new hedge and allow the soil to settle a few days, then plant the bare rooted deciduous hedging.
By now you should have cleaned and stored your lawn mower until needed again in the spring. If you have not done so make sure any dirt and compacted grass is removed before storage.
Fallen leaves left on your lawn can encourage disease so make sure they are cleared away, but avoid walking on your lawn if it is frosty or water logged. If you are “fortunate” to have collected a large amount of leaves compost them in sturdy black bin bags. Make sure the leaves are wet then secure the bags, pierce the sides with a garden fork and leave in a corner of your garden. In about 12 months (2 years for oak leaves) you will have leaf mould to use as soil conditioner in your flower beds.
Keep precious heat in your greenhouse by lining it with bubble wrap. This will help protect your over wintering plants in an unheated greenhouse or keep your fuel bills down in a heated greenhouse.
If you run a heated greenhouse, whether using electric or paraffin heaters, keep checking that your heaters are working properly or you may lose your favourite plants.
Stand potted azaleas on damp gravel and water using rainwater. Feed weekly with a liquid ericaceous feed.
A heated greenhouse is a perfect winter home for pests such as whitefly, if you discover any spray as necessary.
Brighten up your garden by filling containers with winter pansies and winter flowering heathers.
Pots and containers should be raised off the ground using pot feet or even bricks to protect them from the wet and cold. If the temperature falls substantially consider protecting your pot and container plants; use horticultural fleece or even straw around the plants but remember to lag the pots or containers with bubble wrap to protect the roots.
If your terracotta pots are not frost-resistant store then in a frost free shed or garage, alternatively lag with bubble wrap etc.
Flowers aren’t the only plants to consider for your containers, trees and shrubs can also be used. If the weather is fine they can be planted but consider using J Arthur Bower’s John Innes No. 3 if these are going to permanent.
House plants do not appreciate the cold so move them off windowsills at night, especially if you have heavy curtains that prevent the heath of the room warming the space next to your windows. More house plants die from over watering than any other cause so reduce the amount and frequency of watering.
Many of us buy a Poinsettias for Christmas and with a little looking after the coloured bracts can last for a number of months. Poinsettias like good light but avoid direct sunshine. Nor do the like draughts, over watering and temperatures below 13-15ºC. In fact, once you’ve bought your Poinsettia do not leave it in a cold car while you go shopping or visiting, take it home straight away. Remember Poinsettias do not like draughts so avoid situating them above a radiator or heating vents. Water when the surface of the compost feels dry.
Although we have readymade wreaths in the garden centre you can make your own using fresh evergreen foliage from your garden.
Although you can secure the foliage directly to a wire ring the evergreens are likely to last longer if you pad the ring with plenty of damp moss, which will hopefully act as an oasis. Work your way round the wire ring securing the moss with twine or floral wire. Many garden evergreens can provide suitable material for your wreath, such as clippings from pines, leylandii, japonica, holly, laurel, ivy, and rhododendron. If you have holly berries and pine cones these will add colour and interest to the finished wreath. Make up fan shaped layered bunches of evergreen material and secure to the padded ring with loops of wire (the stems of the material should be in-line with the ring rather than pointing outwards). Keep adding further bunches with the top of the new bunch overlapping the base of the previous one until the ring is fully covered. Add extra decoration, such as pine cones, berries or a ribbon (secured with wire loops).
If you intend hanging your wreath make a wire loop and secure it to the padded ring before adding the evergreen bunches.
Harvest leeks, carrots, parsnips, winter cabbages and brussels sprouts (harvest from bottom to top). Winter winds and gales can be damaging in the garden so earth up your winter brassicas to provide additional support. Remove any yellow leaves on brassicas as necessary.
The remains of old crops should be cleared away and added to your compost heap or bin.
A garden bay bush can suffer damage if not protected from biting winds and can eventually be lost altogether. In very cold weather protect by wrapping in horticultural fleece and if in a container consider moving it to a sheltered spot in the garden.
Keep an eye on any mint and chives you potted up in the autumn and are growing on in the greenhouse for winter use.
By the end of October you should have protected your apple, plum, pear and cherry trees from winter moth damage, since the wingless female moth emerges as an adult from November to mid-January. However you may need to reapply the grease periodically from now until moth activity ceases in April.
Established apple and pear trees can be pruned now. Remove dead or diseased branches but your aim is to create the classic goblet shape where the centre is left fairly open, allowing air to circulate. Cut out crossing or rubbing branches otherwise the damage caused can encourage disease.
Take hardwood cuttings of currants and gooseberries. The cuttings should be about 25-30 cm (10-12 inches) long and should be buried in a trench in the open ground to about half their length.
Bare-rooted fruit trees and fruit bushed can be planted during their dormant period that lasts from now until March. Choose a time when the soil is neither too wet nor frozen. If the soil is heavy add grit and organic matter to the planting hole.
Your stored fruit needs checking, any fruit showing signs of rotting should be thrown away immediately otherwise you risk losing the entire crop. Also take precautions against mice causing damage to your stored fruit.
Wild Bird Care
Winter is when your garden birds will most appreciate being given a helping hand with feed. The usual bird feed mixtures will be taken but higher energy fed will be especially useful such as peanuts and sunflower kernels, which have a high oil content. Fat balls and suet based feed will also be readily taken but don’t forget birds also need access to clean water so make sure you break any ice covering bird baths and water dishes. Mealworms are a little more expensive than seed but they are high in both oil and protein, ideal for this time of year. Mealworms will be devoured by Robins, Blue Tits, Blackbirds and Starlings, although the larger birds will only feed off a surface feeder.
Watching garden birds is fascinating so a bird feeder or feeding station would make a perfect Christmas gift. Why not even give a bird box with wireless camera for a close-up view of your garden birds raising their own