With Christmas just around the corner the thought of getting out in the garden can seem a distant dream and yet, for those who have time, there are still a few jobs outside which could bring benefits in the months to come – as Reeds Rains latest garden blog explains:
December sees the continuation of these last minute jobs and the weather can still be fairly mild this month. Garlic needs to be planted before the soil gets too hard to dig and overgrown deciduous shrubs can be tidied up. The last of the autumn leaves can also be cleared from lawns, ponds and away from small plants such as alpines. A little time spent in the garden this month really lifts spirits brought low by reduced daylight and lowering temperatures.
Garlic is an easy crop to manage and great for first time vegetable gardeners to try out. Solent White is one of the most popular varieties for growing in the UK; it is reliable and produces good size, tasty cloves. Garlic needs an open sunny spot in well drained, moist soil which means it doesn’t like to sit in winter wet or summer drought. Dig over the planting area with a fork adding garden compost if possible. Then break down the garlic bulbs into individual cloves planting each one 10cm-15cm apart making sure the tops are covered with soil. The area can also be mulched with a layer of compost if there is some available but don’t worry if not, the main thing is to get the cloves in as they need a period of winter cold to stimulate division within the bulb. Remember to rotate garlic, so if it has been planted in the garden before choose a different spot for the new crop.
Deciduous shrubs can be tidied up this month with dead and diseased stems cut back and overgrown specimens clipped back into shape. Buddleia for example can grow at a great rate in spring and summer so that by winter the long stems wave this way and that in the wind and are in danger of getting damaged. They can be cut back by between a third and half this month to keep them safe then pruned hard back at the beginning of spring if necessary. Leave evergreen specimens until spring to prune, apart from taking a few branches indoors for Christmas decorations. Shrubs grown for their ornamental coloured stems like dogwoods can also be left unpruned for the moment. These make a lovely sight in winter sun when everything else has died back.