December brings around eight hours of light each day; and with low cloud it often seems much less. But the Solstice falls on Thursday 21st December – when winter officially begins!
After this time it will gradually get lighter.
Most plant growth will be at a standstill for the next couple of months, but it depends what is in your garden as to how much work there is to be done! Check fruit trees for diseases such as canker.
To deter winter moth attach grease bands to the trunks of apple trees. If you are the proud owner of a Fig tree – remove all immature fruits (they will not grow/ripen) leave anything smaller than a bean to develop for next year.
From November to March new fruit trees/bushes and ornamental shrubs can be planted. General tidying and clearing leaves is always needed. If you are not using hanging baskets for winter displays empty and store until next season.
Don’t forget to feed the wild birds; clean feeders and water bowls thoroughly with Citrox disinfectant (available from www.organiccatalogue.com) to limit the spread of disease. Citrox can also be used to clean garden pots, tools etc.
Flowers will be largely missing from the garden; but there are seasonal shrubs in bloom – usually Hebe and winter Jasmine. Colour mostly comes from evergreens and the dazzling array of shrub berries.
Seasonal interest for window boxes can be achieved from a mix of evergreens such as dwarf conifers, Hebe pinguifolia Pagei (attractive blue-green leaves and little white flowers in spring) herbs such as Rosemary prostratus, miniature daffodils plus Primroses.
Attention also turns to seasonal indoor plants – Hyacinths, Amaryllis, Christmas cactus and winter cherry. Hyacinth bulbs are specially prepared to flower around Christmastime; they give a heavy sweet perfume; keep cool and the compost slightly moist – as for other houseplants.
Choosing Christmas gifts for the gardener is not always easy; books are usually welcome and there are hundreds available on every aspect of horticulture.
The RHS Pruning & Training: Revised New Edition; How to Prune (1 Mar 2017) by Christopher Brickell and David Joyce is a hardback full of comprehensive and useful information. Priced around £16.00 suitable for beginners or experienced gardeners.
Another useful title is The Composting Troubleshooter: How to Compost and What to Do If It Goes Wrong by Jane Gilbert (cost £4.49).
Season’s Greetings and a Happy New Gardening Year!