The end of the year is fast approaching and soon another year will roll around. While it might be tempting (and understandable!) to want to retreat indoors, as the shortest days of the year approach there are plenty of useful jobs to do before the year is out.

Tidy up and pack away…

It’s reassuring to look out on the garden in the winter and see it looking tidy, ordered and safely secured against the weather. But aside from looking good, a well-tended winter garden means that plants are protected from wind and rain, paths and patio surfaces avoid becoming slippery, and the compost heap is kept topped up with leaves and cuttings.

Rake and clear any remaining leaves from paths and beds.

Clean your gardening tools, taking care to sharpen blades, wipe handles and store them securely.

Cut back any remaining foliage to avoid it rotting onto the plant’s crown.

Clean the greenhouse to discourage the growth of pests and diseases.

Sweep patios.

Top up the gravel around alpines, but look at the bigger picture too – if you have a gravel path or drive consider topping this up too, to keep weeds down.

Hellebores can suffer from leaf spot and to help the plants recover you should remove all affected leaves and burn/ dispose of them. The same goes for roses with black spot – remove any fallen leaves and burn them.

Pruning in winter…

Once the leaves have all dropped, December is an excellent time to prune pear and apple trees.

Prune acers, silver birches and vines before the end of the month (before the new year) to avoid ‘sap bleeding’, as all of these plants/ trees have very early rising sap.

On the move…

If you have deciduous shrubs or trees that you’d like to move then December is a great time to do this. Not only are most of these pants dormant and easier to move, but the pared-back nature of the garden in early winter, means it’s easier to see the structure of plants and make better choices about where to put them. In milder periods, you can also still lift and divide clumps of perennials and move them to new locations.

Propagating…

Winter is a good time to take hard wood cuttings and grow them on in a warm, sheltered spot. You can also take root cuttings in the winter, to increase your stock of plants for the new season.

Lending a little support…

You may need to stake young trees and shrubs to allow them to become strongly established and not rock in stormy weather. If there is a heavy snowfall, tour the garden and brush off heavy accumulations of snow from plants, to avoid them breaking under its weight.

In the house…

Water your house plants less frequently in the winter and stand those that need some humidity on a tray of damp pebbles.

In the fruit & veg plots…

Cover areas you want to dig with polythene to prevent them getting too damp and heavy to dig.

Net your brassicas to protect them from pigeons.

Harvest the last of current crops and dig over the soil for next year.

Put grease bands around fruit trees to prevent female winter moths from climbing the trunk and laying their eggs.

Divide rhubarb.

A few little extras if there’s time…

Feed the birds as the really cold weather sets in.

Repair fences and shed, roofs and greenhouses where necessary.

Harvest holly and evergreen foliage for Christmas.

Turn your compost heaps.

And this nifty little tip…

Look out for compostable wrapping this Christmas. Not all wrapping is compostable, especially if it has a metallic, shiny or plastic finish – however, if you have paper plates, napkins, wrapping or packaging then cut or shred it up and put it in the compost, where it will act as a great mixer with grass cuttings, prunings and other nitrogen rich compost material.

Now that kind of mix sounds like a gardener’s perfect cocktail! Have a merry festive season whatever you’re up to.