It’s been a pretty mild Autumn so far, but as December approaches a chill is in the air. The last of the leaves are being blown onto beds and borders and gathering in drains and forgotten corners. But as any good gardener knows, there is plenty to do, even if you would rather be snuggled up with a hot toddy and a plant catalogue/ film/ good book/ mince pie.

Prune…

Cut back climbing roses, tying in new growth and cutting back flowered old wood by a third.

Prune wisteria, cutting summer side shoots back to 2 or 3 buds.

Cut back or trim acers now but no later, to prevent them bleeding sap later on.

Fruit trees can benefit from a re-shaping prune in the winter months to maintain a good open form and remove dead or diseased wood.

December is also a good month to prune back vigorous grape vines.

Gather…

Gather together pots in one, sheltered area as this will create a microclimate that reduces frost and root damage.

Cut boughs of holly and other evergreens to decorate your home.

Gather up fallen leaves from rose bushes and hollyhocks and any plants where there was evidence of rust, mildew, blackspot or disease. Burn the leaves rather than composting them.

Harvest the last leeks and parsnips before the ground becomes very frozen.

Cut, divide and propagate…

Lift rhubarb and divide the crowns to create more plants.

Lift and store dahlia tubers. You can divide the tubers in the spring.

Take hardwood cuttings from trees and woody shrubs.

Protect…

Cover tender plants like tree-ferns in fleece.

Protect winter brassicas from pigeon-invasions, by netting them (the brassicas not the pigeons).

Covering heavy soils with polythene will keep them dryer and allow you to work the soil.

Apply glue bands to fruit trees to stop winter moths from laying eggs higher up.

Cover outdoor taps in lagging to stop them freezing.

Check fences, sheds and other structures like trampolines to make sure they are secured in case of high winds and storms.

Clear…

Dig over vegetable beds that have finished production, and weed and mulch flower borders to nourish the soil.

Clear and clean your greenhouse, sheds and paths ready for spring.

Check water butts and drains to keep them clear of animals and leaves.

Plant and provide…

Provide winter food for birds and leave less tidy areas of the garden for hibernating creatures.

Plant up pots with evergreens or winter flowering pansies to add a splash of colour to dark days. Plant bulbs in the early weeks of December if the ground isn’t frozen.

Whatever the weather, the season or the time of day, enjoy your garden whenever you can. A very merry festive season to one and all.