December 2013 and January 2014 in the Garden

Glynn-ChristmasBy Glyn Smith Head Gardener at Erdigg Hall National Trust Garden

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

This is the time of year for planning. Whether it is changes to the design or just sitting in front of the fire browsing through a seed catalogue.

Now, what would I like for a Christmas present this year? My first choice on any list would always be a good pair of secateurs. They are like a third hand to me and the bane of my life if they are blunt, stick, or have anything that irritates me, like the clip that holds them shut coming loose all the time.

What else? Gardening books, garden holidays, gardening magazine subscription. A small pruning saw, twine, a good spade, border fork, gloves, trug or waste bucket, wheelbarrow, flower pots, a bird feeder and bird food, seeds etc.

Or why not just buy a garden gift voucher and I can choose for myself.

Hopefully, that will give Deborah, my wife, some ideas for presents for me and you too, for the gardener in your family.

January brings the start of a new year and now is the time to get things done in the garden before it all starts growing in spring.

Any remaining fallen leaves need collecting and composting.

Apple and Pear trees need pruning. Wait until summer to prune fruits that have stones in them. Fig trees and vines can also be pruned in winter.

Any new fruit trees and other shrubs and trees can be planted too.

Wait awhile before pruning evergreens. Late January and February will be best for them and then only if it is mild, but any deciduous shrub or tree pruning can be carried out now.

Herbaceous plants can be cut down and the waste composted too.

It is usually best to stay off the soil if it is very wet, or frosty, but there may be some tidying of vegetable plots to do on fine days. You may also have Parsnips or Brussels sprouts to harvest.

It would also be good to start up any lawnmowers for a few minutes to keep their engines lubricated and working. If they need servicing, book them in to avoid that rush in spring when everyone needs their lawnmower repaired.

If it’s a bit nippy, tidy the greenhouse or shed.

And finally, last chance to lift any tender plants like Dahlias you want to keep, before they get frosted.