December 2015 in the Garden

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

The weather has been so mild, here at Erddig that we have been able to finish our bulb planting around the garden with ease and comfort this year. The last two years have seen us struggle with the frost and snow.

I often say that a week’s work before Christmas, is equivalent to three weeks work afterwards. But the last few years’ pre-Christmas snows have changed that. Now we have to take advantage of any mild weather and daylight we can in the winter.

Some leaves are hanging on the trees still. If it were a bit colder, the leaves would come down all together. Clearing is a bind when it continues in dribs and drabs, as we have to visit areas of the garden three or more times. All the leaves are added to our compost heaps and make the bulk of our garden compost.

December is a time of tidying and finishing in the garden. Tidying leaves, digging borders and plots, etc.

Once the leaves have fallen from fruit trees, you can start any major, or winter pruning of trees that have pips, like apples and pears. Stone fruits, like cherries and plums should be pruned in summertime. If you have ordered any new fruit trees, or ornamental trees, when they arrive heal them in, or plant them temporarily in a corner of the garden, until you can get round to planting them properly.

In the garden, protect any tender plants you wish to keep. We have been wrapping up our giant Echium plants with horticultural fleece, to protect them from frost, snow and excessive wet weather.

If you have plants in the greenhouse, make sure your heating is working. You can also insulate the greenhouse by lining the glass with bubble wrap, or you can cover plants with fleece too.

Before the ground freezes, you may need to lift any root vegetables that may be damaged by frost and store them to use over winter. Cabbages, Brussels sprouts, kale and leeks should be fine in the ground, but you may still need to lift a few leeks to use when the ground is frozen solid.

Order seed and plant catalogues to while away those cold winter days when you cannot get out into the garden. Set yourself a budget before planning what you will buy, as it is very easy to be tempted by all those plants you want to grow and don’t set yourself too much work growing and planting them next year.

Lastly, think about giving garden plants, seeds and tools for Christmas presents. Encourage your children to grow a few seeds too, by adding a packet or two as stocking fillers and helping them to grow them next spring. Even a packet of cress seeds, sown indoors, can be a fun present and taste delicious.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and Happy gardening New Year.