Gardening – December can still be productive in the garden

Alan North, head gardener at Audley End House with the organic apple juice made from fruit from the

Alan North, head gardener at Audley End House with the organic apple juice made from fruit from the house gardens. Apple and pear trees should be pruned this month if they are free-standing fruit bushes. Picture: JUNE ESSEX - Credit: Archant

December can be a fine month to get into the garden and make good progress.

Many jobs can be tackled this month if the conditions are favourable and anything you do now will greatly help prepare your garden for the arrival of spring.

Of course, with the onset of winter comes shorter days and challenging conditions, however choose a bright day, wrap up warm and take a look at the following tasks that you can be doing this month:

• This can be the ideal time to dig your beds and borders to help improve soil structure and remove perennial weed. Ideally, whilst forking through, add some organic matter such as compost or leaf mould which will improve fertility, structure and drainage. It is important not to attempt this job when the ground is too wet as this can create compaction which leads to poor drainage.

• Winter prune apples and pears. Apple and pear trees trained as free standing bushes are best pruned each winter. This will keep the tree healthy and encourage a good cycle of fruiting wood.

• Prune climbing roses. Cut away dead, diseased and damaged growth. Tie in any new healthy shoots where space allows. Remove older and less productive shoots if necessary. Prune older flowered side shoots back by two-thirds of their length.

• Finish planting tulips this month to ensure a successful display in the spring.

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• Feed the birds. This time of year can be particularly challenging for birds to source sufficient food so feed regularly.

• Start to plan for next season. Browse through seed/plant catalogues and get orders placed to avoid any disappointment.

The gardens will be open for everyone to enjoy over the festive period so please do come along.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you all.