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What to do in the garden in December

28 November 2014

It may be chilly outside, but there's nothing like a bright, clear frosty morning to make you want to get out in the garden. There's plenty to be getting on with this month, too.

General tasks:

  • Cut back deciduous hedges reducing the top to about 60cm below where you want the eventual height to allow room for new growth.
  • Feed the birds with high-energy fat balls, sunflower seeds and mealworms to get them through the winter

Ornamental garden:

  • Pick branches of scented winter-flowering shrubs like wintersweet, winter jasmine and witch hazel to bring indoors and fill the house with perfume.
  • Prune taller roses back by half to prevent wind catching top growth and loosening the roots in the soil.
  • Cover Christmas roses (Helleborus niger) with cloches in really bad weather so emerging flower buds don't get damaged.

Kitchen garden:

  • Prune apple trees to encourage plenty of fruiting spurs. Remove damaged or crossing branches, then cut back sideshoots to five buds.
  • Force witloof chicory roots in buckets of damp sand somewhere dark and warm (a kitchen cupboard is perfect): in five or six weeks you'll have tender pale chicons to enjoy with salads.
  • Check overwintering vegetables like chard or broad beans and cover with cloches if the weather turns bad.

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