by Derek Kirk
It’s time to get busy with the garden maintenance. Bedding plants and half hardy annuals have finished so clear all borders, giving them a dusting of bone meal and fork in gently, using only the tips of the fork tines. Dig all available ground – dig in any farmyard manure you can get, although horse manure should have rotted for at least 5 years. Dig the ground over leaving it rough to get the frost, rain and wind – this will make finer seed bed next Spring.
Also get pruning: apples, pears, plums etc,. Prune roses: almost all bush and standard roses can be pruned when all the leaves have fallen, the important exception to this is tea roses which are slightly tender and are best left until April. Cut back strong young growth to 4-5”, weaker shoots to 2”, weak spindly ones taken out altogether.
Time now to plant fruit and ornamental trees, shrubs and roses; if you have not done this by mid-December, then it’s best left until mid-February. Dig the holes out and add a dusting of bone meal, spread the roots out, cut off any damaged ones. When you back fill the soil, shake the plant gently to get the soil in between the roots. When the hole is nearly full tread the soil down really firmly. Then fill the rest, leaving this loose and even. Complete planting of tulips and hyacinths.
Sow broad beans, aquadulce being probably the best. Also try a row of early peas: Feltham First or Early Onward. I have planted a trench early called Douce Provence – we will see how they go.
Start to force rhubarb – an old pail with a hole in the bottom, turned upside down, with a little straw inside will help get an early crop. Lift and store Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, horse-radish and salsify, storing like potatoes. Although parsnips will keep in the ground, it is hard to get them up if the ground is really frozen.
December: Continue to dig any vacant ground. Start to propagate carnations: cuttings can be taken from now until the end of March. September sown sweetpeas should have their tops pinched out just before they get to 3” in height. Protect broccoli from frost by bending the outside leaves over the curds as they form. Protect celery from hard frosts with a covering of straw or bracken held down with wire netting. By the third week you can start to take chrysanthemum cuttings: plant in a sandy soil.
Merry Christmas and a happy new year to you all. Here’s to a good season in the garden next year.