Jobs to do this month
December is the time to clear late-season debris off the vegetable plot, dig vacant areas over and incorporate soil improvers, such as well-rotted garden compost or manure. As most of our site is sandy, though, once you’ve cleared the plot it might be better to merely add organic matter as a mulch, and leave actual digging until late winter or early spring.
It’s a good time for some basic housekeeping; clean tools, sharpen hoes and secateurs; clean and store bamboo canes in the dry; and clean the greenhouse glass and framework.
Check stored fruit and vegetables, and remove any that is rotten or damaged by pests.
This list isn’t exhaustive. You can get detailed advice from many organisations, especially those listed on this website under Help and Advice
- There’s still time to plant rhubarb, provided the weather isn’t frosty. Add plenty of well-rotted compost or manure to the soil first.
- For early, tender stems of rhubarb, force it by covering established crowns with a forcer or a dark-coloured bucket.
- Check that the grease bands on fruit trees are still sticky.
- Plant new fruit, trees and bushes, but not if the ground is too wet or frosted.
- Prune established apples, pears, quinces, medlars, red and white currants, and gooseberries; tie in new tiers of espaliers.
- Cut autumn-fruiting raspberry canes down to ground level.
Vegetables and salads
- Continue harvesting winter vegetables: beetroot, turnips, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, celery, swedes, cabbages and leeks. Weed, and check for pests and disease, at the same time.
- Parsnips taste better when frosted; it helps convert their starches into sugars.
- Use cloches, netting or fleece to keep brassicas protected from pigeons.
- If any Brussels sprout stalks look leggy and vulnerable to wind rock, stake them or earth them up. Remove yellowed leaves on Brussels sprouts and other brassicas to help prevent grey mould and downy mildew from developing.
- To force chicory, pot it up and put it in a dark warm place.
- Prepare a trench for runner beans.
- Sow onion seed under cover.