December gardening jobs

Posted: Monday 10 December 2012
by Adam Pasco

With my (rather unflattering) beanie hat snugly pulled down, it’s time to work through my Seasonal Checklist…

Close-up of Adam Pasco moving terracotta pots indoors for winter

It takes quite a lot to tempt me outside in December, but once I’m coated, booted and scarved and do get outside, I suddenly realise quite how much there is to do. With my (rather unflattering) beanie hat snugly pulled down, it’s time to work through my Seasonal Checklist…

1. Wrap pots or bring inside
I’ve lost count of the number of terracotta pots I’ve lost in recent years that have been cracked and damaged by frost. To avoid adding more to the tally I’m emptying any not in use and storing them in my shed. Those in use will benefit from an overcoat, so during the coldest periods I’ll keep them wrapped in bubble polythene to help provide insulation from cold.

2. Store hose reels under cover
Hose cart, fittings and nozzles are easily damaged in winter. When water trapped inside freezes it expands and cracks them. I mistakenly thought in the past that metal ones would be robust enough to withstand the cold, only to find them completely split open by ice! Bring all irrigation equipment under cover right away.

3. Insulate outside tap
Not only must I turn off the stopcock to my garden tap to isolate the water supply (mine is almost hidden behind pipework under the kitchen sink), but I must wrap insulation material round the brass tap itself. Again, I just use layers and layers of old bubble wrap I’ve saved from packaging during the year, and hold this in place with elastic bands.

4. Fill the bird feeders
There’s been an endless queue of birds to the feeders over the past week. They’re certainly hungry, as the four fat balls in one feeder ‘disappeared’ in about three days! I love these feeders that I hang from a branch, and enjoy watching the aeronautical displays of blue tits, starlings and sparrows on the feeders and also the blackbirds, robin, collared dove and other ground feeders below.

5. Top up the bird bath
A fresh water supply is vital for garden birds, so I keep my bird bath and other large saucers topped up with water. These become frozen on cold nights, so I pop out with the boiling water left in the kettle after making my first brew of the day to melt them. The bracing cold also helps to wake me up! (Note to self: add thermal pyjamas to my Christmas list).

6. Complete seed order before Christmas
My neat pile of 2013 seed catalogues is sitting next to me waiting to be read. I know that I'll be growing tomatoes, chillies, cucumbers, climbing courgettes, and some of those trailing begonias that did so well last summer, so I must choose my varieties. Planning for the year ahead will give me something to look forward to, and get me through this cold winter.

In addition to all these jobs, there are still more leaves to rake up, old crops to clear and compost, veg beds to dig over, and then winter pruning to start...

Now, what have I missed?

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Talkback: December gardening jobs
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happymarion 10/12/2012 at 17:32

I have to go up to my spinney and cut cornus sticks which are now bright red to stick into my spreads of white heather at the front gate which are just opening their flowers. It is one of my favourite December jobs. I saw a similar thing in a picture of one of the big gardens that opens to the public in the winter and thought - ahh great minds think alike. It does make people look and wonder!

donutsmrs 10/12/2012 at 22:02

I have had a queue of birds at my feeders too, and I've got Mr & Mrs Blackbird fighting with the Starlings for the meal worms. I to love this mouth, well every month and season really. You have to accept every season for what it is.

Adam Pasco 10/12/2012 at 23:55

It just takes a cold snap to really appreciate the value of feeding garden birds. I've managed to position my feeder so I can watch it from the comfort of a chair, and the birds have been flooding in. I even had a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker on it today, but it didn't stay long enough for me to be able to take a photo!

flowering rose 11/12/2012 at 19:06

I love to out and potter about in the greenhouse and listen to the robin singing and have that mug of hot tea to hand.

jane allin 13/12/2012 at 18:25

I also have my bird feeders where I can see them from my chair. I regularly have a nuthatch this year, though never before. Also spotted woodpecker, a blackcap (new this year)as well as the usual tits, robins, blackbirds etc. Occasionally a sparrowhawk comes to try his luck. I have at least 8 long tailed tits in and out every day, and this morning a thrush came to inspect the ground feeder. I have a pond and break the ice every day so the birds can still drink. It is very rewarding, despite nearly bankrupting me!