Garden work for December 2018
Monty Don who fronts the BBC2 ‘Gardener’s World’ programme has made many references to the benefits of having leaf-mould and the importance of gathering up the falling leaves from the lawn and borders. For those of us without an acre or two of garden the problem of storing leaves so that they can rot down over a period of anything up to three years is gaily passed over. One tip I have learnt is that leaves can be stored in the huge bags that builder’s merchants deliver sand, aggregate and other bulky material. They can be found all over the place since the container is non-returnable. These bags can hold a large volume and if left to their own devices provide a good storage place.
Deciduous trees and shrubs can still be planted in December, during mild weather. Make sure that the soil round the roots is firmed to prevent winter gales rocking them before they have had a chance to establish themselves.
If you are given a flowering bulb such as hyacinths, daffodils or tulips at Christmas, they will probably have been forced to flower early. They will last well if they are kept in a room that is not too hot, and the soil is kept moist. Plant the bulbs out in the garden when the flowers have died. I have done this with hyacinths and get a lovely spring display, although it can take a couple of seasons for the bulbs to adjust to their new location and may not flower again until the following year, so be patient.
Protect hosta crowns from slug and snail damage, using your preferred method, whether it is by barrier (grit), natural pathogen control (biological control) or by more traditional methods. It is when the shoots are in their infancy that the slugs can do the most damage, so it is worthwhile to take preventative measures.
When picking Brussels sprouts keep the tops, and only use the best when all the sprouts have been harvested. Some of the winter broccoli may be starting to form their curds. Turn in the leaves to protect the curd from frost, and cut regularly as once they have reached their full development the curds soon begin to open and will spoil.
If you have root crops in the ground (such as carrots or parsnips), put some straw down before the frosts take too strong a hold. This will help stop the ground freezing and allow them to be lifted whatever the weather. Keep up good hygiene. You should try to clear crops that are past their best and start digging the ground, so long as it is workable.
It does help to know the soil pH in your garden. There are simple test kits available from garden centres. If the patch you are testing proves to be acidic (a pH that is lower than 7.0), then use lime where you intend to plant any of the brassica crops such as cabbages, cauliflower, or Brussel sprouts, this will reduce the chance of infection from club-root. It is recommended that you should take an average of three readings.