From the garden: Neil’s maintenance tips for December

Can you hear those jingle bells ringing? Yep, that’s right; Christmas is just around the corner yet again! This means that you’ll want to move away from grounds maintenance, and instead start focusing on putting up the decorations, and getting your home and workplace ready for the festive season.


Plus, with the days getting colder and shorter as we edge closer to the New Year, there’s a limit on the amount of work that can be done in the garden this month. Luckily, most of your gardening jobs (such as tidying your borders, and mowing the lawn one last time) will have already been done, and there’s just some general maintenance to finish off. One of these tasks include checking your stakes and other plant support systems, as now is the best time to repair or replace them if needed.


However, if the ground isn’t frozen, there are still a few things you can plant in your grounds or garden (if you so wish). These include hardy cyclamen and ivy in containers, as well as deciduous trees, shrubs, and dormant fruit trees and fruit bushes.


For one final time in 2017, Neil Gallagher from our grounds maintenance division gives us his run down on the top things to do in the garden in December…


Rake up the leaves, algae and other debris


Although you should have already given your lawn its final mow for the year last month, it’s important that you continue to maintain it through December by regularly sweeping up any rogue leaves, algae, and debris. Leaving this to collect on your lawn doesn’t just look messy; it will also block water and a healthy flow of air from reaching your grass, and a large build-up of leaves could even stop new blades of grass emerging in the spring.


Leaves and algae should also be raked up from paths and driveways as they present a slip hazard, and they should also be swept from borders to prevent slugs and snails from sheltering beneath them and eating your plants! Additionally, to make the job of removing leaves easier to keep on top of, keep any ponds covered during the colder months to prevent them from falling in.


Look out for pest infestations


Speaking of pests, another place they love to hide is in your greenhouse! One of the most troublesome pests to look out for are red spider mites, which attack the foliage of a number of plants, such as vines, orchids, and fuchsia. These thrive in warm, dry conditions (such as heated greenhouses) and can cause a mottled appearance, leaf loss, and even the eventual death of your plants.


However, it’s not just red spider mites that can be a problem; you should also be wary of infestations of greenfly and whitefly, as these may overwinter in plants during this time of the year. To keep pests at bay in your greenhouse, we advise that you clean and disinfect it on a regular basis, as well as spray any infected plants with a pesticide.


Check the pH level of your soil


To ensure your spring planting thrives, another thing you should do in the garden in December is check the pH level of your soil. This is vital because your soil’s pH will affect the amount of essential nutrients (such as calcium and iron) that are available to your plants, and soil that is too acid or alkaline are also associated with certain plant diseases, such as club root.


Because a pH reading of 7 is neutral, soil with a reading below this number is acidic, whereas anything over 7 is alkaline. As a rule, most plants prefer soil to have a pH that’s between 6.5 and 7. If you need your soil to be more alkaline you can add lime to it, though you can also acidify soil by with sulphur or aluminium sulphate.


Find out what plants need to be pruned


Just because it’s winter, this doesn’t mean that there won’t be plants to prune this month! In fact, it’s vital that you prune grapevines and Fig trees in December by cutting back to a main ‘rod’, or arm, that is trained out vertically along support wires. Don’t prune outside the deeply dormant season, otherwise the wounds will bleed sap. Wisteria is another vigorous climber that need pruned in December,  just prune all side shoots back to three or four buds and check climber supports.


There are many more such as Campsis (Chinese trumpet vine), spotted laurel, pear, and apple trees. Many types of roses, including climbing roses and shrub roses can also be pruned during this time of year.


To find out more about the services we offer, contact PHS Greenleaf today.