Your December gardening to-do list

It's chilly, but there's still plenty to harvest, prune and tidy, and this is a great time to prepare for the busier months ahead.
  1. If your garden lacks winter interest why not invest in a shrub or tree with berries such as holly, pyracantha or cotoneaster - they’ll also provide winter food for birds.  Remember to choose a self-fertile variety of holly, or plant both a male and female specimen to guarantee berries.
  2. A flowering shrub to treat yourself to this time of year is a witch hazel (Hamamelis).  Buying one with flowers ensures that you like their look and scent.  Plant in full sun and protect from frosts for the first couple of years.
  3. Avoid walking on your lawn if it’s covered with heavy frost or snow, as this will damage the grass beneath.  Keep clearing leaves off the grass to let the light in and prevent dead patches.  Start a new leaf mould production.
  4. Harvest sprouts, parsnips and cabbage - removing yellowing leaves from brassicas as they harbour disease.  If you want to leave in some leeks, heel them in near a path so that you can whip them out if there’s a frost on the way.  Dig a trench for next year’s beans and fill it with kitchen waste and cover with soil.
  5. Begin pruning apple and pear trees to maintain an open, balanced structure and encourage good fruit production.  You can also prune ornamental deciduous trees and shrubs now they’re dormant - without leaves it’s easier to see the dead and diseased wood.
  6. Lift and divide established clumps of rhubarb to renew the plant’s vigour, taking sections from the outside.  Replace your strawberry plants or plant up runners if the plants are getting old.
  7. Clean out the greenhouse, removing any mould and washing the glass with horticultural disinfectant to kill any overwintering pests and diseases.
  8. Prune acers, birches and vines – thinning out overcrowded shoots and then prune side shoots to two buds from the main stems.
  9. Prune climbing roses now, cutting away diseased or damaged growth and tie in any new shoots to their support.  Prune older flowering side shoots back by two thirds.
  10. Apply mulch around more tender plants such as agapanthus and melianthus.  With other tender plants, fleece will also keep cold at bay.  Add grit to plants like alpines that don’t like winter sogginess and make sure pots are on feet.