Gardening in December

You might be ready to store your tools for the winter, but there are a few jobs to do in your December garden. Check out our top tips for excellent results!

5 MIN 13 Dec
Last update: 22 Dec 2023
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There’s not a massive amount to do in the garden in December, but a few winter garden jobs will make spring more productive. 

Indeed, gardening in December is all about ensuring your outdoor space remains clear of pests and diseases while protecting your plants from the harsh British winter. 

So, if you’re still itching to get out into the garden, check out our checklist of tasks for gardening in December. 

Ready? Let’s go! 

Tasks to prepare your December garden

A person writing a gardening checklist
Your December garden checklist – Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Strictly speaking, winter doesn’t begin until December 21st! But for meteorologists and climatologists, winter starts on December 1st. 

So, if you haven’t protected your delicate plants already, it’s time to air the horticultural fleece and spread the mulch. Don’t wait until the frost hits! 

Plants to protect in your December garden

Mediterranean plants like palm trees don’t handle the cold well. So, cover them with a horticultural fleece or bubble wrap — the bubbles in the plastic have an excellent insulating effect. 

Place vulnerable potted perennials inside or in the greenhouse if you can. Or wrap them in fleece or bubble wrap if you can’t. 

Drain your hose! 

In the UK, December is typically cold and wet, so there’s generally minimal call for your garden hose. 

However: 

Did you know that the water that sits in the pipe could:

  1. Burst the skin of the pipe when it freezes, and 
  2. Present a Legionnaires hazard when you first use your hose in spring. 

Yes, water sitting in your hosepipe over winter is a bad idea – partly because the freezing water can damage the body of the pipe. 

However:

The stagnant water inside the pipe can develop bacteria that get released when you first spray in the spring. 

And, if that water contains Legionella, you could inhale the bacteria when you water your garden. 

Winter lawn care

Walking on a frosty lawn is one of the worst things you can do! This is because the blades become brittle and easily snap, thus cutting off your lawn’s over-wintering food supply. 

So, as soon as Jack Frost has done his rounds, stay off your lawn as much as possible! 

Planting trees and shrubs in your December garden

A dirty garden spade, ready for cleaning!
Don’t forget to clean your garden tools before storing them for winter!

You might prefer to put your feet up before a roaring fire at this time of year, but it’s a perfect window for planting new trees. 

Because:

It’s better to plant new trees during their dormancy, which protects them from damage. Indeed, the tree-planting season is from November to March. 

So, if you’re considering planting fruit trees or new bushes for next year, it’s time to get into the garden and prepare the soil.

Veg to plant in December

You might be surprised to discover that you can plant veg in December. Indeed, this chilly month is perfect for sowing winter greens and salad leaves, such as:

  • Mustard greens
  • Lambs lettuce
  • Mizuna
  • Corn salad
  • Winter gem lettuce

Planting during a mild winter

If the winter weather has been mild, you can even plant daffodil and tulip bulbs in December, although you’ll get a better crop if you plant earlier in the year. 

Nonetheless, you’ll get some results from a December planting, and the bulbs will have the entire year to develop into beautiful, bountiful blooms the following spring. 

Pruning in a December garden

Many plants go dormant in winter, making it the ideal time for pruning.

However:

Avoid pruning before frost because it can damage the plant’s pruning wound and can stunt next year’s growth (rather than encourage it).

December can be a good time for pruning:

  • Fruit trees — apple, pear
  • Deciduous trees — birch, chestnut, maple
  • Evergreen hedges — beech, conifers, box hedge

If you’re unsure what you’re doing while pruning, check out our expert guides to pruning everything from apple trees and roses to hydrangeas, box plants, and lavender (and more!). 

Plants to avoid pruning in a December garden

Wait til mid-winter when the plant is deeply dormant if the stems are likely to bleed because it can weaken your plant. 

Bleeding plants include:

  • Acers
  • Birches
  • Figs

And always avoid pruning before frost! 

Bring some colour to your December garden

Holly bush, with a cluster of bright red berries.
Holly berries bring beautiful colour to your December garden.

Plenty of evergreen plants produce colourful flowers and berries in December. 

Our favourite December flowers include:

  • Camelia
  • Christmas rose
  • Pepper tree
  • Snowball
  • Winter jasmine

But evergreens don’t need to flower to bring some healthy colour to your garden — just having leaves is enough to give your December garden a lift. 

So, check out these articles for tips on growing evergreens:

Any questions?

I hope I’ve provided all the answers you might have about tending to your December garden. But if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me, and I’ll get back to you pronto!

Or add a comment below and get the conversation started. 

Alternatively, check out our super-comprehensive Help & Advice section — for all your gardening and lawn care needs. 

Thanks for reading! 

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