It is hard to believe we are in the month of December, the sun is shining into my office for a change and I can enjoy the last bit of autumn colour of the surrounding woodland. A good few leaves are still clinging on trees like Oak, Beech or Birch and it looks amazing especially when the sun starts to set around 4pm at the moment.
The birds are picking away on all sorts of berries, they still find plenty of food at the moment and there is no need to give additional bird food yet! A point I have to argue a lot (I know the birdies don’t say NO to lovely scones!).
Next week is promised cold, so we moved in all tender plants, emptied terracotta pots and stored them in a frost-free place (in coldframes for example) and started to wrap and protect our subtropical border with a netting. Another thing we learned from previous cold winters is to wrap all outside water connections and to take off the sprinkler heads of the automatic irrigation system.Many were damaged during very cold spells in recent years.
We also sieved our own compost, which is well rotted by now. The nice dark soil is used to top dress beds and borders for several reasons. First of all, it is a natural source of plant food (One of the best ones!) but it also protects tender plants like our Fuchsia ‘Tom West’ or Cannas from frost when the soil is heaped up around the plants. The same could be done with roses to protect the grafting point during the winter months.
It is this time of year where you can start on jobs which you normally would not get around in the busy high season. New permanent edges along borders or raised flowerbeds, for example, give a simple but clean finish to the bed and blend in quite well when painted dark like the soil. It prevents washing away the soil on our sloped beds and protects the edge.
Winter months are pruning months – a job I love to do. We just finished pruning our gooseberries and white currants. The soft fruits can easily grow out of control and will look unkept if this is not done on a regular base every year. We also started on our apple trees. We have mainly M26 root stocks so trees should not grow taller then around 10 feet. This means that a good few trees will get a harder pruning this winter to keep the shape of the tree and to encourage the development of fruit spurs.
Christmas is coming close to Kylemore, too. The Head Gardeners House looks lovely from the outside when its getting dark and the lights are on. Just a bit of snow is missing. Did you know that the Christmas tree was probably invented by the German religious reformer Martin Luther in 1536?
This issue of the garden diary will be for December and January and I will be back with more from ‘Behind the walls of Kylemore’ in February 2014.
To all my readers a Very Merry Christmas, enjoy the festive days.
Your Head Gardener
Things you can do in your garden in December and January
To Sow / Propagate:
~ Start to sow first vegetable seeds like lettuce for indoor sowing
~ Grafting of apples etc.
~ Continue to plant roses and fruit trees
~ Plant or move herbaceous plants in borders
~ Leek, last of Radishes, Curly Kale, Cabbage ‘Red Drumhead’
~ Lift celery before strong frosts and store
To maintain & prune & feed:
~ Start winter pruning of Apple & Pear trees (ongoing until February)
~ After flowering prune deciduous trees and shrubs for a balanced shape
~ Prune tall roses by half (precise pruning again in spring)
~ Clean and tidy potting sheds, tool sheds, propagation trays, pots etc.
~ Check on stored Potatoes, bulbs and fruits for diseases and dispose affected ones
~ Check Apple and Pear trees for sign of canker, cut out if occurring
~ Prune Grape vines, leave about two to three buds of laterals (side shoots of this years growths)
~ Clean up Herbaceous Borders, cut down old growths