The December garden

Pyracantha berries are a good source of food for birds

Pyracantha berries are a good source of food for birds

The run up to Christmas leaves little time for gardening for many of us. If you can find the time, take a break outdoors and spend some time in your garden. Here are a few suggestions of things that can be useful to do in your garden at this time of year.

Consider the wildlife in your garden during winter. Some animals hibernate, but birds remain active. Keep bird feeders full and water dishes topped-up and ice-free. Birds appreciate high calorie foods such as peanuts and fat balls during cold weather. Disinfect feeders and dishes regularly to prevent bird pox spreading. Clean out nest boxes, removing old nesting material. The RSPB recommends thorough washing with boiling water to remove parasites left behind from last summer’s nestlings. Allow to dry before closing the lid. Insecticides and flea powders shouldn’t be used. The RHS recommends wearing a dust mask and gloves while doing these jobs. Do the cleaning outdoors and dispose of any waste using a sealed bag. Line clean bird boxes with fresh hay or wood shavings to give small mammals somewhere to hibernate. Alternatively, empty bird boxes can provide roosting places for small birds during winter.


  • If you have space in your garden for shrubs, consider planting berry-bearing varieties such as pyracantha and holly to provide food for birds.

  • Leave the bases of ornamental grasses uncut over winter as many beneficial insects choose to hibernate there.

  • Plants that aren’t fully hardy need protection if freezing weather is forecast. Smaller plants in containers could be moved to somewhere sheltered. If this isn’t possible, plants can be wrapped with fleece and pots with bubble wrap. Mulch small plants with bark for protection.

  • Make sure any outdoor taps and pipes are lagged to prevent freezing.

  • If you didn’t prune deciduous shrubs and trees last month most can be pruned now, but check the requirements of each species, as some should be pruned when it’s warmer. Prune out dead, diseased and crossing branches.

  • Prune overgrown deciduous hedges now.

  • Prune tall growth from roses to prevent root damage caused by wind rock.

Disclaimer: The information given in this blog is very general and results can be affected by many kinds of local conditions, such as weather, soil, aspect, etc. The author therefore does not accept responsibility for any loss or failure as a result of following any suggestions given.

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