Action for December Fruit, veg and greenhouse
Support fruit trees
Check stakes and ties supporting fruit trees and adjust or replace them if necessary.
Force rhubarb to produce a tender, early crop – insulate the crown with straw to create a warmer environment, which will encourage the rhubarb to grow, and then cover the clump with a purpose-made forcing pot or an upturned dustbin.
What to prune now
Prune gooseberry bushes and red and white currants by shortening the new growth at the tip of each main branch by half and cutting side-shoots to within two buds of the main stem. Also prune blackcurrants if you didn’t do it during summer.
Grow mint indoors
Now's the time to grow some mind indoors for a supply through the winter.
Dig up a small patch of roots and coil them across the surface of a pot of multi-purpose compost. Cover with more compost and keep on a cool, sunny windowsill indoors. They should start to shoot in a couple of weeks.
Harvest Brussels sprouts, carrots, kale, leeks, parsnips, swedes and cabbages when you need them.
Prepare for next year
Planning on growing sweet peas or runner beans next year?
Dig a 30cm-deep trench and fill it over the winter with garden waste that you’d normally put on the compost heap. This will add nutrients and aid water retention. Cover with soil in spring before planting.
Save egg boxes
Save some egg boxes for chitting potato tubers in. If you haven’t got space for spuds in your borders, you can always grow them in pots instead.
In the greenhouse
Check the greenhouse temperature regularly
Adjust your heater if necessary. If you have stored tender perennials such as fuchsias, pelargoniums and argyranthemums in your greenhouse, they’ll need to be kept just above freezing – min night temp 7ºC; max day temp 15ºC
Clear snow off cold frames, greenhouses and conservatories that contain plants so the light doesn’t become blocked out. Remove dead leaves and debris from greenhouse gutters too, so they don't block downpipes.
Pinch out tips
Pinch out tips of autumn-sown sweet pea seedlings once they have two pairs of leaves to encourage growth – if left, the original shoot often won’t flower.
If your plants have leaves with signs of fungal infection or browning, pick them off.
Check the undersides of leaves for scale insects – small brown scales that look like miniature limpets. Wipe them off with a tissue or scrub with a small brush if there are lots of them.