Any remaining winter digging should be proceeded with at top speed, assuming however that the really bad weather has not yet arrived, and theis still workable. Choose the milder days for any planting or pruning that are required and take a thorough look over the whole garden, clearing away leaves and vegetable remains to the heap and burning the more woody refuse which will not rot easily.
During bad spells of weather overhauling and cleaning garden tools should be continued and any repairs necessary dealt with while the slacker gardening period does not demand their regular use.
Flower pots can be scrubbed and seed boxes given a good brush out.
Make any repairs necessary to the fruit cage and see that it is strong enough to stand the weight of a heavy fall of snow.
As the weather becomes colder and there are icy conditions outside, any young plants which have been placed in the cold frame for protection should be further taken care of by the addition of some sacks or old mats placed over the glass.
Clean all the glass from cloches, and any that are not being used over actual plants may be placed in rows in the vegetable garden to warm up soil for early plantings. If the garden generally or a particular part of it is continually waterlogged during wet periods of the year it may be cured by the addition of some underground drainage pipes. Trenches should be taken out and the pipes placed end to end without actually cementing them together. These may then be packed around with some fine rubble to keep the soil from entering the joins and the trenches refilled with soil.
If the waterlogged part of the garden is a small localised spot, one run of pipe directing the excess water to the lowest part of the garden may be sufficient, but where the trouble is more widespread a network of pipes in the shape of a herring bone will be more effective. If the plan allows, the unwanted water may be directed to the lowest part of the plot at which point a pond can be provided and the wet surrounding area used for planting as a bog garden.
When the weather turns damp during this part of the year the garden is often attacked by slugs and these can easily be destroyed by a fairly liberal application of slug killer. Take a good look at the garden after a few days of frosty weather and make firm the plants which have become loosened.
Border bulbs which were planted earlier may now have shoots which have reached the surface. These may be protected by sifting a layer of soil to re-cover them.
December is the slackest month in the year for lawn maintainance and there is little to do apart from keeping the surface clear with the rake and unnecessary walking on frozen grass kept to a minimum.
Trees and Shrubs
When the weather allows, planting shrubs and trees may be continued and a check made for any damage resulting from high winds. Badly torn branches must be removed and the uneven tear taken back with a clean cut. Shrubs such as Winter Jasmine will be flowering at Christmas or soon after. If suitable branches are removed during the early part of the month and placed into deep containers of water, early blossom may be used in the house for decoration.
Many shops this month will be offering at greatly reduced prices quantities of bulbs, left over from the main selling season, which may be bought for planting among the shrubs and trees. Naturalising bulbs in this way adds to the beauty of the shrubbery, making use of ground in which it is often difficult to grow other plants.
Plantings should now be finished off quickly and not proceeded with if the soil has become waterlogged.
Any spare moment may be used for planning and preparing new rose beds for spring planting.
Pot roses should be moved into the greenhouse now and kept moderately watered.
Examine the dahlia roots which have been stored for the winter and any that are required for early flowering may be moved nearer heat to encourage early growth.
Even in the smaller type of greenhouse it is possible to have a grape vine and these are not only decorative but are easy to grow and, provided ample sun is available, will soon be growing bunches of surprisingly good grapes.
When a vine is to be trained under the roof of the house, wires running the whole length of the span should be attached and if possible should be about 10” below roof glass level. These will be used to train the main stem and as the growth increases each year the main growing stem only is allowed to go on and in a few seasons may have grown the complete length of the house and back several times.
Young healthy vines may be bought at a good nursery and either well potted up in the house or planted directly into the greenhouse border. However, to get the best results the roots of the vine should be placed in a well prepared border adjacent to the house and the main stem passed through a hole in the side wall so that the advantages of outside planting and the necessary heat for growing and ripening the fruit can be enjoyed.
During the first growing season the vine will produce no grapes and as side growths or laterals lengthen, stop them as they reach 1 ft. and cut them back to the main stem the following winter. When this is done the main stem may also be shortened to allow it to make strong wood next year.
The second season will see the beginning of fruiting and as the small branches appear close to the main stem, stop the lateral growth 2 leaves beyond the bunches.
When the fruit has begun to swell it will very probably need thinning and this can be clone with a pair of long fine- bladed scissors, being careful not to handle the bunches unnecessarily.
During the growing period of the vine and particularly when the fruit is maturing ample water must be given.
After the fruit has ripened and has been harvested by removing each complete bunch, cut the laterals to half their length and in the winter these should be cut back to the first bud from the main stem, the latter being grown on and trained along the greenhouse roof.
With a domestic greenhouse it will only be necessary to plant one vine as they grow rapidly and in a short time cover a great deal of space.
There is still time to finish off pruning the fruit trees during the milder parts of the month and, when this has been done, the trunks treated with a spraying of insecticide. Bring a few strawberry plants into the greenhouse and pot them up for early forcing.
Any vegetables which are in store for later use must be examined now and again and any that are beginning to deteriorate should be removed at once.
Suitable boxes for seedcan also be made ready and any cloches available brought into use either protecting existing crops or for soil warming.