Richard's top tips for December

  • Week 1

    For a bumper crop of runner beans next year, dig a trench and fill it with vegetable peelings over winter. Cover it over with soil in spring, ready for planting the beans in May.

    Check winter baskets and pots regularly in case they need watering. They can dry out surprisingly quickly especially in windy weather.

    Tap tip. Lag outside taps to stop them from freezing and, if possible, also turn off their water supply and drain them. Also empty water from hosepipes and store them out of the cold.

    Leaf clear. Rake up, or use a rotary mower to collect, the last of the fallen leaves from the lawn. If you don’t remove them, they’ll rot and may make ugly dead patches in the lawn.

  • Week 2

    Keep the slugs off the spring bulbs by sprinkling some grit around the newly emerging young shoots.

    Leaf clear. Check house, shed and greenhouse gutters and drainpipes and remove any leaves that might be blocking them.

    Tool care. Clean and oil-using something like WD40 – any garden tools you won’t be using over winter. Check them over too – if any of them are past it, why not ask for a new one on your Christmas list?

    Root out. For an easy way to get more phlox, oriental poppies and Japanese anemones, try taking root cuttings. Dig up a plant, cut off a couple of thick roots and snip these into 2-3in long pieces. Lay these, 1in deep, in pots of gritty compost and place in a sheltered spot outdoors. Each root section should produce a young plant next spring.

  • Week 3

    Grape Expectations. Cut the sideshoots of grapevines back to just two buds. This’ll help stop the plant from getting too big, as well as boosting next year’s crop.

    Check containers. With Christmas approaching, it’s easy to forget your outdoor pots and baskets. To keep them looking their best, try to check them at least once a week. Water them if needed and remove any finished flowers.

    Help houseplants. It’s a tough time for them. Give them as much light as possible, wipe any dust off  their leaves and also clean the windows. Flowering plants will need regular watering, all others shouldn’t need watering more than once a fortnight.

  • Week 4

    Time out. Bored watching too much telly over Christmas? Take a break and flick through the seed catalogues. It’s fun planning what to grow next year and the sooner you place your order, the sooner you can start sowing.

    If snow falls over the festive season, brush it off evergreen shrubs and conifers or the weight of the snow may break the branches.

    Dig it. Burn off those Christmas calories by digging the garden. It’s great exercise and you’ll feel much better for it. If the soil is poor, perk it up with some compost, well rotted manure or leafmould.