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Posted on 1st April, 2023
December has come upon us, it seems, so quickly! As gardeners, we havehad an unprecedented year, with temperatures hitting record highs, andthen flooding in November. The pond garden I was creating at one of mysites got totalled by what looked like a tsunami and even the established,robust Gunnera got flattened. And yet in another garden I manage, thelavender is about to burst into flower again and Gazania are still blooming!So this last twelve months has been an epic learning curve for us all. Eventhe professional growers such as David Austin Roses have decided to retire some of the Englishvarieties that are unable to cope with the drier conditions these days, A Shropshire Lad among them.But varieties are being bred to cope with the change in climate, and semi self-pollinating Runnerbeans, for example, are now available which are able to deal better with heat. Many of us found ourcrops developed later than usual, and this was due to overnight temperatures being too high toallow effective pollination. So it's down to us to adapt and see what next year will bring!
In the Veg Patch
December is a great time to get a bit of a head start on next year. Winter lettuce can be sown undercover and varieties such as Winter Gem have been bred to germinate at lower temperatures, so in acoldframe or unheated greenhouse is best. Broad beans canbe sown outside.Currant bushes can be pruned, as can apple and pear trees toallow light and space to the centre of the plants, removingany diseased or dead stems.Any remaining leeks or parsnips can be lifted and heeled intoa trench to keep them for the next few months. Trenches canalso be dug and then filled with veg peelings/compostiblekitchen waste for next year's beans. This will break downover winter and give a good medium in which to plant.
In the Garden
I was wonderingabout sweetpeas this year, aslast year's gottotally fried! But I am trying again, mainly because Ihave so many seeds left. So if, like me, you are theeternal optimist, these can be sown this month.Hardwood cuttings can be taken, Buddleia, Cornus,Rose and Mock Orange can all be grown in a preparedtrench and left over winter. Trees and shrubs can still bepruned, side shoots on Wisteria can be taken back to 2or 3 buds, Birches and Acer can be shaped now withoutrisk of bleeding. Do leave hydrangea heads on until riskof frost has passed as these give protection to nextyear's flowers.Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

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