Give your garden some Christmas TLC

Tidy leaves from around the stems of plants

Tidy leaves from around the stems of plants

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Boxing Day is a time to recover, to relax, to contemplate the end of the old year and the imminent start of the new. It’s also a time to consider doing a few gardening chores that should have been done weeks ago.

So, if the weather is fine and the flesh is willing, turn off the TV, grab your coat and hat – and brave the great outdoors.

December is never the best time to garden; normally, it’s too cold, damp and dark to encourage anyone to head out other than for a brisk walk and perhaps a visit to the local hostelry. But there are things to be done in the garden. Do them and feel proud.

Start by protecting any containers that aren’t entirely frost-hardy. Get them under cover or clothe them in bubble-wrap – anything, in fact, that will keep them from cracking or shattering. Insulate any naked taps outdoors to stop them freezing when the frosts really bite. The same applies to vulnerable pipes.

If you’re feeling particularly energetic, finish off any winter digging, incorporating plenty of well-rotted manure, old compost or other soil enricheners. It’ll give you a rosy glow.

Some woody shrubs are best pruned when they are dormant, and straggly rose bushes should be cut back to stop them rocking in strong winds.

Anyone with a warm spot (greenhouse, conservatory, even a quiet windowsill) can consider getting ahead by sowing seeds of various plants. Pelargoniums are a prime example, although onions and sweet peas are also often sown around the shortest days of the year.

Perhaps the most unpleasant jobs right now are those which involve cleaning – paths should be kept moss-free; beds and borders shouldn’t be allowed to become buried beneath a layer of fallen leaves; glasshouses should be given a pre-winter going-over in a bid to discourage pests. But if the weather is just too bad and you’re feeling just too exhausted to step outside the door, pass a contemplative hour or two seeking inspiration from seed catalogues. Even in these days of online shopping, they still have a lot to offer, particularly those produced by small, specialist nurseries.

Don’t let winter get you down – look to the future and plan to make 2016 the best gardening year ever. Optimism rules, OK.

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