December is a month when we bring the garden into our homes. Those symbolic evergreens, holly, ivy and mistletoe form the basis of our decorations. It’s also a time to take special care of all that is around us, writes Joanna Cruddas.   

Window boxes

Geraniums

My window boxes are still full of flowering geraniums and I’m risking leaving most of the geraniums out all winter for the first time. I planned to change just my favourite box and fill it with a mix of pale pink double tulip (Tulip Angelique) and grape hyacinth (Muscari Armeniacum) bulbs. But there’s been a hold-up.

In August, a garden spider (Araneus Diadematus) installed itself, dangling above the window box. When I returned from holiday in September, it was still there. Two months later the size of the web has increased to the four corners of the window. Occasionally I notice the spider sheltering under a geranium leaf.

I read that it (I think ‘she’) will die with the first frost, but until then she has become my friend and deserves consideration. The geraniums were viciously attacked by caterpillars in the summer. Spiders kill caterpillars and she may have lain eggs that will hatch in spring.

The bulbs will have to be planted late. They are adaptable and at worst will flower a little later than usual. The geraniums are looking healthy and will be brought in to spend the rest of the winter on a west facing window ledge.

 

Protect your plants

Some vegetables become leggy and vulnerable to blowing over in a mild, wet autumn. Keep earthing up brassicas and broad beans.

Stake other plants if necessary and cover or wrap with gardeners’ fleece anything that is not fully hardy.

 

Eat up those root vegetables

parsnips

Some gardeners leave parsnips in the ground until the first frost for best flavour. I prefer to dig mine before they get woody and too big to handle.

Any remaining beetroot need harvesting and even if past their best should still be good in soup. Leeks can remain in the ground throughout the winter, though I usually dig them before the year ends. 

 

Feed the soil

As space is created in the vegetable plot and annuals dug up from the flower garden, cover all empty patches of ground with a thick layer of organic matter.

Throughout the winter worms will carry it down, filling the soil with goodness.

 

Keep Christmas cheap and cheerful

Christmas tree
Image via Decoist

Seven years ago I bought a small Christmas tree, complete with roots, for £35. It lives outside in its pot 11 months of the year. Over the years it has grown about 10 inches.

Twice I have pulled it out of its pot, trimmed the roots, and repotted it in fresh soil. Watering it during the summer keeps it healthy and happy.

 

Christmas wreaths

A few of us get together each year to make our Christmas wreaths. Quantities of holly and evergreens are collected by a generous friend with a large garden. We each bend an old wire hanger into a circle and wrap it in florists’ tape. Sprigs of holly, pines and other evergreens are wired together and in turn wired to the hanger.

Then comes the fun, spraying nuts in gold or silver, adding a few red chillis (I never get through as many as I grow) and sticking them and anything else we have to the greenery. Hey presto, we return home and hang our wreaths on the front door!

Happy Christmas, everyone.

 

Joanna Cruddas lives in London and gardens at her plot in Fulham Palace Meadows Allotments, on her balcony, and in her window boxes. She is the author of The Three-Year Allotment Notebook with photographs by Edwina Sassoon.

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