Poppy Okotcha says these 8 tiny jobs are all you need to do in the garden in December

By doing these eight small gardening jobs you'll be set up for 2022 says gardens expert Poppy Okotcha

Balcony of Blooms designed by Alexandra Noble Chelsea Flower Show 2021
(Image credit: RHS/Sarah Cuttle)

Winter solstice is on 21st December, the shortest day and longest night. With limited light and lots of cold, plants are slow to grow if they grow at all. Arriving at solstice it can be tempting to look ahead to the growing light levels and start sowing seeds, but taking note from wilder landscapes I hold back and wait till I start to see the plants stirring and seeds germinating in the hedgerows and beyond. Then I know the time is right and plants are ready to get growing again. February is a good time to consider sowing. 

In the past, I have excitedly sown tomatoes in December just after the excitement of Christmas has died down, keen to give them a headstart and give me something garden related to do that’s not muddy. But they never fail to grow weak and leggy with too much warmth and too little light, while plants sown in March catch up and outperform them. 

One mud-free activity that is always a success is collecting branches of evergreens like ivy, bay, myrtle, rosemary or holly and decorating the house with them, and not just for use in your Christmas wreath ideas. An age-old practice of people in the northern hemisphere to remind us that the green will return and to bring some nature close to us, which warms our homes.

In fact, there are just eight small jobs I'd recommend you do this month, in preparation and anticipation of a fruitful year ahead.

Poppy Okotcha in her garden

Poppy Okotcha in her garden

(Image credit: Poppy Okotcha)

1. Make sure you have the right garden set up

Take this time to work on infrastructure like compost station, water butts, and paths. Do they serve you well enough to ensure you have everything you need and can move around the garden - with a wheelbarrow if you use one - with ease? Admittedly this could turn out to be a slightly bigger job than everything else on this list, depending on the scale of what you actually need.

2. Plant bare-root trees

As the ground isn't frozen or water logged, this is the exact time to plant bare-root trees and shrubs. These could include fruit trees such as cheery, peach, pear, apple or plum, or rose bushes. 

3. Plant Spring-flowering bulbs

There is still time to plant crocuses, though it's good to be quick as you don't have too much longer to get them in the ground. These include tulips, daffodils, crocuses and hyacinths.

Amazon has a comprehensive selection of Spring-flowering bulbs here (opens in new tab).

4. Prune apple and pear trees

Now is the perfect time to prune apple and pear trees if you have any. The trees are dormant now, so won't react to any chopping. It's good to get them in shape - get rid of any branches are that rubbing other ones, or growing in an odd direction. It means the tree will channel its energy only into the places you want it to come Spring.

5. Harvest winter greens

By just removing as many bottom leaves as you need, you can keep winter greens growing while enjoying the fresh produce. Chard, collard and kale should all provide you with ample iron and Vitamin C this month. 

6. Order seeds

If you don't have any winter greens but are now wishing that you do, now is the time to think about your growing goals for 2022. Order vegetable and flower seeds and make sure you have the right pots and soils to hand (their packets will tell you what they need) so that you are have them ready to sow as the months begin to get a little warmer. 

Amazon has a comprehensive selection of seeds to start you off here (opens in new tab).

7. Grow micro-greens indoors

micro greens windowsill

(Image credit: Alamy)

Grow micro greens on a bright, south-facing windowsill. If you don’t have that then growing sprouts is a lovely way to grow some food without soil or sun.

8. Look back to think ahead

Take stock of how the previous growing year went, think of any changes you’d like to make, experiments that did or didn’t work. Did you attempt too much? Did some plants not take because the soil conditions weren't right? What were the easy wins, that you can perhaps do even better next year? Is now the time to take up no dig gardening, if you haven't already? That's the beauty of gardening - you always have another chance. 

Poppy Okotcha
Poppy Okotcha

Poppy Okotcha is Livingetc's gardening columnist, and a trained horticulturalist living in Devon. She has appeared on Gardener's World and is also a presenter on Channel 4's The Great Garden Revolution. She specialises in regenerative growing, and studied with the RHS at Regent's Park in London. She once lived on a houseboat, growing herbs and vegetables in flowers in containers, before moving to take on a bigger plot of land.