What strange times we live in, as I pen these notes in early November the sun is warm, the borders still have plenty of colour & the lawn still needs mowing!. I know it is an illusion, for soon we will “enjoying” frosts as Winter takes it’s icy grip. It has been an unusual year with the early Spring & hot days through the Summer, with everything maturing early, which made life difficult for our two annual shows, but members rallied round giving us great shows in spite of what nature threw at us. As Christmas approaches , you can take it a little easier this month, without any risk to your garden as basic maintenance is the most important thing until Spring . Of course if you are looking to keep up the pace of your gardening there are plenty of smaller jobs that you can do. In keeping with the Christmas theme, why not try to grow your own mistletoe?, if you are lucky enough to have one of the host trees, apple, hawthorn, lime or poplar, then growing mistletoe should be fairly easy. When you buy your mistletoe, remove some berries & rub them into the cracks in the bark. Hopefully the seeds will germinate, and the misletoe will flourish taking it’s nutrients from the tree. It is time to plant new fruit trees, December is your last chance to plant bare rooted fruit trees & bushes, secure the tree loosely to it’s stake , to prevent Winter winds loosening it in the ground, do not forget to water in dry spells. Net cabbages & other Winter crops to stop hungry pigeons & other birds trying to eat them. Protect salads, herbs & other crops with cloches. Leave parsnips in the ground, they taste much better after being frosted. Tomatoes if not turning now, are unlikely to ripen further, use them to make green chutney, perfect for serving on Christmas day. Don’t let Ivy be a pest, it may seem like any other climbing plant, usefully covering bare walls & fences. Unfortunately, no matter how much you try to keep it in bounds, ivy has a way of escaping . It has a habit of smothering other plants & annoying the neighbours, so make sure you keep cutting back those escaping shoots, or get rid of it altogether. Another problem at this time of year is root rot, affecting plants in containers, make sure the drainage holes are clear by raising the containers off the ground, move them into the rain shadow near a wall or fence. Prevent fallen leaves accumulating round your roses, to stop the spread of rose black spot. Now is an ideal time to hard prune your trees and shrubs, looking out for flaws such as split or broken branches, cutting back so they are healthier next year, pruning now, reduces wind rock loosening plants in the ground, this also applies to roses, although only cut back half way, wait until the Spring, looking for new buds before cutting down hard. On a final note, remember to replenish & add water for the birds to drink, also watch out for bird’s nests when pruning . put out some food out for them, many gardeners assume that birds are not hungry, when they look plump; birds actually fluff up their feathers to minimize heat loss from their bodies, when they are seriously hungry.