There are always those gardening tasks we cannot get away from. A little bit of work will be greatly rewarded when the family pops around for the festive season.
Prune rambling roses, feed, water well and add a layer of mulch. Stake dahlias as they grow and keep disbudding them by removing the side buds to encourage large flowers. Cut back chrysanthemums to ensure bushier growth and lots of flowering stems in autumn. Mulch with fresh compost and water well afterwards. Keep spraying deciduous fruit trees against fruit fly.
To avoid blight on tomatoes and mildew on cucumbers, squashes and pumpkins, water them early in the morning to give the leaves time to dry off before nightfall. Give citrus trees their mid-season feed of granular fertiliser. Spread evenly over the drip line 20 – 30cm away from the stem. Mulch and water well.
Planting seed potatoes in December and January will produce a harvest in April and May for storing and eating during winter. Weed the garden. After weeding place a layer of organic mulch over every last inch of soil. Mulching not only saves water and your time when you’re desperately busy with other tasks, but will also provide a professional and well cared for look and will display existing plants to their best advantage.
Add swathes of gauras, angelonias, cupheas, lavender, Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’, bacopas, perennial verbena and pentas – none of these need excessive pampering or watering!
Large vegetables (tomatoes, brinjals, squashes etc.) should be watered deeply twice a week while seedlings and shallow-rooted veggies (Swiss chard, lettuce etc.) need less water more frequently, even daily in hot December temperatures. Support fruit-bearing tomato stems to prevent the stems from breaking or bending. Use soft ties and loop the tie around the stake and the stem in a figure of eight. Fertilise fruiting crops when they start to flower and leafy vegetables after picking.
Remove weeds that compete for water. Renew mulch if necessary.
5 minutes to spare
Check quick-bearing veggies (beans, marrows etc.) each day and harvest so that fruit doesn’t grow too big or too tough.
10 minutes to spare
Start sowing cool-season crops (cabbage, cauliflower etc.) in seed trays. Keep them out of direct sun but in good light and make sure the soil is consistently moist during germination.
Grow loose-leaf lettuce in the shade of taller plants like runner beans, tomatoes and brinjals.