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December 2010 – Sue McDougall

Spend a few minutes in the garden at this time of the year and it really will thank you for it. December sees the return of two-day-a-week watering schedule. To make sure that most of the water that you apply to your garden actually soaks in, apply a wetting agent over all garden beds and the lawn too. Water running down the street is not helping your garden at all.

Give living gifts this Christmas. Plants make brilliant gifts; they are great value and keep spreading the Christmas joy all year round.  A traditional poinsettia is a fantastic idea for the Christmas Cook or perhaps a beautiful pot overflowing with herbs and set off with a big red ribbon.  Succulents and cacti have personalities that can be chosen and even dressed up to suite the recipient.  The options are endless.

Jobs to Do

Preventing fruit fly in fruiting trees should be the number one job this month. Fruit fly will not only ruin your whole crop but also costs the commercial fruit growing industry millions of dollars every year. Gardeners can help control fruit fly and it’s easy to do.

There are many products on the market and are available instore.  These are simply baits that are mixed with water and placed in traps that are hung from trees. Using homemade baits in conjunction with a commercially available product will help to reduce the population further.

I have always found this homemade bait effective:

600ml of warm water
2 tablespoons of cloudy ammonia
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 dessertspoon of Vegemite

Mix together and place approx 2cm in the bottom of plastic bottle. Put lots of small holes in the bottles and hang in the trees. You need approx 7-8 homemade baits per tree. Replace every two weeks.

A really good website with alternative controls is Funded by the Australian Government this website will detail all the information you will ever need regarding fruit fly control.

Getting the lawn looking good for the backyard game of cricket on Christmas Day is easy. Follow these steps for the best bowling pitch you have ever had!

Step 1  If the lawn is spongy or compacted aerate by using the pitchfork or hiring an aerator.

Step 2  Apply a wetting agent and water it in thoroughly.

Step 3  Apply a quality slow release lawn fertiliser.

Step 4  About a week before Christmas apply a hose on liquid lawn fertiliser.

Lavenders have finished flowering and those spent flower heads are starting to brown off. Take to them with the secateurs or hedge clippers because a light trim will encourage soft new growth and repeat flowering. As they shoot away nip out the growing tips to encourage a bushy habit.

As the weather warms up we start to look for shady areas in the garden to revamp. Strategically placed pots under a tree will dress up an otherwise wasted space. Place pots on a few bricks or pot feet or the fine feeder roots of the tree can grow up into the potting mix robbing all the nutrients from the plant.

Beans are one of the easiest edible crops to grow. One of my favourite varieties is the dwarf French bean; they keep producing for months and only grow to approx 50cm so can be placed in any spare spot in the garden. For climbing beans make a frame out of bamboo stakes to form a wigwam shape and as the beans grow up a great cubby house will be created for the kids to hide in and munch on the fresh beans. Somehow these beans will always taste nicer than the ones picked and brought inside.

The vegetable and fruiting garden with a little work will reward in the hottest months.  Those lucky enough to have tomatoes ripe at Christmas are the envy of us all. Most of us will have to wait a little later to enjoy our produce. It is now time to plant another crop to follow on from the first batch. In a large hanging basket where it is too sunny for a lot of other plants, plant some Cherry tomatoes. Red, yellow and orange varieties not only look great but will also fruit brilliantly over the summer. This is a sure way to get the children eating fresh tomatoes.

Gardenias are putting huge amounts of effort into flower buds at this time of the year and normally start to display bright yellow leaves. They stand out so badly because they look so bright next to the dark green foliage. Don¹t be alarmed. You can be guaranteed, nearly every other gardenia around is doing the same thing. It is caused by a magnesium deficiency and can be easily fixed with a treatment of Epsom Salts or magnesium sulphate. Dissolve a dessertspoon full in a watering can and apply the solution over foliage and around root systems. The application of an organic soluble fertiliser is also beneficial at this time of the year.


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