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Escape to the garden at Christmas – Sue McDougall

Adding colour to the garden with instant potted colour is a quick job that will reward you with flowers through summer. Quality potting mix and large pots scattered around the garden, verandah or patio area filled with instant colour is a good afternoon’s work. Remember to apply liquid fertiliser fortnightly and trim off any dead flowers, if you get time. This encourages more flowers to appear quickly.

A compost bin for a family member with a new home is the perfect gift to start them on creating their own rich soil improver. The average Australian household throws 350kg of recyclable matter into landfill every year. This resource is perfect for using in the garden to improve soil.

Stuck for Christmas gift ideas?  Why not give growing gifts this year? Garden gift packs of seeds, seed raising mix, a seed tray, garden gloves and a trowel will be appreciated by friends and family of all ages.

Continual fruit fly monitoring is important when fruiting trees are in full production. Keep traps maintained and use splash baits on the plants leaves. Better Pets and Gardens stores have all your fruit fly questions covered and all the supplies needed for ‘fruit fly free fruit’. There is nothing better than the taste of tree ripened fruit and there is nothing more disheartening than biting into a peach or nectarine completely destroyed by fruit fly.

Plant a follow up crop of tomatoes but if space is at a premium, plant cherry tomatoes in large pots or planter bags.  One favourite cherry variety is Sweet Bite as it continually produces large sweet fruit for months.

Apply wetting agent around established shrubs and water in well before applying mulch. This ensures water will soak into the soil when it’s applied rather than running off the soil surface.

Lawns will also benefit from an application of wetting agent. Check reticulation and measure how much water is being applied to the lawn area. A lawn will survive hot summer temperatures if it receives 10mm of water which is often referred to as a standard drink. Measure a standard drink by placing straight sided containers around the lawn in various locations and timing how long it takes to fill to 10mm in depth. Change the reticulation run time if needed.

A shady garden is the perfect spot to retreat to on scorching summer days. In December the sun is at its highest and when the garden receives the most sun. A few strategically placed small trees once established will reduce the surrounding temperature by up to 10 degrees.

If WA experiences extreme changes of temperature this month, hibiscus will tend to drop some leaves while others will turn bright yellow. Don’t panic as they are just sulking and adjusting to the warmer temperatures.

Trim jacarandas after flowering if they are too large or out of shape. This is when they put on their new growth and develop shape for next season.

Prune apricot trees after the last of the fruit has been harvested. These trees are prone to dieback and disease if pruned in winter but will not suffer if work is done in summer when they are actively growing.

Most of all, enjoy the garden this month and if Christmas is stressing you out, hide in the garden for a few hours.  It’s good for the soul.


Written by Sue McDougall, a qualified horticulturalist and experienced garden centre owner who grew up in the WA wheatbelt and has had experience in gardening throughout the entire state.  You may know Sue as the garden expert on 6PR radio and by her many TV appearances.


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