Garden tasks for December 2015

Merry Christmas from the Ōtaki Mail

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Flower garden

  • Zinnia
    Roses and perennials can still be planted, but keep new plantings well watered.
  • Prune roses lightly and water well, in preparation for autumn flowering.
  • Remove dead flowers from your summer bloomers — they’ll continue to produce fresh blooms if the old ones are continually snipped off.
  • Lift spring flowering bulbs once leaves have died down completely, and store in a cool dry place.
  • Mulch all shrubs with compost to conserve moisture, and to protect roots from hot sun, particularly rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias.
  • Water each evening or early morning, especially plants in containers, which will dry out quickly in hot or windy weather.
  • Sow seeds of ageratum, alyssum, aster, celosia, cosmos, cyclamen, zinnia, viscaria, gerbera, verbena, petunia, phlox, sunflowers, rudbeckia and nasturtium.
  • Plant out seedlings of alyssum, portulaca, aster, salvia, cosmos, phlox, viscaria, impatiens, dahlia, dianthus, gysophila, nasturtium, marigolds, verbena and chrysanthemum.

Fruit and vegetable garden

  • Summer-prune your peach and nectarine trees as soon as fruiting is complete — it will help prevent the spread of silver leaf blight and leaf curl.
  • F_XS15_garden_FruitPruning.jpgSpray pip, stone and citrus trees with copper spray to prevent fungus diseases, verrucosis and leaf curl.
  • Feed fruit trees for bumper crops later, and water regularly to prevent fruit drop.
  • Leafy crops, such as silverbeet and basil, will benefit from a regular feed of seaweed-based fertiliser.
  • Water sweetcorn well, particularly at flowering — it helps cobs swell to their full size.
  • Feed tomatoes at least once a week with a fast acting liquid feed. Don’t forget to continue pinching out laterals (side growths) as they grow, and make sure plants are firmly staked.
  • Mulch around sweetcorn, courgettes, cucumbers and pumpkins — these plants like sun, but will do better if their roots are shaded.
  • Sow seeds directly into the soil — beans, beetroot, sweetcorn, carrots, silverbeet, parsnip, lettuce, swedes, spinach, turnips and radish. Make successive sowings every two weeks. Courgette seeds especially are ideal for sowing right now into mounds of organically-rich soil — or they can be started off in pots and carefully transplanted. Children will be amazed to see how quickly and easily a new plant sprouts from the seeds.
  • Plant out seedlings of lettuce, gherkin, broccoli, eggplant, cabbage, spinach, cauliflower, tomato, pumpkin, courgette, capsicum, melon and sweetcorn.


  • Raise the mower height during the warm weather. Longer blades of grass (approximately 5cm) help roots stay cool.
  • If you fed your lawn in early spring, now’s the time to do it again. Use a balanced, fast-acting lawn food and water in well — for an organic option that won’t burn your grass, try Dynamic Lifter Organic Lawn Food.

Second thoughts

Sow a handful of sunflower seeds — they’re such fun to grow and kids love them. Grow tall ‘Yellow Empress’ or ‘Moonwalker’ against a sunny fence or wall. Yates Bronze Shades are a little shorter, and produce cheery flowers in a mix of colours.

Remember to keep up the weeding, mulching and beautifying!