DECEMBER IN THE GARDEN
The end of the year has arrived once again. Being out in the garden is a wonderful way to spend the summer months. The weather is generally starting to become more settled and plants begin to make their vigorous summer growth. Lawns grow rapidly and need mowing more regularly. Shrubs like hydrangeas and perennials like agapanthus and daylilies fill the summer garden with colourful blooms. Outdoor living around swimming pools and on patios with braais and a few beverages makes the years’ gardening all the more worthwhile. Happy holidays.
- Make sure that hanging baskets and pots are planted full of summer annuals.
- Fill up any bare patches in flower beds and pots with flowering annuals. Bedding begonias and torenias are always reliable options now.
- Water during the early morning to prevent plants from wilting during the heat of the day.
- Check for snails, especially in marigolds and other flower seedlings.
- Continue with dead heading, it’s seemingly a never-ending process.
- Apply water soluble plant food every 2 to 3 weeks, a 3:1:6 formulation works well.
- This is a relatively lean month in the veggie garden. Most summer vegetables are busy growing or being harvested.
- Plant smaller numbers of lettuce seedlings at more regular intervals, they tend to bolt in the heat.
- Sow late crops of cucumbers, squashes, pumpkins, courgettes, maize and beans.
- Leave part of the garden fallow or sow a green manure crop like marigolds to get the garden ready for autumn planting.
- Check pumpkins and their relatives for powdery mildew on the leaves and spray with a fungicide.
- Stake and tie up tomatoes, peppers and runner beans.
- Check tomato plants for whitefly infestation and treat accordingly.
- Keep herbs well-watered but not water logged. They need good drainage.
- Some battle with the summer heat and humidity.
- Fertilise monthly to keep them in active growth.
- Plant basil regularly through the summer months.
- Continue to sow coriander and rocket seeds each month.
- Remove plants that look wilted and tired due to the wet weather.
- Harvest many of the deciduous fruit types that ripen this month.
- Litchis and mangoes are in season now.
- Pick up and bury all fallen fruit to combat future insect infestation.
- Fertilise with a balanced fertiliser. Apply as far out as the drip line as this is where the feeder roots are under the soil. Keep fertiliser granules away from the stem of the tree.
- Lily borer or amaryllis worm is active now. Check clivias, agapanthus, crinums and amaryllis plants for signs of these striped caterpillars in the crown of the plant. They can really wreak havoc if left unchecked.
- Supplementary watering during hot and dry weather conditions is vital during periods of little rainfall.
- Stake dahlias to help support their heavy blooms.
- Check succulents and aloes for any signs of fungal problems that may cause them to rot or collapse due to rain and waterlogged soil.
- Prune back large or overgrown foliage shrubs so that they can grow back during the summer season.
- Colourful fillers to plant now – coleus, dahlias, euphorbias, begonias, New Guinea Impatiens, shrubby salvias, angelonias, gaura.
- Spray every 10 to 14 days to prevent fungal diseases and insect pests. Remember that a sticking agent added to the spray mixture makes it more effective.
- Check for red spider mite on the under surface of the foliage.
- Water up to 3 times per week depending on rainfall.
- Fertilise with a balanced rose food like 8:1:5 with slow release nitrogen.
- Make sure that the mulch layer around the roses is topped up.
- Dead head spent flowers.
- Mow regularly, as much as twice weekly if need be.
- Fertilise with a high nitrogen fertiliser like LAN.
- Water during extremely hot weather.
- Trim the edges more often as grass grows rapidly now.
- Don’t let the lawn become overgrown during the holiday season.
- Treat broad leaf weed infestations with a selective herbicide.
- Be on the look-out for lawn crickets.
- Clip or prune hedges and topiary specimens regularly to prevent them from growing out of shape.
- Mulch wherever possible in flower beds and around trees and shrubs to prevent soil from drying out during extreme heat.
- Wage war on all weeds to maintain control of the garden. The golden rule is never to let them set seeds.
- Check that ponds and water features are clean and functioning efficiently for the festive season.
- Move Christmas trees out of the home into a shaded area outdoors to allow them to recover and gradually move into a sunny position before planting on into a bigger pot.
Flowers don’t tell – they show!