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December gardening jobs

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Time in the garden can be hard to find during the silly season. Try JUSTIN RUSSELL's tips for quick garden jobs this December. 

If your household is anything like mine, December is probably the busiest month of the year. Our calendar is chockers with end of year events and appointments, and you know what, I have to admit that at times I find it hard to carve out an extended block of time for the garden. Instead, I take the snippet approach. 

It’s amazing what you can get done if you have a spare half hour. That’s enough time to plant and water a few rows of vegies, or secure a net over a fruit tree. Even a spare 15 minutes is plenty of time to water a struggling tree with seaweed solution or harvest a few zucchinis. Here’s some ideas for what you can do in a short space of time. 

  • Give hungry vegies a liquid feed. Put a slurp of fish emulsion in a 9L watering can, dilute it with water and sprinkle it over lettuces, basil, corn and potatoes. Choose your liquid feed products carefully. Some are anything but organic, while others might be considered “beyond organic” because as well as being organically certified, they harvest feral fish from rivers and creeks as their feedstock.
  • Run a band of horticultural glue around the trunk of fruit trees to create an ant barrier. Citrus trees in particular benefit from this technique, which stops ants “farming” scale and feeding on their honeydew. In turn, scale and sooty mould is reduced. You can buy horticultural glue from online suppliers and good nurseries. 
  • If the potting mix in container plants has become water repellent, submerge the entire plant, pot and all, in a bucket of water. Leave it there until air bubbles cease and the potting mix is thoroughly wet.
  • Sharpen your secateurs, loppers and garden knives. I use a small diamond sharpener to keep a well honed edge on my cutting tools and it’s a job that always proves worthwhile. Sharp tools are safer to use, better for plants and require much less effort on the part of the gardener. 
  • Pot up some colourful flowering plants to provide a bit of Christmas cheer. Choose dual purpose species such as zinnias, salvias, cosmos and achillea that offer beautiful colour but also help attract beneficial insects. 
  • Tidy up citrus trees by pruning off dead wood. While you’re at it, check the older branches and trunk for borer holes. If you find any, poke wire into the hole to squash the borer grub that may be residing inside. 
  • If you’ve decided to prune tomato plants, spend half an hour pinching out side shoots. To avoid spreading disease from one plant to the next, sterilise your hands between plants with hand sanitising gel. 
  • Tackle summer weeds. Pull or hoe a few. Try to get them out before they set seed and create an ongoing problem. If they’re seed free they can also be composted or in the case of edible weeds, eaten by your chooks or your good self.
  • Take a cat nap beneath a shady tree. I have vivid childhood memories of my dad heading to the backyard with a pillow, moving our trampoline under a blackbean tree and sprawling out on the tramp to have a cool, post-lunch siesta. Admit it, there’s never a bad time to have a siesta.