Watering and weeding are the principal tasks in the garden
over the next two months. Hoeing, if carried out
systematically, helps retain moisture, as well as destroying
weeds and weed seeds, reducing hours of labour later.
Water thoroughly, or not at all. Light sprinkling will bring
roots close to the surface, where they dry out quickly in hot
Peas and runner beans will need support. For peas, a piece of
netting, with stakes driven through at intervals, is durable
and will last for years. For runner beans, which can twine
around any support given, join three or four straight poles
together in a teepee shape, then run twine or flax strips
around at intervals to strengthen the teepee and give the
beans something to cling to.
Cabbages and cauliflowers can be planted, as weather permits.
Give the bed a good soaking, put in the plants, and water
again. Keep the soil around them moist until they settle in.
Peas, runner beans, lettuce, radishes, turnips and carrots
can be sown. Fortnightly sowings give a good succession of
these. Parsley can be sown now for winter use and spinach for
autumn and winter.
Early crops of winter greens, such as leeks, Brussels sprouts
and broccoli, can be planted now in rich soil to which some
lime has been added.
Cauliflower, silver beet, marrows, pumpkins, cucumber, and
onions will benefit from liquid manure around the base of the
As onions and potatoes reach maturity, watering should taper
off to let the crops dry. Autumn-sown onions will have bulbs
To ensure they mature properly, allow them to swell above the
ground. If necessary, gently shift the soil to expose the
bulbs to sun and air.
Radishes give best results in rich manure-free soil that
stays cool over summer. Soil should be as fine as possible.
Sow seed thinly (50mm apart), 50mm deep, in rows about 15cm
Roots will not form good bulbs in loose earth, so firm it
Spring-flowering anemones and ranunculus are usually bought
as corms or claws but seed saved - it is not usually
available in garden centres - can be sown in seed-raising mix
until early next month. Dahlias can flower from January for
months until frost knocks them back.
Hoe carefully around dahlias and apply a top dressing of
compost or well-rotted manure.
Sturdy stakes can be inserted to provide support in the
coming weeks but to avoid damage, should have been put in
when the tubers were planted. Wallflowers and other bedding
biennials may still be sown in rich soil. Chrysanthemums can
be staked and fertilised.
A little superphosphate or general fertiliser worked lightly
into the soil surface will help keep plants growing strongly.
Seed of hardy perennials, such as lupins, gaillardias and
geums, can still be sown, while annual plants can be planted
to fill gaps left as daffodils and other spring bulbs die
down. Keep soil well-supplied with organic material to
sustain the rapid growth most plants make during December.
Tomatoes must be regularly checked for disease. If narrow,
fern-like leaves develop, or the plants look stunted, they
may be infected with a virus. Pull plants out immediately and
destroy. Potato blight can attack tomatoes, too.
Control by using copper oxychloride spray, followed by
regular use of tomato spray. Avoid using any sprays in hot
Copper oxychloride will stain on contact with walls, fences
and other surfaces. Keep whitefly at bay by spraying with
neem oil or planting marigolds (tagetes, not calendula).