Warm, settled weather usually makes December a great month to grow and harvest fresh vegetables in the home garden. The dilemma faced by many gardeners is that Christmas marks the start of the holiday season and that coincides with many summer crops being ready to pick.
Watering too can be a problem as it’s vital that soil moisture levels are maintained through the dry, sunny weather that holiday makers love. A surface mulch of organic matter such as compost or straw, applied after the ground is thoroughly soaked, will certainly help but computerised automatic watering systems and/or reliable friends and neighbours may be needed to keep the garden going if you’re away for more than a few days.
SEEDS TO SOW
There is still time to sow tomatoes, capsicum, chillies, zucchini, cucumber, dwarf beans, climbing beans, butternut squash, pumpkin, basil, egg plant, melon and sweet corn. Spring onions, lettuce, silver beet and perpetual spinach can now be sown directly into the garden or, as I prefer, into containers to produce seedlings for transplanting later.
Leeks are a great winter standby and the seed can be sown this month. I like to make a seed bed in the garden with a view to producing strong seedlings (with stems the thickness of a pencil) that will be transplanted into their final positions in March.
Carrots, peas, rocket, radishes, beetroot, onions and parsnips can be sown directly into the garden. Covering seeds with a layer of seed-raising potting mix helps to prevent soil from forming a hard crust that can hinder germination.
VEGETABLES TO PLANT
Almost anything goes this month bearing in mind any limitations on watering and after care. All the varieties listed in ‘Seeds to Sow’ can be planted out into the garden. There’s still time to plant kumara but remember that they need up to four months growing time to mature fully.
Continue to plant basil in pots or gardens to provide lots of leaves for summer pesto. In fact all culinary herbs and lavenders can be planted now.
Contributed by Chris Green, SuperGrans Volunteer
Want to know more? Come along to our monthly (1st Wednesday of the month) Growing Food with SuperGrans on the 4th December, 10-11.30am at the SuperGrans Offices, 14 Jocelyn St, Katikati and meet our volunteer gardening gurus! Free event, just drop in.
Photo: Growing Food with SuperGrans at SuperGrans Western Bay of Plenty.