Firstly I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Gardening New Year.
This will be the last weekly article till after the New Year which means I get to have a couple of weeks break from writing.
I am not going away and will be working on the non-statuary days; thus I will be available to take your emails and phone calls if you have any queries or problems.
If I happen to go out there is a very good answer phone system where you can leave your phone number.
Likewise if you have a gardening problem and you email me the details include your phone number as it’s easier for me to phone rather than reply to an email.
This is important if I need to ask you more questions to find the right solution to the problem.
Some gardeners take photos of the problem and email them to me; that is a good idea as it gives me a better idea as to what is happening.
I have been providing this service free to gardeners now for over 30 years and it’s always a pleasure to help.
Those that are going away over the holiday period should endeavour to have a friend or neighbour visit your home most days to attend to the garden in regards to watering, picking mature vegetables and fruit, looking after indoor plants, clearing mail and mowing lawns.
This not only keeps your gardens up to scratch but also provides security for your possessions.
If you have pets they can also tend to their needs but in the case of dogs it would be better to have a friend house sit while you are away instead of placing your loved pets in a kennel.
Dogs are a different matter compared to cats who don’t mind a stay away as they are more aloof.
Dogs on the other hand love the security of their human pack and if not their humans at least their territory where they feel most comfortable.
It’s also good piece of mind while you are away to know that someone is there looking after things till your return.
Make a list of what needs to be done in regards to watering, feeding animals etc so the home carer knows what to do and a phone call to them now and then will also be worthwhile.
As you harvest your summer crops and space is available start planting your winter crops.
Firstly put a good dose of manure (chicken manure if possible) over the garden, sprinkled some Rok Solid and Ocean Solids then covered with purchased compost which should be weed free and free of herbicides if purchased from a top brand such as Daltons or Oderings.
Likely you are going to be planting brassicas (cabbages etc) so sprinkle soft lime over the area and place Neem Granules in the planting hole and on the surface of the soil.
The worst aspect about growing winter brassicas is they have to grow through the worst time for white butterfly caterpillars.
The Neem Granules are a great solution for this and when working for you, then the caterpillars don’t get past the first bite stage after hatching out of their egg case.
The granules on the soil under the plants should be refreshed about every 6 weeks.
If you want early leeks then they should be planted out as soon as possible.
Unfortunately most leek seedlings come in punnets and they are fairly spindly. The ideal planting out size is about as long and as thick as a standard pencil or nearly so.
If the plants are small then break them into clumps, make a deeper hole and half fill with chook manure place a little soil on the top of this then the clump of little leeks.
Every week water some liquid chook manure and Magic Botanic Liquid over the clumps until they get to a better size for lifting and planting out.
It is also a good time to plant some late tomatoes, sweet corn and cucumbers so that as your older plants start to fizz there will be fresh ones producing into winter or till they are knocked out.
If you don’t have room in gardens then plant in larger containers using purchased compost with animal or chook manure added.
A good planting of Silverbeet about now will give you heaps to crop right through winter.
Silverbeet is usually free of most insect pests problems and if not planted too close together; so there is good air circulation, then leaf diseases will be reduced.
By harvesting the larger outer leaves on a regular basis will also assist in better growth and less problems.
Where ever you see pest insects, get onto controlling them as quickly as possible as where there maybe a few one day in next to no time there can be hundreds.
Sprays of Neem Tree Oil will help keep the pests at bay without hurting beneficial insects.
The oil will also help protect against a number of leaf diseases such as black spot, rust etc.
It apparently helps keep possums and rabbits off roses and other plants and great for fleas on animals.
If you add Key Pyrethrum to the oil you have a fast knock down and control combination but this spray will affect beneficial insects as well as the pests for up to a day after spraying.
Hopefully you are organised for Xmas and the New Year and if not going away spend some time gardening. If neighbours or friends are going away you could offer to check their gardens and water as need be. It is also good to pick any ripe fruit while doing so as either the birds will be encouraged to peck the fruit or it could rot where it is and cause premature rotting to other fruit nearby.
Once again have a great Xmas and travel safe.