December in the Vegie Patch

mulchedAre your gardens mulched?

That magic layer of organic matter (mostly dry brown bits) that keeps the moisture in, that provides a roof over the worms heads, that feeds the soil life. What a difference that layer makes (I could never be a market gardener). Now that it’s hot – don’t pull the weeds, just mulch on top. The weeds will return to the soil a la nature’s way, delighting the worms/ soil life beneath. You also are delighted not having to put your back or knees out.

greenhouse peppersHow to Grow Peppers and Aubergines

Peppers and Aubergines are growing great guns in the greenhouse, I’m so looking forward to their mid-summer fruits (which is, by the way, when this photo was taken). Peppers are less hassle than tomatoes, as long as you can find a hot spot for them to grow in. Mature compost with some well rotted pooh is perfect. Seaweed, rok solid, vermicastings and comfrey are all fabulous additions. Peppers are very shallow rooting – so this means deep mulch and stakes. Don’t let them dry out! Regular liquid seaweed or fish feeds make all the difference.

Choose a very sheltered, hot spot or use a cloche, or make a simple suntrap which means something heat reflective on the south side – consistent warmth is very important. A good trick is to plant your peppers inside old compost bags. Punch some drainage holes on one side (this will be the bottom), turn the bag over and cut a square out in the middle (this will be the top). Roll up the open end and staple or tie. Fill with mature compost and plant your pepper. Bury the planter bag in your vegie bed or under a pile of mulch to retain moisture.

Tomato Care

Tomatoes begin to prove just how high maintenance they are in December with an almost daily requirement to tie and de-lateral or leaf prune and watch out for pest and disease. If you are prone to blight or mildews, weekly sprays with milk diluted 9:1 will hold the fungus back. If psyllids were at your place last year then monthly Neem sprays would be wise, perhaps even Neem granules beneath the plants (depending on how you feel about them). Liquid feed as much as weekly or at the minimum monthly.

The job list for December

  • A successional sowing of beans, corn, cucumbers and zucchini – direct sow as preference. Keep your harvests flowing in.
  • Plant out another lot of outside tomatoes, basil, parsley, silverbeet and salads.
  • Direct sow dill, basil, chervil, saladings, magenta spreen and beetroot. I normally stop sowing coriander, carrots, radish and spinach in November because it’s too hot – do whatever suits your place.
  • Sow as many summer greencrops as you can find spaces for  – phacelia, buckwheat, mustard or lupin. These begin as a much-needed rest for your soil, become nectar for the beneficial insects and end up as mulch or compost.
  • Plant out kumara and yams.
  • Plant out leeks for winter harvest, into excellent soil.
  • Scatter some autumn flower seed about. Flowers like zinnia, gaillardia, cosmos, sunflowers, anise hyssop, mignonette and marigolds – whatever your favourites are.

Neem those suckers!

Use Neem to take care of all your sucking insects – aphids, thrips, scale, psyllids, shield bugs – before they become a problem. This is why that daily garden walk is so important, why noticing makes such a difference. Suckers multiply like mad and every day left unattended counts (especially in temperamental weather where plants can easily become stressed.)

garlic dryingIt’s harvest time

The first onion and garlic harvests will be upon us this month. This means having a supply of greencrop seed at hand to sow into the bed straight after emptying it. Don’t leave your garlic in the ground too long. At the first sign of tops browning off, check the bulbs. As soon as they are fully formed get them up. We are hanging out for fresh garlic!


  1. Susannah Greenslade says:

    Hello Kath, I’m still gardening but finding it not so painfree as I used to and some things get on top of me weed wise. However your timely advice about taking notice hit a chord.
    I have some ordinary straw, is this good to use for mulch? If it’s good then I can mulch for the summer with no further expense. and sooner rather than later, perhaps even after this gentle rain we’re having now.
    Kind regards Susannah

    • Hi Susannah

      Straw is fabulous mulch, especially if old and soggy! After this beautiful rain will indeed be perfect timing to lock in the moisture. In particularly weedy areas I would lay wet newspaper first and the straw on top.
      best Kath

  2. Claire lynch says:

    Hi Kath. Can you please advise me on how to get rid of black aphid like insects that keep appearing on my garlic, spring onions and leeks. I have been squashing them with my fingers on my daily rounds. Little blighters keep appearing! Thanks so much, Kind regards, Claire

    • Hi Claire
      Neem is your friend! Don’t those blighters have a super fast life cycle – I’d spray twice weekly for a couple of weeks to get on top of it. Neem disrupts mating and digestion of insects that are sucking the foliage which is why it’s safe for our beneficial insects. Spray in the evening once the heat has gone out of the day and the bees are in bed.I recommend Naturally Neem – can buy online or if local I have it as does edible garden in ashurst.
      Spray with a seaweed foliage spray to help boost cells/ immunity while under attack.
      Next year use a full spectrum mineral fert like roksolid in your soil preps to minimise simple sugars in your plants (these are the only sugars aphids can digest) and weekly or monthly spray with a seaweed or fish. Be sure of healthy airflow with careful spacings. Get planting loads of nectar rich flowers to provide food and homes for ladybirds, parasitic wasps and hoverflies who will be your willing workers in the war on aphids!!
      hope this helps
      best Kath

      • Claire lynch says:

        Hi Kath. Thank you so much for your advice about the neem and information regarding the seaweed spray and roksolid. Much appreciated thanks. Its a new garden so will take your advice and look forward to a healthier garden from now on!! Thanks for sharing your expertise. . Kind regards, Claire

  3. I’m finding repeated layers of thick cardboard and all manner of organic material is not stopping the spread of cooch. (Damn I hate that stuff.) It’s particularly difficult to manage in the orchard because it comes up in the planting holes where the understorey plants have been dug in and get watered. So I can’t dig it right out without disturbing their roots and I can’t sheet mulch large areas. I have some coffee sacks — I think next I’ll try stuffing them with something heavy and overlapping them as tight as I can around the understory plants. Mostly I am just venting; I’ve just seen how much it’s grown thanks to two days of beautiful rain. But any suggestions gratefully received. Thanks for great advice.

    • Hi Rachel

      I understand your despair! (and the need to vent). There is no quick fix for couch (sadly) Here’s a few ideas.
      A combination of weeding and mulching will eventually loosen couch’s grip on the soil. Because it’s roots dont go down deep it’s not too much of a mission to dig it out using a garden fork (standing not hand) before piling on mulch. Best to do a small area at a time. You will eventually get on top of it! The long term view of improving your soil is the way to go for eliminating weed problems. Weeds come to help the soil out – hard to believe they are there for a reason – nature’s healers and colonisers, so by improving conditions the need for the weed disappears. It is a matter of keeping on keeping on.
      Spring is the perfect season to do a big mission before all that lush growth, so make a note to hit it next spring.
      Another idea is to get hold of old carpet and lay it out over the area. Remove the carpet in the autumn when the rains begin – the soil will be really soft from being under the carpet all summer and the couch who wants to be at the top will have come up and attached to the carpet. Roll it up and spend an afternoon removing as much root as possible. Burn the lot. Immediately mulch and plant the area. Move the carpet to the next area….
      There will always be little bits of couch if thats the weed at yours, but to get it down to a manageable level is the thing.
      Animals are fabulous weeders. Chickens and pigs love the root so if it suits perhaps fencing one or the other into sections to clean it up for you. Then you follow after to do a final clean up before planting and mulching deeply.
      All the best