It can be a bit disheartening coming back to your garden after your holiday to find the bugs, birds and the weather have taken their toll especially in the vegetable garden. December and January coincide with the beginning of the harvest for many fruits and vegetables, so minimize the damage while you are away by taking a few precautions.
Give your garden a good tidy up, remove weeds, weeds compete for the water, nutrients while harboring bugs and diseases that can spread unchecked through your garden.
Harvest any fruits or vegetables that are ready.
Check for disease and pests, a spray applied now could clean up any bugs that are lingering.
Fertilise before you go, this needs to be applied before you mulch, as we move towards harvest use a liquid fertiliser that is high in potash for strengthening stems and increasing fruit and vegetable size. Perfect for use around your flowers, pots and tubs.
Apply mulch to protect your garden from the drying effects of the hot sun
Sow cabbage, carrot, celery, broccoli and, cauliflower seeds now for autumn crops
Harvest early potatoes, early varieties are ready to harvest when the flowers are fully open and the lower leaves are starting to yellow. Main crops are left until the foliage has completely died off. If you are in any doubt you can check, by burrowing down to retrieve some potatoes, and give them the skin test. Skin on a mature potato should be firm and not easily rubbed off with your thumb. A garden fork is the best potato harvest tool to use, damage is less of a risk than a spade and you can use the fork to “sift” out the tubers. Potatoes that are damaged should be used straight away as damaged potatoes will spoil and potentially ruin the rest if stored.
Don’t let your Rhubarb plants produce seed heads – remove them to preserve the following seasons crop
White Butterfly will still be active remove the caterpillars by hand or apply Gregor’s Derris Dust, use in the morning while the dew is still on the plants to help it stick.
Plant peas and dwarf bean seeds for a late crop.
IN THE FLOWER GARDEN
Roses need mulch too, make sure you keep the mulch away from the truck as disease and bugs will make use of the soft wood to burrow in.
Light summer pruning of roses can take place as the old flowers fade; this is not the hard winter prune but a prune to improve the autumn flowering. Some new shoots have probably already begun to develop pick the most outward facing bud that is the lowest on the branch and cut back to that bud. Just cutting of the flowers is not sufficient as this will encourage the development of shoots near the top of the bush.
IN THE FRUIT GARDEN
Keep removing fruit that has fallen, as bugs will complete their life cycle in the fallen fruit and continue the breeding cycle.
Fruit trees including citrus will often produce a very heavy crop on one branches and the weight of the fruit can snap the branch. Thinning out the fruit will reduce the weight, improve the quality of the remaining fruit. Once you have harvested the fruit prune back the overly long branch by a third.
Grape vines can also suffer from over heavy crops, remove any poorly developed or diseased trusses. Birds will be after the ripening fruit, cover with bird net, drape the net loosely over the vines, pulling it to tight will just open the holes for the birds to get through.
Keep the water on your citrus; they have a high percentage of water, so they need plenty to produce juicy fruit, mulch around the root zone but away from the truck.
Cut your grass higher in the summer, the longer grass will shade the roots from the heat.
Cut the grass dry without the catcher and let the clippings fall on the lawn as they will act as mulch to the roots conserving water.