Follow this handy guide of essential gardening chores to do in December
Related: Rose care guide: December
For the plant enthusiast:
- Keep an eye out at the nursery for new forms and colours of pretty perennials like achillea (yarrow), phygelius, cardinal flowers, lobelia hybrids, penstemon, daisies, diascias and scabious.
- Divide crowded bearded irises. Discard the portions that have flowered. Replant young, vigorous rhizomes in enriched soil so the top of the rhizome is just above soil level.
- Water deeply and less frequently in winter-rainfall areas, paying special attention to plants like azaleas, camellias and summer bulbs. Mulch your garden well.
- Feed roses with a special rose food, water regularly and deeply. Discourage red spider mite by spraying a sugar solution under the leaves; use preventative sprays for powdery mildew and black spot.
- Collect seed of your favourite columbines, poppies and old-fashioned nicotianas.
- Jazz up shady areas for the festive season by combining shade lovers like solenostemon (coleus), which has colourful leaves, with flowering impatiens and begonias. Look out for the new, tall hybrid perennial begonias ‘Angel wings’ and ‘Baby wings’.
For the kitchen gardener:
- Plant heat-tolerant lettuces like the crisp, heart-forming Great Lakes, Commander and looser leafed Cos Green lettuce. Plant a new batch of beans each month; pick them two to three times a week.
- Control pumpkin fly by splashing bait on the leaves of cucumbers, marrows, melons, squashes and pumpkins.
- Harvest baby potatoes once the plants have flowered.
- Sow seed now. In summer rainfall areas: beetroot, beans and radish. In the subtropics: sweet peppers and eggplants. In winter rainfall areas: seedlings of sweet peppers, chillies, aubergines and tomatoes; the last batch of beans. In frost areas: seeds of beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, beans, leeks and Swiss chard.
For the time-pressed gardener:
- Remove faded flowers from daisy bushes and felicias; the fastest way to do this is by shearing them back with a large pair of scissors or long bladed shears.
- Good buys for quick colour are heat-tolerant zinnias, gomphrena, celosia, marigolds, hollyhocks, lavatera and salvias.
- For low-maintenance colour in pots pick annuals that can tolerate short spells with less water like petunias, portulaca, zinnias, celosia and marigolds.