December in the Organic Food GardenBy Kath Irvine www.ediblebackyard.co.nz (Excerpt taken from “Organic Garden Calendar,” by Kath Irvine)
The most important task for December is to get to grips with good watering. Feel the soil before you water. Give good deep soaks rather than light sprinkles to encourage your plants to get their roots down. You need to be keeping a close eye on your plants and pay attention to what they tell you about how they are coping with Summer.
In the Vegie Patch
Seed to sow
salads – another round of salad sowing. I hope you are using a variety of salad greens. There are lots of different varieties and each one is suited to a different time of year.
successional crops – of zucchini, cucumber, beans, red onion, silverbeet
flowers – zinnia, gaillardia, cosmos, mignonette, late sunflowers, marigold
direct sow – carrot, beetroot, radish
Planting out now
- plant out kumara slips and yams.
Kumaras go best in a sandy loam. Add potassium rich fertilisers like seaweed and potash, also add rock dust. Kumaras don’t need a high nitrogen content. Water plants in upon planting, then again when the vines begin to run. After that don’t water them again.
- Transplant last tomatoes and basil.
- Another lot of zucchini, corn, beans, red onions
If your first lot of cucurbits (zucch’s and cukes) got mildew then plant the second lot somewhere away from the infected bunch. Maybe even behind a screen of corn for example.
- Plant out pumpkins. Pumpkins take up a whole lot of room. A good way to plant them is to ramble around on the sunny side beneath the corn (the fruits need good exposure to sun for ripening) or to create mounds of compost and hay somewhere they can happily go for it – eg: in the lawn or orchard. Plant a pumpkin in the top of each mound and watch them go!
- Leeks can be planted out now for Winter harvest
- Hill up potatoes.
- A monthly liquid feed
- As your broad beans finish chop them off at ground level leaving their vast roots in the soil to provide structure, air and drainage and use the tops for a wonderful source of carbon.
- Make more comfrey tea
- Lift onions as their tops begin to fall over – dry and store in a dry, cool place
- Seed collecting. Remember to leave some seeding plants in place where practical. The beneficial insects love them.
- Regular tomato care begins
- Pack up your cloches. Make sure they are dry before you store them away ready for next year.
- Prune back Summer flowering perennials and be rewarded with a second flush of flowers eg: delphinium, penstemon, salvia, cranesbill geranium.
- Sow a green crop (if you have time) in the bed you are preparing for brassica plantings in February.
- Keep up compost making.
- Chop in any Spring greencrops. Add compost and rock dust before the next crop goes in. A good rule to plan by is to begin to prepare the ground for a crop at the same time as you sow the seed.
In the Home Orchard
- Check your fruit trees weekly for watering requirements
- Foliar spray
- Refill the pad in your codling moth traps if you need
- Keep citrus trees lightly pruned for good airflow and sun on fruit
- Feed kiwifruit
- Thin apples and check for signs of codling moth
- Begin Summer fruit pruning – this means pruning off dead, diseased damaged wood, removing suckers from the base of the trunk, and keeping your trees open and at a practical height.
- How are you going to protect your fruit from birds this year?