December is the perfect time to work on your soil and your sweet corn. Here's the skinny on what you should grow and work on in December.
Sweetcorn should be up and growing. Mound or hill up the soilaround the base of the plant to develop more support roots from the stem. These roots will keep your plants more stable in the wind. Now is a good time to plant some climbing beans around their base. The beans will use the corn stalks as a support and you can grow two crops in the space of one.
Tomatoes will be actively growing. Don’t pinch out the lateral growths completely. Let them grow as they will increase your yield. If you are growing them on a trellis as with beans, just thread the growth through the climbing frame. If you have trained them to stakes, attach the side-shoots to the next stake to make a wall of fecund tomato plants.
Why not grow your own turmeric? They take about two years before you can harvest the roots but they look extremely ornamental in the meantime. Buy some roots at the greengrocer and plant them about 5–7cm deep in a fertile semi-shaded spot. Use the leaves to wrap fish in before cooking and enjoy the delicately beautiful flowers before the stems fall over and they are ready to harvest.
A leisurely survey of your espaliered trees is required now. Take a break from this hectic season and monitor the new growth. Get into the garden with a glass of wine, your secateurs and some soft ties. Pinch out the tips of new growth and tie back, or down, stems that will form the structure of your espalier. Remember, the aim is to produce as much fruiting wood as possible and minimise long, vertical growth that will only produce leaves. Make sure the espalier is kept as close as possible to its vertical frame or support so none of the plant is in shadow. Heavy growth from the top will shade lower branches, which will cease to be fruitful. In the case of deciduous trees, make sure you follow the pattern you have designed for them at planting; that is a fan shape for cherries, peaches, nectarines and figs, or horizontal training for apples, quinces, medlars and pears.
Compost and Soil.
How to Make Christmas Compost
Gather your ingredients.You will need:
1) One bucket of your own compost or garden soil. Never use potting mix as this has been sterilised and contains none of the soil life that makes successful compost.
2) One bucket of fresh manure or one-third of a bucket of blood and bone if you can’t get your hands on manure. Choose sheep, cow or chook manure.
3) Some comfrey leaves and flower stems.
4) Three or four leaves of yarrow (Achillea millefolium).
5) Some dry leaves, shredded paper or cardboard.
In your wheelbarrow, mix the compost/soil, manure/blood and bone and roughly chopped comfrey leaves and stems. Fill your decorative buckets two-thirds full with this mixture. Tuck one leaf of yarrow into each bucket. Top your bucket with 20cm of shredded paper/cardboard or dry leaves and dampen them with a fine mist of water. Tie your Christmas ribbon around the top.
Now that’s at least three easy-to-make presents done and dusted! The bucket can sit for a while until the Christmas crush has finished, when the grateful recipient can incorporate it into their heap. What could be a better gift than more compost for the garden?