Here’s your December Checklist of things to do in the heavy summer months to maintain your garden and keep it looking it’s best!
Go Easy on your water bill!
Our choice of water-wise plants for your December checklist can actually be planted together as a tough combo. Use Euphorbia milii as a background row. Fill in with Helichrysum petiolare and finish off with a border of Euphorbia hypericifolia ‘Diamond Frost’ – a great combination for a sunny, hot spot that will give you pleasure for years to come! Crown of thorns (E. millii) is a shrub with prickly stems and bright green leaves. Vivid red bracts surrounding tiny flowers are produced throughout the year, meaning that you will always have a splash of colour in your garden. You can also find them in yellow or pink. It is an excellent barrier plant and is very pretty when planted en masse. Silver bush everlasting or kooigoed (H. petiolare) is a shrubby plant with grey, woolly leaves and a cascading habit. It is beautiful as a filler plant, as it lends an element of softness. It bears small, creamcoloured flowers in late summer to autumn. ‘Diamond Frost’ (E. hypericifolia) is a tough groundcover that covers itself in masses of small white flowers all year long. It creates lovely soft and flowery pillows in the foreground of mixed beds.
Clipping and Pruning
Prune all the hedges for neatness, taking care to neaten up below them too, as it can become a hiding place for all kinds of rubbish. If you have a lot of topiary shrubs, give them a light trim and thread some solar-powered fairy lights through them for a festive touch. Tick it off your December checklist.
Fill up your gaps
Even lazy gardeners can earn compliments if the follow this item on the December checklist: fill some hanging baskets and empty pots around the patio with flowers. Plant these compact annuals in pots, hanging baskets and in the foreground of beds that need a quick little facelift: calibrachoas, bedding dahlias, lobelias, French marigolds, celosias, dianthus, and the polka dot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya) – the latter being a beautiful foliage annual for sun to semi-shade.
7 Easy Festive Ideas
It’s always the simple and thoughtful touches you do in and around the house that make your guests feel special, and it’s so rewarding and fun too!
Light up the garden – String fairy lights all over the garden. Wind them around tree trunks, along the gutters of the house and in the windows of the sitting room.
Decorate your garden trees – Hang bright and shiny baubles and other Christmassy things on the branches of your trees. Add some colourful hanging baskets and wind chimes too.
Plant bright colour indoors – Fill your house with poinsettias, moth orchids in flower and flowering hydrangeas, which are now in full bloom.
Windowsill and tabletop pretties – Tie festive ribbons around the stems of old wine glasses and pop some echeveria rosettes with short stems into them. If you can lay your hands on olive tree branches, fill jugs and vases with them for greenery indoors. You can also arrange foliage that does not wilt easily, like pennygum branches, in vases, or use it to make wreaths to decorate your rooms. These leaves have a lovely fresh smell.
Cute little bouquets – Tie bunches of aromatic herbs like rosemary, sage, lavender and mint together with festive ribbons. Also add some cinnamon sticks. Display them in glass jars all over the house.
Patio decoration – Fill the pockets of an old shoe bag with potting soil and plant them up with all kinds of trailing succulents or lovely annuals in flower.
Small pots of goodies – Paint little clay pots gold or silver with craft paint. Once dry, add a little glue around their rims and dip them in glitter (available at craft stores). When they’re dry, fill them with sweets and nuts.
Take care of the pests as part of your December checklist! Symptoms of ant infestation are small heaps of fine sand on the surface above the nests on lawns, as well as uneven, dying patches of lawn and uneven paving. Ants prefer lawns that are patchy and in bad condition, so first prize is to ensure your lawn is well-maintained. Spray with a contact insecticide or apply granular ant bait (which will be carried to the nest) to eradicate the nest.
Lawn Fixes Before the Holidays
Feed the lawn with a specialised lawn fertiliser and water it well before and after application, and then at least twice a week in the early morning. (The best time to fertilise is when it is raining!)
To turn the garden’s organic waste, like leaves, grass clippings, and prunings, into compost, dad needs a smart compost bin and handy compost activator to speed things up. To recycle all food waste safely and to improve the quality of the garden soil even more, he will also need a bokashi composter and a packet of bokashi bran or liquid bokashi.
Mandevilla ‘Cosmos White’ is a lovely climber with big white flowers with a yellow throat. It blooms non-stop and is perfect for the garden, growing over a trellis or an arch, but also stunning on patios and balconies in a pot. This mandevilla requires little water and prefers a location with full sun or partial shade.
She will love some colourful coleus hybrids to turn the floor of her shady garden into a tapestry of leaf colour. Coleus plants are regarded as summer annuals since they do not take kindly to cold and frost. They are available in the gaudiest leaf colours and are very easy to grow. Plant them in compostenriched soil in light shade, and do not overwater.
Boys love the macabre, such as carnivorous plants. Beaker plants (Sarracenia), which attract and ‘catch’ insects, are a super choice. They must be kept in a sunny and warm spot in pots containing real peat. The pots must always stand in water at least 2cm deep as the plants like to be wet all the time. Repot them every year into fresh peat and never, ever fertilise them as it can kill them.
Get her a small ficus tree to keep in her bedroom. Ficus trees are very forgiving if you forget to water them now and again, and it is not difficult to keep them happy as long as there is ample indirect light, they are not moved unnecessarily, and they’re not left in a draught. A really smart choice for a discerning teenager is the pseudo-bonsai Ficus ‘Ginseng’.
Clean Out the Pond
Clean out all ponds and water features. Water lilies and other water plants should be at their best now and are readily available, so invest in some new floating greenery and flowers.
Going on Holiday
If you don’t have an automatic irrigation system, ask a friendly neighbour to water your garden in your absence. To make it easier on the watering soul, attach timers and hosepipes to all taps. Also leave instructions for the caregiver to stay well within the water-restriction rules.
- Group potted plants together in the shade of a tree where they will dry out less quickly and will also be easier to water. Don’t forget to add water-retention granules to all your outdoor pots.
- Water all indoor plants and place them in the bath on an old blanket that is well soaked. Leave bathroom curtains or blinds open to allow for good light.
General Yard Stuff for your December checklist
Prune rambling roses, feed, water well and add a layer of mulch.
- Stake dahlias as they grow and keep disbudding them by removing the side buds to encourage large flowers.
- Cut back chrysanthemums to ensure bushier growth and lots of flowering stems in autumn. Mulch with fresh compost and water well afterwards.
- Keep spraying deciduous fruit trees against fruit fly.
- Whitefly infestations could be a problem on fuchsias. Spray regularly with an organic remedy – ask your local nursery for advice on the right product and spraying sequences (to break their fast lifecycle).
- To avoid blight on tomatoes and mildew on cucumbers, squashes and pumpkins, water them early in the morning to give the leaves time to dry off before nightfall.
- Give citrus trees their mid-season feed of granular fertiliser. Spread evenly over the drip line 20 – 30cm away from the stem. Mulch and water well.
- Planting seed potatoes in December and January will produce a harvest in April and May for storing and eating during winter.
- Weed the garden. After weeding place a layer of organic mulch over every last inch of soil. Mulching not only saves water and your time when you’re desperately busy with other tasks, but will also provide a professional and well cared for look and will display existing plants to their best advantage.
- Add swathes of gauras, angelonias, cupheas, lavender, Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’, bacopas, perennial verbena and pentas – none of these need excessive pampering or watering!