Down in the Garden: Plant Now for a Magical Botanical Christmas

If you get a wiggle on this week, you can have fresh, homegrown additions to your Christmas feasting.

Plant seedlings rather than seeds and make sure you are planting into rich, healthy soil.

Once established use a liquid fertilizer or a seaweed-based booster as per their instructions to encourage healthy, strong, and fast growth.

If this all seems too much, at least grow herbs because everything, even the blandest of tomatoes, can taste wonderful when introduced to aromatic, freshly-picked herbs.

This week I’m sharing the plants that you can get growing right now and you just might be harvesting them in time for the kitchen on Christmas Day, if not, I predict your New Year will be delicious!

Plant Now

Look at labels and seek out the term ‘early harvesting’ although right now, most seedlings of tomatoes, capsicums, eggplants, cucumbers, climbing green beans, beetroot, Chinese cabbage, and snow peas can be planted and should be ready by the time Saint Nick gets here.

Try golden yellow pear drop and tumbling red tiny toms for produce that will rival your tinsel.

Fill out a veggie plot to impress visitors with sweet corn, onions, and melons because although they may not be ready for the big day, they will provide a lush looking veggie garden throughout summer and a later season harvest for the holidays.

Going traditional dinner this year? Then delicious homegrown potatoes should be on your list and although most varieties can’t be harvested for 60 to 90 days, if you select an early harvesting variety, you should be able to pull up baby potatoes by the end of December.

Plant seed potatoes into contained areas of the garden or very large deep pots in full sun.

Planting at this time of the year increases the risk of disease due to increasing humidity so cut eyes singularly with only a small amount of surrounding flesh and allow to dry for a day before planting.

Don’t forget the sweet potatoes.

These beauties can easily take over a garden space so are better grown in contained areas or very large pots.

Plant sweet potato seedlings in full sun at this time of the year to ensure a mini-Christmas harvest.

They need a free draining soil that is rich with compost and well-rotted manure.

Feed with nitrogen-based fertiliser to start but then only use a general feeder thereafter every six to eight weeks.

Lettuce, endive, beans that grow in bush form and zucchini will all be worth getting into the ground right now for Christmas.

Coast gardeners will find ‘Cos’ lettuce, ‘Salad King’ endive and good old ‘Blackjack’ zucchini thrive here.

If you have a smaller space, try a compact variety like ‘Cocozelle’ zucchini as most plants can be rather large.

Holiday Herbs

BBQs, salads, baked dinners and all your holiday cooking will be given a zesty boost with fresh herbs straight out of the garden and try growing all of these in pots as well as they make delightful and easy gifts.

Just make sure that the pots are placed in sunny spots and although you could grow them now from seed, use seedlings to ensure that you will be obtaining these treats in time.

You might even like to create wreaths for your front door or kitchen if you are already growing them.

Tie bunches of herbs to a cane circle and use as needed.

Herbs that can be planted now include basil, chives, coriander, dill, oregano, and mint.

Plant mint in big pots rather than directly in garden beds as it can become very intrusive and pop them in those drab shady places for a green lift.

If you want the best stuffing you will ever make, there is no passing the opportunity to plant parsley, sage and thyme now.

Sage needs full sun and a dry environment.

It won’t like the coming humidity so if you have not grown sage before or experienced past failures, try planting in a large well-draining pot and move as needed out of the rain or find a dry spot in the garden and water sparingly.

Australian Christmas Bush

Here on the Central Coast and across our state, NSW Christmas Bush (Ceratopetalum gummiferum) is our Aussie festive native and it becomes more popular each year.

People in colonial times simply looked to flowers that reminded them of the key symbolism of the European Christmas of their birth places.

Christmas bush, with its red flowers in tiny bell shapes and its appearance at the ‘right time’ would have more than fit the bill.

The flowers are small creamy-coloured blossoms that fall away in spring to leave sepals that turn a gorgeous red by late December.

Find a full sunny spot to plant your Christmas Bush and feed during spring with a native-specific fertiliser only.

This is advised to increase the number of blossoms which will lead to a showier festive display.

When harvesting your Christmas bush, never remove more than a third of the plant and cut branches at an angle with sharp secateurs.

Remove all foliage that will sit below the waterline in your vase, change water every second day and snip drying bottom of stems as required.

You should see your cut Christmas Bush last well into the New Year with a vase life of at least two weeks.

GARDENING BOOK REVIEW

The City Gardener, Contemporary Urban Gardens by Richard Unsworth

September 2021, ISBN: 9781760761301

Author Richard Unsworth knows his gardening.

He owns the beloved outdoor design store ‘Garden Life’ in Sydney and with his passion for the natural environment and botanical heritage, his inspiring knowledge comes shining through in this beautiful book.

Though it is filled with gorgeous garden imagery, ‘The City Gardener’ is still packed with detailed information to help the urban gardener design their botanical dreams.

Colour guides, outdoor furniture suggestions and design elements are all covered along with full plant listings, which is something I often find lacking in similar books so top points there.

This would be a wonderful gift for your design-loving friend, garden renovator or even beginner gardener, but if you don’t have it, get it for yourself.

Highly recommend!

TASKS & TIPS FOR YOU THIS WEEK

Just a few things you could plant this week include herbs, Asian greens, asparagus, globe and Jerusalem artichoke, beans, beetroot, broccoli, cabbages, capsicum, carrot, celeriac, celery, cucumber, eggplant, endive, fennel, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, marrow, mustard greens, okra, parsnip, potato, pumpkin, radish, rhubarb, rocket, salsify, silverbeet, spring onion, sweetcorn, sweet potato, taro, tomato, turnip, warrigal greens, zucchini, sunflower, aster, bedding begonia, calendula, California poppy, carnation, celosia, chrysanthemum, coleus, cosmos, dahlia, dianthus, everlasting daisy, gaillardia, gazania, gerbera, honesty, inpatients, kangaroo paw, marigold, nasturtium, phlox, portulaca, salvia, snapdragon, waratah, zinnia

Next Week: You Can Grow Marvellous Melons

YOU & YOUR GARDEN: Liz’s Japanese Garden, Kincumber

Liz has created a divine Japanese-inspired garden from what was a dark, dank mouldy yard and this is a wonderful example of what can happen when you make a garden plan and follow it through.

Liz said, “I had a severe mould due to my back yard not drying out, the Village Administration wanted to remove nine trees and all my back lawn – to be replaced by three or four rows of horrible pavers and pebbles. (Which would have looked like a cemetery plot and been totally unusable for me and grandkids.)

I was able to talk them into the design in my head of a Japanese Garden and only remove the trees that I chose.”

It is a beautiful, neat, and yet lush garden that she describes as her oasis, and I agree.

When I asked where all the gorgeous pots and art elements came from, I was delighted with Liz’s reply, “I don’t go on pub crawls, I go on op-shop crawls.

The Men’s Shed at Kincumber have also helped me repurpose things to make things like the table in my garden.

That’s made from old fence palings and the garden divider is made from my husband’s old bamboo garden stakes.”

We all love the work the Men’s Sheds does and this combined with Liz’s gardening have created a little oasis of Japan in the heart of Kincumber.

Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden coordinator and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 – 10am every Saturday on CoastFM963.
She is also co-host of @MostlyAboutPlants a weekly gardening podcast with Vicki White.
Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: gardeningcentralcoast@gmail.com

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