December is a very busy time in the garden! Berry fruit are ripening, plants are growing fast and the first of the stone fruit are ready. Regular weeding and watering are most important at this stage if we expect to get the best from our flowers and vegetables.

Once the tops of the spring bulbs have died off bulbs may be lifted and stored ready to be planted later, only keep the firm sound bulbs. Lilies will need to be staked as they get taller, especially if they are in a windy place.

I have noticed the brown beetle of the grass grub and some moths of the porina caterpillar flying about at night so the lawns will be ready for treatment in the next few weeks.

Roses and apple trees can be treated for black spot and rusts now. Use a combination fungicide/insecticide spray to keep plants pest free of both fungi and insects. One of the most important matters about the use of sprays in the garden is to read the instructions and follow them. Always be aware of the presence of bees (and other desirable insects) and in the case of weed killers, wanted plants that could be harmed.

Tomatoes, potatoes and peppers growing outside need to be treated or protected from the Psyllid that will be around now. Glass house tomatoes can also be attacked by the Psyllid so while removing the laterals or picking fruit look for the insects and spray if needed.

The use of mulches around plants will help to keep the roots cool and moist and suppress weeds during this hotter time of the summer. 

Use water wisely by avoiding watering on very windy days, just watering around the root zone of plants and use a timer on the tap so not to over water (I find that one hour on a sprinkler or soak hose is enough). A regular system or rotation around the garden is better than leaving watering until the plants become too dry and show signs of stress.

This time of the year one can see the results of much of our work in and around the garden so take time to step back and have a look at your garden and the gardens of others and enjoy the results of your labours. 

Merry Christmas to you all, Michael Coulter

Remember: questions can be posted on HortTalk or you can email Michael directly at