December 2019

Looks like another hot, dry summer ahead, despite the relatively cool November we’ve had. Some veges will soak up the heat and produce well. Others may need more care. On the hottest days plants will shut down their metabolism and cease to grow, let alone produce. Rigging up a shadecloth cover over (and around) your beds may help some of the more tender leafy plants to get through the heat. Or utilise companion planting, say by planting lettuces and sunflowers together; the taller plants will provide some respite. Water in the cool of the morning or evening and mulch heavily. Container gardening can come into it’s own in Summer.

Not too late for planting advanced seedlings, but make sure though you harden them off  before planting and then cover during the hottest part of the day, until they are established and on their way.

Too late for BD500 spraying now, but the garden will benefit from BD compost applications – dig in a good amount after you take out the last crop, add a shovelful in the planting hole below the root zone before you pop the seedling in, cover it with soil, mulch, and water it in well to ensure the lovely microbes prosper. Side dress during the growing season, again covering and moistening. Care of the compost heap is important too – after removing compost from the heap, water and cover well and thickly with mulch. A dried out heap is a dead heap. Compost is a living thing; you need to treat it gently and carefully.

If making compost, you may need to cover with shade-cloth or other protection, but I wouldn’t be making big heaps in summer, the amount of water needed, rapidly drying ‘greens’, plus the danger of combustion when the microbes get going, makes it a fire risk (think haystack fires). Wait til autumn, use an enclosed ‘gedeye’ type bin (not really proper composting in my book!), or try the smaller cubic ones, taking care ….

Looking forward to the fruits of the stonefruit and berries this month. Harvest gently with sharp secateurs or scissors (this goes for all crop/vege harvesting) and net bushes and trees, if you haven’t already. Berries will need to be kept regularly watered and picked to keep producing. A foliar spray of dilute seaweed/fish will also help, on a fortnightly basis.

On the subject of netting, the conventional/traditional wide meshed netting is being phased out due to its danger to wildlife, birds and other creatures – it not only keeps things out (or in) but entangles them to death. Better to use wildlife friendly netting – very fine mesh – which will also do a good job of shading, and excluding pests including Queensland Fruit Fly (hopefully won’t be needed for that around here!). This type of netting may slightly alter the ripening conditions – apples may be less ‘red’, fruit may take a little longer to ripen, but you’ll also have less chance of sunburn on fruit.

Think about companion planting where plants serve to shade others – the traditional trio is corn, beans and pumpkins. Theoretically, the corn provides shade for the beans (they don’t like extreme heat) and a structure to climb on, the beans provide nitrogen to the soil, and the cucurbits sprawl around underneath, making the most of both upper and mid level canopies and root zones (corn is a high water user, in my book, with only small yields for all that water, so better to hedge your bets and resources with three crops). In practice it’s not always so ordered, doesn’t look like the diagram in the book, and harvest can be a challenge. But there are other combos. Lettuce under sunflowers, with rows of bush beans (or try enticing scarlet runner beans to climb the sunflower stalk) is another idea.

And leave some room to plant in late summer, your autumn and winter caulis and cabbages, brassicas and brussels.

Here are the dates for December gardening. Note that (s) means sow as seeds and (p) means plant as seedlings. Refer to the Garden Notes page for an explanation of these dates.

You may struggle to find time for the garden this month, but you will be rewarded later in the summer, and well into autumn, if you do.

Guide for temperate areas in SE Australia for December 2019:

Leaf Days: 5-8, 15-17, 22-24 – amaranth (s,p) basil (s,p), bok choi (s,p), chinese cabbage, chives (s,p) dill (s,p), celery (s,p), endive (s,p), kale (s), mibuna (s,p), mizuna(s,p), orach (s, p), rocket (s,p), tat soi (s,p), lettuce(s,p), mustard(s,p), salad greens (s,p), garlic chives (p), dill (s,p), parsley(s,p), radicchio (s,p), rhubarb (s,p), clover (s)

Fruit Days: 8-10, 17-19, 25-28 – amaranth (s), bush and climbing beans (s,p) capsicum (s,p) peas (s,p), strawberries (p), amaranth (s,p) chilli (s,p), corn (s,p), cucumber (s,p), eggplant (s,p), okra (s,p), mustard (s), pumpkin (s,p), rockmelon (s,p), snopeas (s,p), squash (s,p), strawberries (p), tomatoes (s,p), watermelon (s,p), zucchini (s,p)

Root Days: 1-3, 9-13, 19-21, 28-30– asparagus (s,p), jerusalem artichoke (p), beetroot( s,p), carrots (s,p), celeriac (p), fennel (p), kohlrabi (p), leek (p), spring onion (s,p) salad onion (s,p), bunching onions (s,p) potatoes (s,p), parsnip (s), shallots (s,p), radish (s,p), turnip (s,p)

Flower Days: 3-5, 13-15, 21-23, 30-31 -broccoli (s,p), cauliflower (s,p), borage (s,p), globe artichoke (s,p), sunflower (s,p) marigold (s,p), nasturtium (s,p), other flowers

Other Auspicious Gardening Dates:

Moon opposite Saturn: 14 but also a node day (a good time to plant, transplant, etc.)

Moon Descending: 1-14, 27-31

Moon Ascending: 14-27

Full Moon/New Moon: 12/26 (and also a solar eclipse and node day)

Nodes*: 14, 26

Perigee***:19

Apogee***5

Apply soil food, composts: 1-14, 27-31

Apply foliar food: 14-27

Mulch: now and through summer, but remember the slaters and slugs!

Transplant seedlings, plants, cuttings: 13 best, then other moon descending dates in root sign; 1-3, 10-12, 28-30

Graft: no best dates this month, try 15, 21-23 or other moon ascending dates

Dates are a guide for these particular crops. For more info see Planting Notes. Timing will vary from region to region (particularly with climate change) and even within a garden’s own microclimates. Of course, rainfall, weather conditions and your own schedule will influence when you garden.

# Broccoli can be grown year round, apart from the hottest months. I prefer to plant through the colder months to avoid having the broccoli forming heads when the cabbage moth butterfly is active, in late spring and summer.

* Each month there are a couple of ‘node days’ when the sun and moon are in opposition. Many biodynamic gardeners choose not to plant on these days, or at least a couple of hours either side of the node.

** Perigee is the point where the moon is closest to the earth, so the influence of the moon is strongest. Apogee is the furthest point from the earth, so the opposite occurs