This will be the last column until January 9, which means I get to have a couple of weeks' break from writing.
I am not going away and will be working on the non-statutory days, so will be available to take your emails and phone calls if you have any queries or problems.
If I happen to go out, there is an answer machine where you can leave your phone number. Likewise, if you have a gardening problem and email me the details, include your phone number because it's easier for me to phone rather than reply to an email. I may need to ask you more questions to find the right solution.
Some gardeners take photos of the problem and email them to me - that's a good idea because it gives me a better idea as to what is happening.
I have been providing this service free to gardeners now for over 30 years and it's always a pleasure to help.
Those that are going away over the holiday period should get a friend or neighbour visit your home most days to attend to the garden in regards to watering, picking mature vegetables and fruit, looking after indoor plants and mowing lawns.
This not only keeps your gardens up to scratch but it's also good peace of mind while you are away to know that someone is there looking after things till your return.
Make a list of what needs to be done in regards to watering and feeding animals etc so the home carer knows what to do and a phone call to them now and then will also be worthwhile.
As you harvest your summer crops and space is available, start planting your winter crops. First, put a good dose of manure (chicken manure if possible) over the garden, sprinkle some Rok Solid and Ocean Solids, then cover with bought compost which should be free of weeds and herbicides.
Likely you are going to be planting brassicas (cabbages etc), so sprinkle soft lime over the area and place Neem Granules in the planting hole and on the surface of the soil.
The worst aspect about growing winter brassicas is they have to grow through the worst time for white butterfly caterpillars.
The Neem Granules are a great solution. The caterpillars don't get past the first bite stage after hatching out of their egg case.
The granules on the soil under the plants should be refreshed about every six weeks.
If you want early leeks, they should be planted out as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, most leek seedlings come in punnets and they are fairly spindly.
The ideal planting out size is about as long and as thick as a standard pencil.
It is also a good time to plant some late tomatoes, sweet corn and cucumbers so that as your older plants start to fizz there will be fresh ones producing into winter or till they are knocked out.
If you don't have room in gardens, then plant in larger containers, using bought compost with animal or chook manure added.
A good planting of silverbeet about now will give you heaps to crop right through winter. Silverbeet is usually free of most insect pests problems, and if not planted too close together to enable air circulation, then leaf diseases will be reduced.
Harvesting the larger outer leaves on a regular basis will also assist better growth and lessen problems.
Where you see pest insects, begin control as quickly as possible. Sprays of Neem Tree Oil will help keep the pests at bay without hurting beneficial insects.
If neighbours or friends are going away, you could offer to check their gardens and to water.
Have a great Christmas and travel safe.
Problems? Phone me on 0800 466 464 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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