Pot plants are often given as presents at Christmas time. They may be flowering forms of plants, or grown principally for their attractive leaf forms and colours.
In general, they will survive for a couple of weeks indoors, however they will eventually require placement in an outdoors situation. There are some exceptions, and the label attached to the plant should be checked for advice pertinent to the individual plant.
Plants that have been kept indoors for an extended period should be allowed to become gradually accustomed to outdoor climatic conditions. Placing them in a shady area for several days and then moving them to a permanent position will avoid the leaves becoming dried out or burnt from excessive heat. This may occur if the plants experience strong winds, in addition to strong sunlight.
Pine trees that have been used as living Christmas trees should be treated in this way as this will ensure they will be available for use next year, by which time they will have increased their size.
Plants that are grown indoors on a regular basis usually benefit from being placed outdoors during a period of light rain, as this will refresh the leaves, removing accumulated dust. Ensure that the plants haven’t been placed in a position that will receive direct sunlight as this will quickly burn the leaves.
Zucchinis that are planted out now will still have time to develop into mature, productive plants. Various varieties are available, including the traditional long green form which is also available in a yellow form.
“Green Globe” is a rounded variety, producing green fruits. Seeds or seedlings should be placed into rounded mounds to ensure adequate drainage. Regular use of a soluble fertiliser will assist in maintaining productive plants.
The first flowers that are produced will be male. Eventually female flowers will form and they can be identified by the small, immature fruits that form just below the base of the flower.
Because of the size of the flowers, and a possible lack of bees, hand pollination is advisable to help ensure the formation of pollinated fruits. Hand pollination is best carried out early in the morning. Freshly opened female flowers will make the best subjects.
The male flower should be removed from the plant just below the flower. The pollen that is available in the centre of the male flower can be placed onto the centre of the female flower. If pollination has been successful, the small, immature fruits will start to grow within a few days.
It is generally preferable to pick zucchinis while they are small, between 10 and 15cm in length. If the fruits are allowed to remain on the bush they will form large marrows, which, while they can be stuffed and cooked, have much less flavour.
Regular picking of the smaller fruits will also ensure more regular cropping as they plant’s energy will be used to produce new fruits, rather than a single, larger fruit. Zucchini flowers can be used in cooking. They can be stuffed with mixtures of meat, cheese and vegetables, coated in egg and flower and the sautéed in oil or deep fried. Recipes are available from various sources including cook books and the internet.
Ground covers that are suitable for shady areas are often difficult to find. However, one plant that is suitable for this position is Dichondra.
Dichondra repens, or kidney weed, in an attractive and useful groundcover. It may be used as a lawn substitute, growing successfully in most climates. Dichondra is a small, prostrate, perennial herb that takes root at the nodes. Preferred positions vary from full sun to 80% shade.
Dichondra has broad, almost circular leaves. It may be mown if it forms a mat that is the required thickness, although it will not tolerate heavy foot traffic. However, plants will soon rejuvenate. It quickly establishes a dense carpet look.
Plants look attractive when planted between pavers. They also grow successfully when planted on steep banks and other less accessible areas of the garden. Plants should be placed no further than 25-30cm apart. Closer planting will result in a faster cover.
Another variety of Dichondra, Dichondra argenta Silver Falls is an unusual and attractive specimen for pot culture. The silvery foliage cascades over the edge of the pot in long trailing stems. This makes it an ideal plant for use in a hanging basket. In ideal conditions the trailing stems may reach up to 1.5m in length.
Plants are also suitable for growing as a ground cover as it is vigorous and ground-hugging.
Gardeners wanting to grow root vegetable crops in summer should place the seeds directly into the garden beds as, in general, they do not respond well to transplanting. Best results will be obtained if they are grown in soil that has previously been fertilised for another vegetable type. High-nitrogen fertilisers should be avoided.
Carrots, parsnip, spring onions, cabbage, silver beet, pumpkin, cucumber, zucchini, beans, celery and leeks can all be planted this month, although the earlier part of the month should be selected for planting the latter half dozen varieties.