By Amateur Gardener
December means summer, but summer seems to have arrived early in November with the hot days we have experienced.
December also brings out the ubiquitous displays of the poinsettia flowers – Euphorbia pulcherrima, which are indigenous to the country of Mexico where they are called the Christmas Eve flower.
To bring on the flowers for a Christmas display in Australia, they are kept in complete darkness for 12 hours per day early in the year and then carefully brought out and engineered to flower now.
The normal season for flowering in Australia is winter but as poinsettia plants are sensitive to cold, if planting out in the garden, keep where they can be sheltered from the extreme cold.
The Euphorbia family – or as they are more commonly referred to as, spurges – consists of many varied plants but one of the showiest and hardiest is the Crown of Thorns – Euphorbia millii.
This plant has an extremely thorny stem and when handling it is recommended to wear strong sturdy gardening gloves.
To compensate, however, it does flower for a long time in difficult conditions.
The latex, or white milky sap, of the Euphorbia plants can cause an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals, and if the sap accidentally touches the eye, it may cause temporary blindness.
But it is beneficial to the plant as the latex consists of antibacterial and antifungal properties making the plants easier to grow and propagate.
Euphorbias are a varied group of plants which can be used in a variety of ways and worthy of a place in a garden.
In the very hot weather it may be necessary to water your vegetables daily.
To prevent powdery mildew use the milk spray of one part of milk to 10 parts of water.
A general hint to remember is to only use sprays and fertilisers when the day temperature is going to be between 18 and 28 degrees.
If needing help with chemical sprays, seek advice from the good nurseries and hardware shops that we are fortunate to have in our area.
Summer is the season for tasty salad vegetables and there is still time to plant.
A perennial favourite is sweet corn which prefers a friable soil and away from strong winds.
Sweet corn has several plants it likes to be companion planted with, such as pumpkin, cucumbers, squash and zucchini.
The stems of the sweet corn can be used as stakes for peas so plant the peas a couple of weeks after the sweet corn have become established.
Sweet corn dislikes to be planted near cabbage.
Tomatoes like to be planted near French marigolds, basil, parsley, marjoram and nasturtiums. French Marigolds deter nematodes as well as repelling white flies, whilst basil also acts as a natural deterrent for white flies, aphids, mosquitoes and the dreaded house flies.
Tomatoes must never be planted near apricot trees, sweet corn or potatoes.
The Verticillium Wilt disease affects apricots and to a lesser extent other deciduous stone fruit trees.
It also affects tomatoes, melons, strawberries and potatoes- so for good gardening practice keep them well separated.
A good place to visit is the Two Wells Craft Shop which sells a good selection of healthy plants that are well suited to this area.
Another year in the garden has passed.
Wishing you all the best for a safe and blessed Christmas and enjoy your garden with all the summer delights it may bring.