Here are the 5 things that need to be done in the garden to help your fruit and veges pre-Christmas.

1. Get your bird netting up. My berries are all starting to ripen now and no sooner do they start to change colour, a bird attacks them. The purple mulberries on my weeping mulberry tree must be super tasty because the birds are even willing to risk divebombing my cats to get at them. Fling bird netting over figs too if you’re expecting an early crop.

2. Give your garden a good soak and lay mulch. You can buy commercial bark based-mulch from landscaping yards and even though paying a couple of hundred dollars for a big trailer load might seem expensive, it will save you hours stuck on the end of the house, plus your water bill will reflect the difference. For those of you who live in regions where water restrictions are inevitable, getting out the hose isn’t even an option, so start mulching heavily now. The best time to mulch is after a good night of rain. Don’t mulch dry soil as it’s impossible to rewet.

3. Squash and stomp. The green vege bugs are back and breeding. You’ve got to keep on top of these sap-suckers (ditto aphids) as not only do they drain the life out of beans and tomatoes, they can spread disease. Squash them by hand. It’s very effective (and quite satisfying) for keeping the numbers down early in the season. Keep slugs and snails in check too. The best time to catch them in the act is on a wet night.

4. Plant everything and anything your garden centre has on offer. You can still plant tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicums, eggplants, pumpkins, courgettes and chillies for summer crops. Keep sowing beans, basil, coriander and corn too. And think ahead to Christmas: if you sow mesclun seed now this weekend and keep the trays moist and in full sun, you’ll have baby salad greens for Christmas dinner. If you want microgreens for the holiday break, we recommend sowing cress, mustard, rocket, snowpeas and radish seed. They’ll be up and booming within a week. Plus you can take them with you if you’re going away for the holidays.

5. Speaking of Christmas, keep making homegrown gifts. I was given some delicious ‘Dan’s Early’ plums as a thank you gift earlier this week and, after eating half the bag, I’m going to make a jar of plum jam with the rest. I love plum jam… and so does the rest of my family. My plum tree has fruit that starts to ripen in the week before Christmas so now’s the time to stock up on sugar so I can make jam for my parents and grandparents. I’ve also made my first jar of mixed berry jam for the season but I think I’ll be eating that rather than giving it away.

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