Imagine sitting around the Christmas dinner table and handing around plates of freshly roasted vegetables. As a centrepiece, a bursting bouquet of festive flowers. And best of all, all this bounty is straight from your own garden and as fresh as can be.
It might seem as if winter has only just drawn to a close, but Christmas is less than three months away. That makes it the perfect time to start planning and planting to ensure that your garden delivers as many gifts as Santa.
Spring is the ideal time to plant vegetable seedlings. In all but the southernmost part of the country, the last of the winter frosts have been and gone, so your new seedlings will enjoy warmer soil in which to grow.
Plant carrots, corn, zucchini and peas in early spring. Ensure that they have a sunny spot, and stake the taller vegetables as they grow to keep them from snapping under their own weight.
It’s not a traditional roast dinner without potatoes, so don’t neglect these. Seed potatoes can be planted anywhere from September to February in cool and temperate areas (but by the end of August in warmer parts of the county). They take around 12 weeks to mature, so make this one a priority if you want them for the Christmas lunch!
Potatoes need a dark spot and rich soil, so you can plant them in an area which is heavily shaded by trees or even in a compost heap. Dig them up when their leaves start to turn yellow, and save the small ones for next year’s crop.
Tomatoes are a reliable garden favourite, too. They generally take around 40 to 50 days to start bearing fruit if planted as seedlings, so if you plant in October you’ll have plenty by the time the big day rolls around. You can grow large varieties out in your garden beds, but even if you only have a smaller growing space, consider cherry or grape tomatoes in pots on your porch or windowsill. Grow basil as a companion plant: they love being close to one another, and they pair well in flavour. Serve a caprese salad as a starter for Christmas lunch – with its vibrant reds and greens, it’s the perfect Christmas offering.
Your Christmas table will look all the better with flowers facing it, so think about your colour scheme now. Red and green continues to be traditional, but you can get as creative as you want. Just make sure you choose flower varieties that bloom relatively late, since many species are past their best by the end of December. Good choices include gerberas, lilies, roses and freesias. All of them come in multiple colours, so you can choose flowers to fit a festive colour scheme.
For hardier options, consider small potted shrubs such as anthurium, which features bright red flowers. In tropical areas like Queensland, the evergreen Christmas orchid produces long white spikes of flower in summer. Further South, Tasmania also has a Christmas plant of its own: Christmas bells, which produce red bell-shaped blooms with yellow tips. This one does grow large, so consider transferring it out to the garden after the Christmas season.
Whatever you choose, don’t stop at your own table. Grow some extras and give them as gifts!
And while you can’t grow a full sized pine tree between now and December, why not buy a small conifer from your local garden centre and put it in an attractive pot or woven basket? You’ll get that fresh pine scent without the dropped needles that come from a cut tree, and you can move it outside after the Christmas season. With a bit of care and an occasional repot, your Christmas tree can last you many years, and grow alongside your family.
Christmas is a time to celebrate abundance and joy, and what better way than to create a spread that comes straight from nature? Make the most of the beautiful spring weather now, and you’ll be able to celebrate your best Christmas yet.