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Gardening during the Festive Season

From Sarah's garden to yours

From a keen gardener’s point of view, Christmas and the summer holidays couldn’t come at a worse time! After months of painstaking preparation, the garden is on the point of harvest; the reward for our efforts is just around the corner. Alas, instead of poising ourselves ready for the onslaught of a mountain of produce that needs processing to lock in that summer freshness, we become wrapped up in the windwhirl that is the festive season.

Harvesting potatoes

A clever gardener would have set a few wheels in motion months earlier to ensure some sneaky gardening can be done on Christmas day. Potatoes sown in mid-September will create perfect new potatoes to be turned into a salad or gently boiled and slathered in butter and fresh mint. Of course, the fresher the spuds the better, so they really need to be dug up an hour or so before Christmas lunch.

Shelling peas

Harvesting and shelling fresh peas can create delightful memories, and since many hands make light work, a bowl of sweet new peas can be prepared in no time. There should also be plenty of lettuce for fresh salads.  Getting into the garden on Christmas day can be like a gift in itself to the keen gardener, and also an opportunity to show off your efforts to friends and family.

After the big day, the next logical progression in the festive season is to head away for a family holiday. That is usually a week or so beside the sea, a lake or a river, miles away from anywhere and any responsibilities. For the keen gardener though, as much as they will be enjoying the holiday, in the back of their mind, the garden will niggle away. Will it be ok? What will I come home to? Is it getting enough water? Are the tomatoes ripening? Are they going to waste?

No need for concern, there are things that can be done to make the garden less of a worry while you are away.

Take care of the weeds

Before the craziness of the festive season takes off, give the garden a thorough weed – remove all trace and keep on top of it. A moment taken to pull up a small new weed or a push of the hoe through a handful of freshly germinated seedlings will save plenty of time. Just little and often in the lead up to the holidays will keep the worst weedy scenario at bay until you get back.  Don’t ever let weeds get to the point of setting seeds or it will become your worst nightmare.  Large weeds will reduce airflow around your plants increasing the risk of fungal disease and will take up nutrients intended for your plants.


As much as it would be nice to have the garden watered by rain while you are away, you wouldn’t want your holiday blighted by rainy weather, so it is important to ensure your plants get watered in other ways.  

You can set up an irrigation system on a water computer. All the components are readily available at good garden centres or hardware retailers, and for a minimal investment, you can have peace of mind and truly enjoy your holiday.

You could also ask a friend or neighbour to water your garden for you, although you may have to explain how to water, as it isn’t as simple as waving the hose about – a deep water on the soil every other day is better than a quick sprinkle every day.

Before you go give the entire garden a deep watering, so you know it is off to a good start. If you haven’t already, a good thick layer of mulch will help to retain the moisture and help suppress the weeds.

Watering the garden


While you are out there giving the garden a good watering, consider giving your plants a liquid feed to ensure they have what they need to get through without you. By summer holiday time, the plants would have made quite a dent in the nutrients provided in the soil at the beginning of the season.

Pests and Disease

Try and find some time before heading away to check the crops for any sign of pest or disease. If you see any signs or even something that can even remotely become something, take immediate action. One aphid now will be thousands when you come home – with the life sucked out of your plants.


Take a moment or two to check over your support structures, stakes and trellises making sure they are strong enough under the weight of the emerging crop. There is nothing more upsetting than coming home to a tangled mess of broken bamboo poles and contorted tomato plants. Tie in any plants that need it and make sure everything is in shipshape.


By this time of year, the harvest will only just be getting going, but there will be things that need harvesting. Do a hard pick. If you are still awaiting that first red tomato, you can pick the nearly ripe ones and take them away with you and they should ripen in a sunny spot, you can also eat small cucumbers.

If the plant manages to set a seed – which is its agenda, then it considers its job done and stops producing new fruit. This could easily happen in the short time you are away so the more you pick, the more you get.  

Ideally, get a trusted friend to come regularly and pick what is ready. Make sure it is someone who knows a little about gardening, so you can explain clearly what needs to be done. If they just take what they need which turns out to be woefully inadequate or take more than necessarily and you end up coming home to a stripped garden, then this would be worse than leaving the garden unattended.

As a gardener, the holidays can be something to fret about or, with a few preparations in advance, you can go off with your family and enjoy the time away creating wonderful memories, safe in the knowledge your garden will be ok.