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In the Garden: December

When it’s sweltering outside and you need some cool relief, homemade fruity ice-blocks are the answer
. Blitz strawberries, raspberries or a combination of both. Test for sweetness, remembering that freezing reduces the intensity of sweetness so juice needs to taste really sweet when liquid to taste sweet when frozen. Pour into moulds and freeze.

Add a handful of lime to the compost pile. The breakdown of organic matter causes acidity, which discourages earthworm activity.

Ensure mulch on garden beds is 5cm thick to insulate the soil and conserve moisture. Top up before summer heat peaks and, as always, keep mulch a few centimetres clear of trunks and stems. Where soil is bare, add a layer of wet newspaper before mulching to keep weeds down.

Clear garden debris away from the house and ensure gutters are cleaned to reduce bush fire risk.

Hydrangea and agapanthus give a cool look to the Christmas table. To make hydrangea lastlonger, pick early in the morning and submerge the flower heads in water for an hour before draining and arranging.

Use soil-wetting agents (notcrystals) and water them in well to ensure that irrigation and summer rain penetrates deeply and doesn’t just run off the surface.

Raise the mower blades to the highest cutting setting. This will help achieve the optimal ratio of lawn roots to lawn shoots to keep it green and healthy over summer.

Pop in cosmos, zinnia, lupin and extra petunia seeds, plus some verbena seedlings for long-lasting colour.