Spring has sprung and nearly everything is in flower all over. If you’re short on colour, tools, pots, fertilisers, seeds and inspiration, relax! Your nearest garden centre stands at the ready to help you shop ‘til you drop. So, dig deep and plant to your heart’s content and your life will become a garden! One can simply not afford to miss out on the excitement and joy of spring and remember, what cannot supply instant gratification now, will not take too long to produce the fruits and flowers you need in summer. Come on, let’s jump to it!
This spring we are also celebrating life in more ways than one, by supporting The Sunflower Fund and the amazing work that they do in our community for patients that have been diagnosed with life-threatening blood disorders, such as leukaemia, and are in need of a stem cell transplant. Why not show your support for the organisation, by purchasing and making use of the Topes (Tubes of Hope) as sweatbands while planting an Arbour Day tree with the kids. They run the annual Sunflower Day (previously Bandana Day) and will this year be celebrating it on the 16th of September to raise funds for the cause. Topes are available from August at your nearest Pick ‘n Pay retailer and are available in a children’s size for only R20 (incl VAT) and an adult’s size for only R25 (incl VAT).
You too can make a difference and contribute to saving lives. Hope begins with you!
Bright and beautiful is in!
Your top flower priority is to fill sun-drenched spaces with indigenous gazanias which are in flower and available in seedling trays all over now. New hybrids of these spectacular plants appear every year, sporting huge flowers in stunning colour ranges. Keep on adding more colour with lots of daisy bushes, osteospermum, felicia, arctotis, and nemesia. But, also remember that the face of spring definitely includes the beautiful clivia for shady spots – you will find them in flower and ‘on special’ now!
Also don’t forget to plant these seedlings now, for a burst of colour:
Coleus – These are grown for their foliage which is available in many different colours and bi-colours, and brighten up any dull, shady area. They can also be grown indoors, or can make a good replacement for Impatiens. Grow them in shade to semi-shade, but some of the new types are bred for the sun. Ranging in height from 25cm to 45cm depending on the variety.
Dahlia – This is really an old favourite. Bedding Dahlia’s are tough, full-sun plants that are available in a wide range of colours, with large daisy like flowers on bushy plants. They come in different heights, depending on the variety. Keep a look out for the Harlequin’s which are a spectacular bi-colour type.
Petunia – These are one of the most popular bedding plants. Available in a multitude of colours and bi-colours, even black! There are 4 types of Petunias: miniflora (very small flowers), midiflora (small flowers but many), multiflora (medium sized flowers but many), and grandiflora (large flowers but fewer of). They differ in habit from upright, to semi-cascading, to full cascading. Fun fact: the flowers are edible too.
Begonia – A bedding plant favourite. Masses of small flowers on upright bushes with colours from white, to pink, to red, with leaves in either green or bronze. Plant in semi-shade The bronze leaf type can be planted in the sun, as long as enough water is provided.
Alyssum (Lobularia) – sweetly scented flowers on low spreading plants. Great as an edging plant. Plant these in sun to semi-shade. Available in white, pinks, and purples.
Start sowing asters, celosias, cosmos, marigolds, nasturtiums, salvias, sunflowers, vincas and zinnias. You will be amazed at the eye candy value which hides in a cheap seed packet!
You are not yet done with bulb-planting – summer-flowering bulbs are now on sale. Start planting coloured
Zantedeschia hybrids and dahlias.
Veggies: Sow artichokes (Globe), bush beans, climbing beans, beetroot, eggplant, cabbages, carrots, celery, chillies, cucumbers, sweet peppers, lettuce, corn, (sweet corn), melon (sweet and watermelon), peas, pumpkin, radishes, rhubarb, spinach (Swiss chard), squash, and tomatoes. Also do more sowings of salad greens and herbs like watercress, rocket, coriander, baby spinach and mustard.
Fruit: As soon as about 80% of the blossoms on fruit trees have dropped, you should start spraying against fruit fly. Spray stone fruit trees to protect them from leaf curl disease – your nearest garden centre will have the right product. If you do not own any fruit trees, your nearest plant stockist will come to your rescue – all plantsmen will have large stocks of fruit trees now.
Trending: Berries of all kinds are good for your health and different varieties are readily available. To ensure a good crop of berries, prepare beds by working soil over with a fork and add in compost and a balanced fertiliser for fruit and flowers, prior to planting. Start planting young strawberry plants too.
Feeding: All fruit trees must be fed with a balanced fertiliser this month. Also feed young veggie seedlings regularly with a water-soluble growth stimulant to make them strong.
More Fertilising: Keep on feeding spring bulbs with bulb food to boost flowering again in another season. Apply a water-soluble plant food to flower borders, pots and containers regularly. Feed azaleas as they finish blooming with an acid loving water-soluble plant food. Add a rose and flower fertiliser to roses and shrub beds. This will give them a welcome boost for the upcoming season. In fact, everything in a garden or pot, should be fed this month!
Pretty trees for birds and bees: Arbor Week is 1-7 September, so try plant some indigenous trees. Remember, trees clean the air and provide us with oxygen. Visit your local nursery to find the best tree for your garden! There is a multitude of indigenous trees available, 2 to look out for are:
* Kiggelaria africana (wild peach) branches out wide and low, supply deep shade and forms a dense neat crown. This is a handy indigenous tree to use as screening or to protect a garden against wind.
* Dombeya rotundifolia (wild pear) is always the harbinger of spring when its bare branches are covered in sweet smelling, white blossoms. A fast-growing and hardy little indigenous tree for small gardens across the country.
- Keep snails in check – they have the potential to decimate young growth overnight. Emerging perennials like hostas are especially vulnerable. Enquire at your nearest nursery for the best snail-busting product to use.
- Weed regularly before it gets out of hand. Treat weeds on paving, pathways and in gravelled areas with a broad spectrum weed killer. Visit your local garden centre for some expert advice!
- Spray roses with a 3-in-1 product to control black spot, mildew and aphids.
Lawns: Train your lawn to be water wise, by watering it well only once a week – this will encourage deeper root growth. Also, never cut your lawn too short as this keeps the roots near the surface where they are more likely to dry out. For new lawns, start preparing the ground with compost and bonemeal, before sowing seeds or laying instant turf. If weeds are problem in large lawn areas treat with a broadleaf herbicide. For smaller lawn areas, use a ready-to-use broadleaf herbicide.
Herbal grays: Some of the best herbs have silver, grey, or greyish green leaves which makes them handy to add contrast colour in the veggie and flower garden. These herbs mostly have a strong flavour for cooking and are also able to repel pests efficiently. Plant all of these cooling beauties now: lavender, santolina, curry plant, artichoke, sage and lamb’s ear.
A perfect tree to plant is Magnolia x soulangeana. It is a deciduous tree, about 6m x 6m in size. Out of the gnarled main stem sprouts many side branches which produce the most awesome tulip-shaped flowers in shades of pink, dark pink, lilac and white from late winter to spring. (The flower colour will depend on the variety you plant). From afar, these large flowers which bloom in abundance on the tree, create the illusion that a great swarm of exotic birds came to visit the garden. Light green leathery leaves only appear when the flowering period is over. The little tree’s summer canopy does not caste deep shade, which allows the gardener to plant lots of annuals, perennials and small shrubs beneath it. A perfect tree for a small or cottage style garden. Easy to grow, but slow to grow up.
Seedlings, colour bags and herbs with lots of colour and which are dynamic for your spring garden are readily available at nurseries. Visit your local nursery for some options.
If you have not yet fed your garden then this is the perfect time to feed existing trees, shrubs, annuals, seedlings and vegetables.
Gardeners lucky to live in the warmer areas of this province should remember to plant Petrea volubilis (purple wreath), a semi-evergreen shrub or creeper which produces sprays of violet blue flowers in spring.
Sow corn and sweet corn directly and in rows in a sunny spot of the veggie garden. Keep the rows 60 – 90cm apart and space the small planting holes about 3 – 5cm deep and about 30 – 35cm apart. Plant two seeds in each hole in case some do not germinate. Once growing, you can interplant the rows with other veggies like squashes, kidney beans and salad crops, to save space.
Plant seed potatoes in spring. There are different ways of doing this like – you can plant them in bags, old tyres, deep drums or any container deep enough, and which can be topped up with soil as they grow. The traditional way is of course in trenches of about 10 to 12cm deep, which are filled and earthed up while the tubers are growing.
When the monkey thorns (Senegalia galpinii) start blooming in this region, one knows that spring has arrived in all its glory. This fast-growing thorn tree grows into a large specimen, has a big root system, and is therefore only suited to large gardens, but definitely worth planting for its honey-scented cream to yellow flowers.
Fun to do: Pot up hanging baskets with summer colour like pelargoniums, cascading petunias and the new basket lobelias. Also remember that one can grow quite a large selection of herbs and sweet strawberries in hanging baskets. To keep them from drying out too quickly, add a water retention product to the potting soil before planting.
Bulk mulching protects plant roots against the heat and fast water loss. Spend all your energy and resources to cover your whole garden with mulch, as it might still be a while before the rain arrives. As the days become longer, temperatures rise, plants become stressed. This stress can be decreased by a layer of mulch. When rain arrives at last, the mulch will keep the soil moist for much longer. Materials to use include coarse compost, composted bark, leaf mould, pine needles, straw, peanut or other nut shells, peach pips, shavings, pebbles and stones.
Plan something new for your garden this spring – nurseries are loaded with new releases and great ideas. Favourites include all the new Dipladenias (Red, yellow, pink, white), the liquorice scented Agastaches, tuberous begonias with enormous blooms, compact and free flowering basket petunias and the colourful Bergamots.
Trending: Plant up an old pair of jeans with your favourite annuals, or your old gum boots with succulents and then place them in your garden. Vertical gardening is a lot of fun, recycle old pallets and fill them with succulents, or herbs, or just annuals for colour. Paint pots, relay pebble pathways, add a new feature, or include a bird bath in your garden. Plant tropical fruits like bananas and paw paws now.
Look out for lobelias as a cascading show of blue to spill over containers, or even for patio table bowls. Star of the spring bedding plant colour has to be Petunias! They will explode with colour in the hottest and driest spots in the garden and containers. Petunias don’t like a much overhead water, which is why they do so well this time of the year, when we don’t expect much rain.
Pinch back plants like Fuchsias to encourage them to become more bushy. Remove old, spent winter flowering annuals and replant with more long-blooming summer annuals like marigolds and dianthus. They like full sun and well composted soil. To keep the blooms blooming (for up to 4 months at a time) deadhead them regularly.
Take fynbos to Limpopo! Nurseries in this region report that they will have beautiful stock of pincushions, proteas and ericas. Plant them in a sunny spot, in well drained soil and use acid compost to enrich the soil. Do not add superphosphate.
If your azaleas have finished flowering, some of them may be a little too tall or scraggly. They can now be trimmed, as they will soon bush out and produce even more flowers next spring.