August in the Garden

It's the last month of winter and while we await the burst of spring blossoms and blooms, the Cyclamen will delight the senses with its beautiful twisted petals that look like tiny butterfly wings. These stunning flowers thrive in cooler weather and will liven up any room around the house. They are also great additions to balconies and patios. The Cyclamen grow best when placed in indirect sunlight and watered directly in the tray so that its roots can suck up the water it needs. Speak to your GCA Garden Centre about the best fertiliser to use and enjoy its last flowering show of the season.

What to Sow

While it may be a little cold to image it, in a few months, you will be enjoying delicious summer fruits. One fruit that reminds us of Christmas and is enjoyed by families across the country throughout the summer is the juicy, healthy watermelon. The watermelon takes approximately 90 days to grow so if you want to enjoy slices of your own homegrown watermelon you need to plant your seeds at the end of the month.

Watermelon grows best in full sun, and the vine requires sufficient space to grow. To start, prepare the soil by adding pyrethroid and compost before planting the seeds, this will prevent possible worms from getting to the watermelon first and will provide the right nutrients for the best results. Water is key to growing juicy watermelons. Keep the soil moist by watering the vines in the morning, and as there may be a few cold days ahead before the summer, apply a mulch to keep the roots warm.

What to Spray

Check your bulbs now for possible insect egg clusters under the leaves which could lead to insect infestations and result in damage to both the plant and the bulb. If you see any traces of eggs or damage to the plant, visit your nearest GCA to find a suitable treatment to prevent further damage to the plant.

What to Prune

Shrubs and bushes will benefit from being pruned and shaped this month. Pruning has several benefits for plants but most notably, it keeps them young and improves the overall growth.  Use a quality pair of pruning shears to prune shrubs, bushes and small trees. Once you have pruned your plants, apply the right feed according to their needs and water regularly ahead of the spring. Once rainfall starts in summer rainfall areas, less frequent watering is needed.

What to feed

August is feeding time as many of your dormant plants are getting ready for the spring. To maximise growth and prepare for beautiful spring blooms, it is important that your plants are given the right feed to meet their needs. There are various fertilisers available to aid in healthy plant growth and sustained release of nutrients into the soil. Some plants such as Azaleas (rhododendron) and Gardenias will need an acid compost to boost their flower development while others such as the red Hydrangeas may need a more alkaline feed. Speak to your GCA about the best option available for your garden. Once you have fed your plants, apply an organic mulch to the soil to keep the roots warm and prevent possible weeds from cropping up. 

Don't forget to feed your fruit trees which will be preparing for the first blossoms in the weeks to come. Compost should be added to the soil along with an application of 8:1:5. Remember to water your trees in the drier regions across the country for the juiciest fruits.

Rose care

This is a good time to prune rose bushes ahead of the spring to enjoy a good show of roses by October. Use clean and sharp secateurs and leather gloves to prune your roses. Once you have pruned the roses to remove dead leaves, flowers and stems, spray the plant's stems with an insecticide and fungicide to kill insect eggs and fungus spores. Apply organic compost to the soil and top with mulch to protect the roots.

If you want to move any of your rose bushes to a different spot in the garden, this is the time to do it. It is also the best time to plan and prepare a new rose bed in your garden. Visit your GCA to see the wide variety of roses available and select your favourites for your garden.

Coastal gardening

(Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal)

Keep a look out for snail damage, paying particular attention to newly planted seedlings as they have tender roots and are a firm favourite for snails. To prevent plant damage, apply organic snail bait to keep these nuisances away.

Add some colour to your garden with a few plants that are in flower now.

  • Geraldton wax (chamelaucium) – these fast growing, drought tolerant shrubs are easy to care for, grow best in full sun and, while they will need to be watered often to encourage initial growth, once established these plants require moderate watering. The shrub bears flowers in a range of colours: white, pink and red.
  • Pincushion (leucospermum) – add splashes of orange to your garden with the hardy pincushion shrub. It is best grown in full sun and as it is drought resistant will require minimal water. The bright flowers which resemble pin cushions, will attract insects and birds to the garden to aid in flower pollination.
  • Sweet William (dianthus barbatus) - for bursts of colour and sweet fragrances drifting in the air, Sweet William is ideal for planting now. It makes a great border and is available in a range of colours including white, red, pink purple and bi-colour — plant in full sun and water moderately.
  • Tree wisteria (bolusanthus speciosus) – Ideally planted in a medium sized to large garden the tree Wisteria will be the central focus of your garden. These splendid trees boast beautiful purple flowers in the spring and the summer. They grow best in sunny areas and require moderate water.

Inland gardening

The first rains will be falling soon, and this is the time to prepare your garden for the spring. Feed all your plants to maximise growth in the spring. Be sure to water well after fertilising and apply a mulch to keep the moisture and nutrients in. 

Plant some hardy, flowering plants to enjoy some colour in spring:

  • Fairy Bells (dierama pendulum) – at the tips of its branches the plants grow elegant bell shaped pink or white flowers that grow from spring through to autumn. Fairy bells are a beautiful addition to flower beds, planted alongside water features or in rockeries. Plant then in well-drained soil in a sunny spot and water well regularly.
  • Parrot Beak (lotus berthelotii 'Yellow Flash') – this evergreen makes an ideal ground cover for the garden and is drought and heat tolerant making it an easy plant to grow. Plant in well-drained soil in a sunny area and enjoy the show of bright yellow, beak shaped flowers that appear in the spring.
  • Campfire bush (crassula capitella) – this hardy succulent grows well in both full and partial sun and requires little watering. The leaves are lime green with fire red tips but when placed in full sun with little water will turn bright red. Add colour to flower beds or plant in hanging baskets on the patio. 


For more advice on bringing your Christmas garden to life, visit your local GCA Garden Centre or join the conversation on our Facebook page:

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