The beauty of bee keeping

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F is for Fearless February! Dare to do something different and come buzz on the wild side with Life is a Garden as we explore the beauty of beekeeping. Whether you live on a plot or farm, townhouse or flat – the enchanting world of beehives, honey extraction, bee courses and baked goods are all available to you. Here’s the basics to get you going. 

 

Beekeeping has a few rules 

Before we fly on, there are specific by-laws for beekeeping stipulated by the Metropolitan Municipality Public Health. You can’t own a hive on your balcony in the suburbs, for example, but you can go on an epic beekeeping course and tend to a hive away from home. For our plot and farm dwellers to have sufficient space, here is a brief overview of the current laws:

  • No person may keep bees on any premises unless that person is the holder of a permit authorizing that activity and every beehive is situated –
  • A minimum of five metres from any boundary of the premises.
  • A minimum of twenty metres from any public place or building used for human habitation or from any place used for the keeping of animals.
  • The bees are kept in an approved beehive and the beehive is kept in an area inaccessible to children and animals, kept in the shade at all times, and supplied with a source of drinking water within five metres of the hive.

 

It is important for beekeepers to register with The South African Bee Industry Organisation (SABIO) so that your set-up is in accordance with the regulation standards. This is to ensure all bees live a happy life and to prevent accidents or injuries to your neighbours. Now that we’re all clued up, let’s look into the benefits of starting a beehive and what treasures could be yours! 

Charming Arches

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Flowering and edible arches are arguably one of the most stylish and elegant features of a garden. Ideal in large spaces where a focal point of interest is needed, over entrances as a dramatic touch, or in small gardens where a compact cluster of blooms steals the show – arches are full of charm and for everyone! Follow Life is a Garden’s top aching tips and plant picks to get cracking on your first New Year’s gardening project.

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Good advice for getting started 

Here are a few important factors to consider when purchasing or building an arch.

  • Take careful note of the size of the space where you would like to grow your edible or flowering arch. How much sun does this space receive? Is there enough room for the plant to expand as it grows? 
  • Where will your arch steal the show most and what is your vision? Consider which other accessories will complement the structure such as a cute table and chairs nearby for tea, garden lights along a walkway that lead to the arch, or perhaps an additional flower bed all around the arch. Flowering arches are also excellent wildlife attractors and privacy shields. 
  • What material is your arch made of? Some plants get heavier as they age, requiring stronger support. If using a wooden arch, remember to use a weather-resistant sealer that won’t harm your plant. If you are using a metal arch, remember that extreme weather may also burn/freeze delicate flower varieties. 
  • Can you reach the top of your arch? Pruning your ramblers, scramblers, and climbers are essential to maintaining a nice and neat shape to your arch. Make sure you have a long ladder and access to all sides of the plant for shape pruning. Similarly, if you are growing an edible arch, make sure you have enough space to harvest. 

January Gardening Checklist

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Tidy up time

Neaten borders and beds, turn over the compost heap, and mulch well after weeding. 

January gardening, gardening tasks, winter gardening, garden maintenance, seasonal gardening, winter plants, garden care, pruning, planting guide, winter landscape, gardening tips, cold-weather gardening, January plants, frost protection, soil preparation, winter crops, gardening chores, horticulture tips, winter flowers, garden to-do list
January gardening, gardening tasks, winter gardening, garden maintenance, seasonal gardening, winter plants, garden care, pruning, planting guide, winter landscape, gardening tips, cold-weather gardening, January plants, frost protection, soil preparation, winter crops, gardening chores, horticulture tips, winter flowers, garden to-do list

Festive trees

Plant wild gardenia (Gardenia thunbergia), Henkel’s yellowwood (Podocarpus henkelii ), and Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Gold Crest’.

January gardening, gardening tasks, winter gardening, garden maintenance, seasonal gardening, winter plants, garden care, pruning, planting guide, winter landscape, gardening tips, cold-weather gardening, January plants, frost protection, soil preparation, winter crops, gardening chores, horticulture tips, winter flowers, garden to-do list
January gardening, gardening tasks, winter gardening, garden maintenance, seasonal gardening, winter plants, garden care, pruning, planting guide, winter landscape, gardening tips, cold-weather gardening, January plants, frost protection, soil preparation, winter crops, gardening chores, horticulture tips, winter flowers, garden to-do list

Homegrown herbs

Plant mint, rosemary, thyme, chives, basil, and rocket.  

January gardening, gardening tasks, winter gardening, garden maintenance, seasonal gardening, winter plants, garden care, pruning, planting guide, winter landscape, gardening tips, cold-weather gardening, January plants, frost protection, soil preparation, winter crops, gardening chores, horticulture tips, winter flowers, garden to-do list
January gardening, gardening tasks, winter gardening, garden maintenance, seasonal gardening, winter plants, garden care, pruning, planting guide, winter landscape, gardening tips, cold-weather gardening, January plants, frost protection, soil preparation, winter crops, gardening chores, horticulture tips, winter flowers, garden to-do list

Try this: Grow different coloured basil between your petunias and other flowering annuals. Go for purple basil (spicy-scented with purple leaves and pink flowers), ‘Siam queen’ (green leaves with square purple stems), and ‘Magical Michael’ (compact and bushy with purple and white flowers). 

Harvest delights 

Harvest strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, and celery.

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Waterwise tips

  • On hot days, mist houseplants like ferns and orchids to provide extra humidity.
  • Punch holes in the bottom of plastic bottles and place them in shallow holes around plants. Fill with water to give seedlings slow-release moisture.  
  • Use a soaker hose rather than a sprinkler and water early morning to reduce wasteful evaporation.
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January gardening, gardening tasks, winter gardening, garden maintenance, seasonal gardening, winter plants, garden care, pruning, planting guide, winter landscape, gardening tips, cold-weather gardening, January plants, frost protection, soil preparation, winter crops, gardening chores, horticulture tips, winter flowers, garden to-do list

Pest patrol 

  • Remove old flower stalks and dead material around the base of spent perennials to prevent mildew and red spider mite.
  • Spray roses against black spot, mildew, and aphids.  
  • Watch out for hawk moth caterpillars feeding at night on impatiens, arum lilies and fuchsias. Remove them by hand.
  • Be aware of lawn caterpillar infestations and treat with eco-friendly pesticides from your garden centre. 

Top pest tip: Spray early morning or late afternoon to avoid harming garden helps, like bees and ladybugs, that may still be active. 

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January gardening, gardening tasks, winter gardening, garden maintenance, seasonal gardening, winter plants, garden care, pruning, planting guide, winter landscape, gardening tips, cold-weather gardening, January plants, frost protection, soil preparation, winter crops, gardening chores, horticulture tips, winter flowers, garden to-do list

Small Spaces

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Utilise your space and get creative with explorer plants that love to climb and crawl. There is still plenty of gardening to be done in compact gardens, on the patio, and all around your balcony. Don’t let space restrictions limit your green fingers this new year.

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Best trellis trailers 

Creepers and climbers will go to town on any wall, pillar, or arch where trellis support is possible. Consider these indigenous showstoppers that are low maintenance and naturally adapted to our climate.  

  1. Pink trumpet vine (Podranea ricasoliana) in full sun. They boast an abundance of fragrant lilac-pink flowers. 
  2. Flame creeper (Combretum microphyllum) in full sun. They are truly spectacular with flaming crimson flowers. 
  3. Cape honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis) in full sun. They bare tubular blooms in red, orange, yellow, and salmon.

Top tip: Arches, beams and pillars are a climber’s dream. Secure some wire around these structures and let your explorer plants do the rest. This is gardening and living décor achieved with simplicity and style.

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Grow a gallery

If you’ve got a barren wall, decorate it with life! Get the look:

  1. Secure a few vertical growing containers against a wall.
  2. Upcycle some large frames with character and texture, secure them around the containers. 
  3. Half fill your pots with compost and potting soil from your nursery.
  4. While you’re there, grab these lovelies to grow in your gallery:

Shaded babes - fuchsias, wild iris, September bush, and impatiens. 

Sun lovers - black-eyed Susan, climbing snapdragons, verbena, and geraniums. 

Try this: Go for a sophisticated succulent look by pairing potted rock roses with elegant white frames. Scatter white pebbles around your succulents to really bring out their eyes.

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Hacks to upsize your small space 

  • Outdoor mirrors will help make your area appear larger.
  • Suspend your furniture to save floor space.

Hybrid Hydrangeas December Notebook

Hydrangea Varieties, Garden Flowers, Flowering Shrubs, Hortensia, Landscape Plants, Ornamental Gardens, Blooming Beauties, Gardening Tips, Floral Diversity, Hydrangea Care, Seasonal Blooms, Garden Design, Flowering Bushes, Colorful Gardens, Plant Varieties

Your summer garden is in for a real treat with these three show-stopping new hydrangea hybrids in bloom now. 

  1. Magical revolution (Hydrangea macrophylla magical) is an absolute must-have. This compact, bushy, deciduous shrub bares clusters of flowers that change colour as time passes. Every day is a magical experience with a rainbow transformation of hues to look forward to. 

Grow guide: Semi-shade or full sun, moist but well-drained soil, good for containers, beds and borders. Disease hardy but look out for red spider mite and scale.

Hydrangea Varieties, Garden Flowers, Flowering Shrubs, Hortensia, Landscape Plants, Ornamental Gardens, Blooming Beauties, Gardening Tips, Floral Diversity, Hydrangea Care, Seasonal Blooms, Garden Design, Flowering Bushes, Colorful Gardens, Plant Varieties
Hydrangea Varieties, Garden Flowers, Flowering Shrubs, Hortensia, Landscape Plants, Ornamental Gardens, Blooming Beauties, Gardening Tips, Floral Diversity, Hydrangea Care, Seasonal Blooms, Garden Design, Flowering Bushes, Colorful Gardens, Plant Varieties

2. Endless summer (Hydrangea macrophylla) has a name that says it all. A truly special cultivar has arrived with the superpower of blooming on both old and new wood, resulting in a flower show all year round. An added bonus is that plants are hardier to colder climates too. 

Grow guide: Semi-shade is best but will tolerate full sun if the soil is kept moist. Good for hedging and as cut-flowers with resistance to pests and disease.

Hydrangea Varieties, Garden Flowers, Flowering Shrubs, Hortensia, Landscape Plants, Ornamental Gardens, Blooming Beauties, Gardening Tips, Floral Diversity, Hydrangea Care, Seasonal Blooms, Garden Design, Flowering Bushes, Colorful Gardens, Plant Varieties
Hydrangea Varieties, Garden Flowers, Flowering Shrubs, Hortensia, Landscape Plants, Ornamental Gardens, Blooming Beauties, Gardening Tips, Floral Diversity, Hydrangea Care, Seasonal Blooms, Garden Design, Flowering Bushes, Colorful Gardens, Plant Varieties

3. Oakleaf (Hydrangea quercifolia) is a medium-sized bush with large, cone-shaped clusters of simply gorgeous blooms (up to 30cm long). The cream-white flowers will turn pink as they mature and can be enjoyed even until mid-winter, complimented by burgundy foliage. 

Grow guide: Dappled shade during midday is best although they perform better than others in dryer climates. Keep soil fertile and moist, look out for mildew.

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Hydrangea Varieties, Garden Flowers, Flowering Shrubs, Hortensia, Landscape Plants, Ornamental Gardens, Blooming Beauties, Gardening Tips, Floral Diversity, Hydrangea Care, Seasonal Blooms, Garden Design, Flowering Bushes, Colorful Gardens, Plant Varieties

Hydrangea pruning tips

  • There are 2 main groups of hydrangea pruning requirements so be sure to ask your garden centre assistant about the type you have.
  • Group 1 plants (old wood) bloom on last year's growth and need to be pruned in late summer. 
  • Group 2 plants (new wood) bloom on fresh growth and should be pruned in early spring after the frost. 
  • Pruning branches as leaves emerge in spring will result in multiple smaller flower heads as opposed to fewer larger clusters.

Posh nature pools

Garden Pools, Natural Pool Design, Eco-friendly Gardening, Sustainable Landscaping, Aquatic Plants, Water Features, Garden Water Conservation, Wildlife Habitat, Garden Pond Maintenance, Organic Pool Design, Biodiversity in Gardens, Natural Swimming Pools, Water Gardening, Ecosystem Balance, Garden Oasis

Picture your next swim; chemical-free and full of life - that’s the sort of posh pool we’re after! Success means different things to different people, but we’d like to think that a living pool is one of those grand stamps of achievement and style for the gardener. Known also as eco-pools or Earth pools, these swimmable (and often drinkable) mini wetland-lakes are the perfect waterway back to Mother Nature. Get connected and join Life is a Garden with top South African experts as we splash into the magical world of biofiltered, living water! 

 

Swap the chlorine for nature’s green

An eco-pool uses a biological filtration system instead of chemicals to clean the water. A biological filter uses natural processes, microorganisms, and selected smart plants. With the correct ecosystem in balance, biofilters actually purify water better than pool chemicals!  Although such chemicals are designed to kill living organisms (like bacteria and algae) they don’t actually remove other harmful substances like ammonia and phosphates. 

Biofilters, however, are able to remove ammonia, phosphates, and nitrogen from the water so that algae struggles to grow, resulting in water that you can even drink! Biological filters, or biofilters,  include plants and beneficial microscopic life, like good bacteria, plant plankton, and zooplankton (small good-guy animals). Aiding this process is water which is constantly filtered through a sand/gravel filter along with a powerful pump to trap any algae and insoluble material in the water.

Did you know? You can easily convert your existing pool into a natural pool as conventional set-ups are very well suited for conversions. There is a selection of creative and inspiring options to help you transform your pool into a living wetland wonderland, just be sure to seek expert advice and professional services.

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Garden Pools, Natural Pool Design, Eco-friendly Gardening, Sustainable Landscaping, Aquatic Plants, Water Features, Garden Water Conservation, Wildlife Habitat, Garden Pond Maintenance, Organic Pool Design, Biodiversity in Gardens, Natural Swimming Pools, Water Gardening, Ecosystem Balance, Garden Oasis

Will I swim in a swamp?

No. A regeneration grow zone with plant life and a gravel bed is built adjacent (and still connected) to the primary swimming area, which is kept open and clear like a standard pool.

The super-fun summer garden December in the Garden

December Gardening, Garden Maintenance, Winter Garden Tasks, Seasonal Gardening, Plant Pruning, Cold Weather Gardening, Soil Preparation, Summer Plant Care, Garden Cleanup, Frost Protection, Indoor Plants, Mulching, Garden Planning, Weather-Resistant Plants, Gardening Tips

It’s holiday season, and a jolly good reason to celebrate! Live life to the fullest surrounded by the ones you love and a gorgeous garden to host them all in. Life is a Garden’s got a fully loaded, super fun summer entertaining and planting guide to get you in the spirit of things this December. 

Warm welcomes

Wet vines from the garden can be transformed into gorgeous decorative wreaths, which you can secure onto your front door. Try ivy varieties, grapevine, and big num num (Carissa macrocarpa) with ornamental grass strands that’ll maintain colour for longer too. Add to the friendly vibes by adding a textured welcome mat available from your GCA Garden Centre.

Try this: Once you’ve gotten a solid run from your wreath, tie it onto a tree branch and hang some birdseed feeders from it. 

December Gardening, Garden Maintenance, Winter Garden Tasks, Seasonal Gardening, Plant Pruning, Cold Weather Gardening, Soil Preparation, Winter Plant Care, Garden Cleanup, Frost Protection, Indoor Plants, Mulching, Garden Planning, Weather-Resistant Plants, Gardening Tips
December Gardening, Garden Maintenance, Winter Garden Tasks, Seasonal Gardening, Plant Pruning, Cold Weather Gardening, Soil Preparation, Winter Plant Care, Garden Cleanup, Frost Protection, Indoor Plants, Mulching, Garden Planning, Weather-Resistant Plants, Gardening Tips

Eternal sunshine

Solar lights are the best-kept fun secrets this summer. Light up your pathways with lanterns, accentuate your trees with spiralled fairy lights, and make the patio pop with spotlights highlighting your gorgeous container beauts. Solar jars are also a sure win, to which you can add glass stones for extra sparkle. Solar jars look super magical when added to fairy gardens and scattered around beds.

Always lit tip: Wrap battery-operated fairy lights around your front door DIY wreath for added evening ambience as guests arrive.

December Gardening, Garden Maintenance, Winter Garden Tasks, Seasonal Gardening, Plant Pruning, Cold Weather Gardening, Soil Preparation, Winter Plant Care, Garden Cleanup, Frost Protection, Indoor Plants, Mulching, Garden Planning, Weather-Resistant Plants, Gardening Tips
December Gardening, Garden Maintenance, Winter Garden Tasks, Seasonal Gardening, Plant Pruning, Cold Weather Gardening, Soil Preparation, Winter Plant Care, Garden Cleanup, Frost Protection, Indoor Plants, Mulching, Garden Planning, Weather-Resistant Plants, Gardening Tips

Inquisitive kids

Keep the kids entertained and educated with a ‘Find that bug’ quest. You can easily create a printable worksheet for your kids and their friends listing the goggas to be discovered in your garden. Alternatively, there are several local apps to be downloaded, which kids can use to identify their discoveries. Why not get them all to give a fun little presentation about the bugs afterwards!

Handy helpers top tip: To bring in friendly flyers and pest-munching bugs, check out this article: (link to that other article we did about bug/bird-friendly gardens) 

December Gardening, Garden Maintenance, Winter Garden Tasks, Seasonal Gardening, Plant Pruning, Cold Weather Gardening, Soil Preparation, Winter Plant Care, Garden Cleanup, Frost Protection, Indoor Plants, Mulching, Garden Planning, Weather-Resistant Plants, Gardening Tips
December Gardening, Garden Maintenance, Winter Garden Tasks, Seasonal Gardening, Plant Pruning, Cold Weather Gardening, Soil Preparation, Winter Plant Care, Garden Cleanup, Frost Protection, Indoor Plants, Mulching, Garden Planning, Weather-Resistant Plants, Gardening Tips

Happy house plants

Consider playing with poinsettia (Christmas star) and amaryllis (Christmas flower) as part of your festive décor prep.

A passion for poinsettia

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Poinsettias, also known as Mexican Flame Leaf, are traditionally associated with the festive season owing to their bright colours and sweet charm. With a selection of vibrant pink, red, white, cream, purple, yellow, orange, and bi-colours on the market, your holiday collection would be incomplete without one of these sweethearts. Join Life is a Garden as we explore this fiery foliage plant further.  

Did you know? The ancient Aztecs used poinsettias to make red dye, and they turned to poinsettia sap to control fevers.

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Humble beginnings

The legend of the poinsettia dates back to 16th century Mexico and tells of a young girl who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus’ birthday. An angel appeared and inspired her to gather weeds from the roadside and to place them in front of the church’s altar. Crimson ‘blossoms’ sprouted from the weeds and grew to become beautiful poinsettias.

Try this: If you want your poinsettia to grow larger and even more spectacular, plant them out in your garden below a tree or shaded area. Plants can quite easily grow up to 3 metres tall when given enough room and in the correct environment. 

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Flamboyant foliage we love

In South Africa, poinsettias are a common garden plant that flowers during winter. Potted varieties have been specifically grown for the summer season and are available in a variety of intense colours. The plant is synonymous with the upcoming holiday season, making a bold statement that will last for months!

Grow them in full shade or indoors with plenty of good light. Plants must be protected from the hot summer sun if it is to flower. Only water a poinsettia when the soil is dry to the touch. Water until water seeps out the bottom of the drainage holes. Although poinsettias do not like to dry out, they also do not like to sit in water.

How to DIY a rainwater collection system

Your gorgeous rainwater collection barrels will be your best friend this summer and you can garden on happily during dry spells.

When it comes to maintaining a lush and thriving garden, one invaluable resource often falls from the sky, completely free of charge – rainwater. As the scorching days of summer loom ahead, it's high time to equip yourself with the knowledge and tools to create your very own rainwater collection system. In this step-by-step guide, we'll walk you through the process of setting up your DIY rainwater collection system, allowing you to conserve water, lower your bills, and contribute to a greener, more sustainable world.

Step 1: Gathering barrels

Ideally, you would want at least 2 or 3 large 200 to 300l barrels (like those blue ones we often see on the side of the road costing around R 300 a pop). Having multiple barrels means you will have reserved tanks and can store any overflow as well. If purchasing a secondhand barrel, be sure to check that it didn't contain oil, pesticides, or any other type of toxic substance. 

 

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Rainwater Collection, Rainwater Harvesting, Gardening, Water-wise Gardening, Sustainable Gardening, Xeriscaping, Drought-Tolerant Plants, Eco-friendly Landscaping, Water-saving DIY, Sustainable Living, Eco-friendly Home, Water Management, Water Conservation Tips, Community Sustainability, Neighborhood Sustainability

Step 2: Collecting barrel accessories

The following supplies can be purchased at most hardware and home stores. These little accessories will make all the difference in the practicality and convenience of your rainwater set-up. The following items needed are per barrel. 

  • 1 hose spigot tap goodies so you can easily access water from the barrel.
  • 1 PVC pipe couplings and 3 PVC bushings to manage water pressure and secure pipe connections. 
  • 1 hose adapter
  • 4 metal washers per barrel (12 in total if you are working with 3 barrels) 
Rainwater Collection, Rainwater Harvesting, Gardening, Water-wise Gardening, Sustainable Gardening, Xeriscaping, Drought-Tolerant Plants, Eco-friendly Landscaping, Water-saving DIY, Sustainable Living, Eco-friendly Home, Water Management, Water Conservation Tips, Community Sustainability, Neighborhood Sustainability
Rainwater Collection, Rainwater Harvesting, Gardening, Water-wise Gardening, Sustainable Gardening, Xeriscaping, Drought-Tolerant Plants, Eco-friendly Landscaping, Water-saving DIY, Sustainable Living, Eco-friendly Home, Water Management, Water Conservation Tips, Community Sustainability, Neighborhood Sustainability
  • 1 roll of sealing tape
  • 1 tube of silicone caulk
  • 1 s-shaped aluminium downspout elbow to direct water from your downspout to the barrel
  • 1 piece of aluminium window screen to keep leaves, bugs, and other materials out of your water
Rainwater Collection, Rainwater Harvesting, Gardening, Water-wise Gardening, Sustainable Gardening, Xeriscaping, Drought-Tolerant Plants, Eco-friendly Landscaping, Water-saving DIY, Sustainable Living, Eco-friendly Home, Water Management, Water Conservation Tips, Community Sustainability, Neighborhood Sustainability
Rainwater Collection, Rainwater Harvesting, Gardening, Water-wise Gardening, Sustainable Gardening, Xeriscaping, Drought-Tolerant Plants, Eco-friendly Landscaping, Water-saving DIY, Sustainable Living, Eco-friendly Home, Water Management, Water Conservation Tips, Community Sustainability, Neighborhood Sustainability
  • A water leveler 
  • Drill
  • A few bags of gravel - optional 
  • 4-6 concrete blocks
Rainwater Collection, Rainwater Harvesting, Gardening, Water-wise Gardening, Sustainable Gardening, Xeriscaping, Drought-Tolerant Plants, Eco-friendly Landscaping, Water-saving DIY, Sustainable Living, Eco-friendly Home, Water Management, Water Conservation Tips, Community Sustainability, Neighborhood Sustainability
Rainwater Collection, Rainwater Harvesting, Gardening, Water-wise Gardening, Sustainable Gardening, Xeriscaping, Drought-Tolerant Plants, Eco-friendly Landscaping, Water-saving DIY, Sustainable Living, Eco-friendly Home, Water Management, Water Conservation Tips, Community Sustainability, Neighborhood Sustainability

Step 3: Level the barrel platform

Make sure that the area where you want to place the barrel(s) is levelled and has good access to the gutter downspout pipe.

Rainwater Collection

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The word is out – it’s going to be a hot summer gardeners! Rainwater collection is a smart, simple technique to green your home and lessen your environmental footprint, providing significant economic, social, and environmental benefits. Join Life is a Garden’s Water Warrior initiative as we explore ways to utilise every drop of our blue gold. 

 

Where and how can rainwater can be used?

1. Watering lawns, beds, and containers

Use rainwater in watering cans or attach the rainwater storage tank directly to an irrigation system.

2. Wildlife, pets, and livestock

You can use harvested rainwater to fill birdbaths and is typically safe for pets or livestock to drink or bath in as well. 

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3. Composting

Water is essential for proper decomposition of your compost heap. 

4. Rinsing veggies from the garden

A bucket of rainwater beside the veggie patch is a quick way to remove dirt from root veggies and other edibles. 

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Rainwater Collection, Rainwater Harvesting, Gardening, Water-wise Gardening, Sustainable Gardening, Xeriscaping, Drought-Tolerant Plants, Eco-friendly Landscaping, Water-saving DIY, Sustainable Living, Eco-friendly Home, Water Management, Water Conservation Tips, Community Sustainability, Neighborhood Sustainability

5, Outdoor ponds and water features

Fill outdoor ponds, pools, and features with collected rainwater.

6, Drinking and cooking

Installing a filtration system, boiling or distilling the water will make it drinkable. 

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7. Bathing pets 

Connecting a hosepipe to a rainwater barrel or tank outside makes water access easy and eco-friendly. 

8. Laundry

Using eco-friendly washing detergents with clean harvested water is a big buck saver. 

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9. Washing cars and outdoor goodies 

Washing outdoor items is an excellent use for untreated water. Wash cars, garden tools, lawnmowers, the driveway, and garden furniture.  

10. Flushing toilets

Toilets use almost 27% of water in your home. Simply use collected rainwater in a bucket and pour it into the top bowl of the toilet.

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Rainwater Collection, Rainwater Harvesting, Gardening, Water-wise Gardening, Sustainable Gardening, Xeriscaping, Drought-Tolerant Plants, Eco-friendly Landscaping, Water-saving DIY, Sustainable Living, Eco-friendly Home, Water Management, Water Conservation Tips, Community Sustainability, Neighborhood Sustainability

Embracing rainwater collection is not just a trend; it's a lifestyle choice that offers numerous economic, social, and environmental advantages. By joining the Water Warrior initiative, you're not only nurturing your garden but also contributing to a more sustainable and water-wise future.

Zebra Plant We love succulents

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Haworthiopsis attenuata ‘Zebra plant’ is a local hero, indigenous to the Easterm Cape. They are from the same subfamily as aloe and are equally eye-catching in appearance with pointy leaves and zebra-like white stripes. Grown both indoors and out, this succulent is next on your summer adoption list!

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Getting to know your Zebra plant

Grow guide: With a high tolerance for different light conditions, you can grow them pretty much anywhere. Outdoors, they prefer morning sun and need to be acclimatised to full sun areas. Indoors, they can handle low light but need to be moved to bright light locations every few weeks to keep them healthy. 

Claim to fame: Zebra plants are hassle-free, non-toxic, and can tolerate mild frost for short periods. Locals also use this plant to ward off evil and protect homes. Zebras produce aloe, which can be applied to minor cuts and skin irritations. Plants are highly decorative with a lovely ridged texture on the white stripes.

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In the garden: This succulent will liven up any container and rock garden, reaching a sweet height of 15 cm. Pair them with other low-growing plants in well-draining soil (they do not like wet feet). Water once the soil has dried out completely and fertilise once a month during spring and summer. 

 Pest patrol: Plants are generally pest and disease hardy but be aware of the usual suspects such as mealybugs and spider mites. Keep plants healthy and you will be rewarded with a friend for a decade!

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Did you know? This plant is used in a variety of cosmetics – from shampoo to lotions, homeopathy medicine, and beauty products. 

Top tip: Your Zebra plant will produce pups and offsets. Separate new arrivals by removing them from mom and transplanting them into moist, prepared soil. Wait until new growth appears before watering again. 

The ferocious 4 – carnivorous plants to die for! Predator plant month

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Come meet our ferocious four - your next hobby and likely, fantastic new obsession. Part plant and part pet, these fascinating predators with roots are perfect for beginners and will reward you with years of companionship, charm, and wonderment.  

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1. Venus flytrap:

Arguably the most popular predator. The ‘traps’ are two hinged lobes at the end of each leaf with hair-like trichomes that signal the snapping action. Digestive enzymes get to work as the plant absorbs a lovely nutritious soup. 

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2. Trumpet pitcher plant:

This cleaver funnel-like plant hunts using a pit-fall trap. Insects are attracted by a nectar-like secretion on the top of the leaves. The nectar is poisonous, sending intoxicated bodies tumbling down the funnel to be digested.

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3. Sundew:

These sassy plants exude a sticky substance that attracts and then traps insects and other small prey. Their meal is quickly swallowed by a web of tiny tentacles and digested by enzymes within the plant stems and leaves.

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4. Tropical pitcher:

More sack-like in appearance, they too attract insects using sweet intoxicating nectar. Prey slip on the rims of the plant, falling into a pool of poison. Soon, the insects drown inside the sticky acidic liquid, followed by digestion. 

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Top carnivorous plant tips

  • Research your plant’s particular needs and respond to the changing external conditions.
  • Predator plants thrive in nutrient-deficient soil with access to plenty of insects. 
  • When growing in containers, ensure pots have adequate drainage and are made of a material that does not adversely impact the PH and quality of the soil. 
  • Always use the correct potting medium. A blend of sphagnum peat and perlite is their favourite. Ask your GCA Garden Centre assistant for the best products to use.  

 

Read more about predator plants here: botanical boss article

Predator plant month Botanical Boss

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Predator plant month

What’s better than shark week? Predator plant month! Arguably one of the most charismatic collectables, carnivorous plants are a true spectacle in the garden. To help you become a predator botanical boss, Life is a Garden sat down with industry experts for the best advice on how to care for these exotic beauties. Your next exciting hobby and gardening project with the kids awaits!

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FAQ’s with the Carnivore Queen from Jozi Carnivores.

How much sun does my plant need?

In general, carnivorous plants need plenty of sun as they are not good at photosynthesising (tropical pitcher plants, however, need dappled shade). The most common cause of plants not thriving is insufficient or incorrect sunlight.

Can I use any water?

Predator plants require water that is nutrient, mineral, and chlorine free. Rainwater, distilled water, or reverse osmosis water are perfect for your carnivores. Borehole water can also work but this depends on the quality of your particular water source. Mineral water is not suitable because it contains, well, minerals - and our carnivores like it rough.

How do I water my carnivorous plants?

Remember that most varieties are bog plants. You can recreate their natural environment at home by simply standing the plants in a shallow tray and watering from the bottom. The tropical pitcher plant, however, is the exception again as it is found in rainforests and needs to be watered from the top.

*Find out how to make your own bog garden here: Bog in a bucket DIY

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Can I repot my predators in ordinary soil?

Normal garden soil, potting soil, and compost are too rich for carnivorous plants and will kill them quickly. Plants require an acidic, nutrient-deficient potting medium as they get most of their sustenance from the insects they catch and not through their root system via the soil.

Green-ovate your bathroom Bathroom Plants and Garden Checklist

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Green-ovate your bathroom with these moisture-loving, humidity-seeking plants.

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Indoor bathroom beauties

Landscaping indoors is a great way to both extend and create a theme. In addition, the bathroom doubles as a sweet little greenhouse for all your favourite indoor lovelies. Consider the style of the plant to inspire your container shape and colour choice. 

Tropical vibes:

Croton plants (Codiaeum variegatum) come in a large variety of foliage shapes and sizes as well as different colour variations. In general, the more variegated and colourful the croton plant, the more light it will need. They do not like the cold and will likely go through a shock period once brought home or moved. A tad fussy, but so worth it!

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For good feng shui:

Sculptural and intriguing, the lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) is a good choice for beginners. They enjoy filtered sunlight and a drop of liquid fertilizer once a month. You can even grow this plant in a vase of pebbles and water, just be sure to refresh the water every week. In addition, stalks can be trained to grow in special twists and turns. 

Striking and strange:

Guzmania flower bracts will captivate you all year round. As they tend to be top-heavy, place a stone at the bottom of containers. Plants prefer bright light, no direct sun, and an orchid mix soil base that is kept moist. Place them at eye level where you can enjoy their evergreen foliage and most unusual flowers.

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Top tip: Remember to rotate your plants every two weeks for even, straight growth. 

Top tip: Avoid fungal disease and ensure fresh air circulation by always airing out the bathroom after showering/bathing. 

Try this:

Mount the staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum) against a stunning piece of driftwood on a windowsill with indirect sun. As part of the epiphyte family, these Tillandsia (air plants) thrive by absorbing moisture through their leaves. 

Bog in a bucket – your predator plant paradise DIY

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Adopting a carnivorous plant is like having a pet, so if you’re looking to begin teaching kids responsibility – this species is a great way to start. Similarly, if you’re looking for a new hobby or an engaging, long-term gardening project, a bog garden offers years of thrills and companionship. 

Did you know? The two types of trapping methods are grouped as either active or passive. Do some research to find out which style your little predator uses.

What’s a ‘bog’ anyway

In the wild, one would find our predator plants thriving inside water-logged, nutrient-deficient soil and stagnant water. Over many years, this little ecosystem of decaying plant matter and limited water flow created thick layers of mushy muck – the perfect environment for these incredible predators. Carnivorous plants certainly challenge what we know about fertilisers and the importance of ‘good’ fresh water. 

Your bog garden needs to mimic a lekker vrot swamp with 0 added nutrients as all the good stuff plants need comes from the insects they catch. It’s rather easy to create the perfect ‘bad’ environment for these plants when creating a bog in a bucked, which allows you full control over their living conditions AND external factors. When faced with hail, snow, frost, or other extreme weather, you’ll need to move your plant pets to safety. 

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You will need

1. Predator plants that have similar sun requirements and thrive from bottom watering as we’ll be replicating a marsh environment. We recommend homing these Thrilling Three together as they all enjoy full sun (at least 6 hours a day) and love wet feet. 

  • Sundew
  • Venus flytrap
  • Trumpet pitcher (NOT tropical pitcher as this guy needs dappled shade and top watering, so grow it separately)
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  • You will also need a very specific growing medium, which is a mixture of sphagnum peat and perlite, as well as reverse osmosis water or collected rainwater.

Zebra plant We love succulents

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Haworthiopsis attenuata ‘Zebra plant’ is a local hero, indigenous to the Eastern Cape. They are from the same subfamily as aloe and are equally eye-catching in appearance with pointy leaves and zebra-like white stripes. Grown both indoors and out, this succulent is next on your summer adoption list!

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Getting to know your Zebra plant

Grow guide: With a high tolerance for different light conditions, you can grow them pretty much anywhere. Outdoors, they prefer morning sun and need to be acclimatised to full sun areas. Indoors, they can handle low light but need to be moved to bright light locations every few weeks to keep them healthy. 

Claim to fame: Zebra plants are hassle-free, non-toxic, and can tolerate mild frost for short periods. Locals also use this plant to ward off evil and protect homes. Zebras produce aloe, which can be applied to minor cuts and skin irritations. Plants are highly decorative with a lovely ridged texture on the white stripes.

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In the garden: This succulent will liven up any container and rock garden, reaching a sweet height of 15 cm. Pair them with other low-growing plants in well-draining soil (they do not like wet feet). Water once the soil has dried out completely and fertilise once a month during spring and summer. 

Pest patrol: Plants are generally pest and disease hardy but be aware of the usual suspects such as mealybugs and spider mites. Keep plants healthy and you will be rewarded with a friend for a decade! 

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Did you know? This plant is used in a variety of cosmetics – from shampoo to lotions, and homoeopathy medicine and beauty products. 

 Top tip: Your Zebra plant will produce pups and offsets. Separate new arrivals by removing them from mom and transplanting into moist, prepared soil. Wait until new growth appears before watering again.

Eat your heart out healthily Become a Botanical Boss this January

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New Year’s resolutions and gardening go hand in hand, especially considering the amount of healthy food we are able to grow in virtually any space. Whether you’re going for low-calorie, low-carb meals, or high fat intake and intermittent fasting, raw and purely organic or vegan – the harvest is on your side! Fuel your body for less with this mostly summer edible selection and grow guide from Life is a Garden. 

Top tip: If you missed last month’s article, click here for expert advice on how to set up a vertical hydroponic system for all-space produce growing: 

 

Calorie-conscious, nutrient-dense crops to grow

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Your farming responsibility 

As gardeners, we have a direct impact on our environment, which comes as a sweet blessing because this means we CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Sustainable water practices are an essential part of gardening and we cannot ignore how precious and finite this resource is. We saw the huge impact of day 0 in the Western Cape, and the rest of the country is not immune to this possibility either. Here are some simple and effective practices from our industry expert, Charles Oosthuizen from Tuberflora Nursery.

  • “MULCH, MULCH, MULCH - why are South Africans so hesitant about this practice? We see this in so many gardens - barren, hard-baked soil raked neatly clean on a weekly basis. This is not the way forward in terms of sustainable watering practices at all.
  • Drip irrigation is the future as it is cost-effective, low maintenance and saves a lot of water.
  • Water only in the late afternoon or early in the morning.
  • Water very well only once or twice a week instead of a little bit every day.
  • Add water-retaining gel to your pots and containers.
  • The more compost and other organic material in and on top of the soil the more water retention the soil will have.

Delicious Produce Trees & vines for homegrown abundance

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January’s topic: Eat your heart out healthily
Theme: Delicious produce-producing trees and vines 
Industry expert: Charles Oosthuizen
Grower: Tuberflora Nursery based in Muldersdrift, Gauteng: https://www.tuberflora.co.za/  

Life is a Garden met with expert grower, Tuberflora, to find out about the latest edible hybrids and delicious fruit tree varieties available this summer at your GCA Garden Centre. With serious water restrictions experienced across the country recently, are you equally mulch-serious yet? Come get some professional growing advice and choose the perfect produce-producing tree for gardens and patios of all sizes. 

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1. Your website lists such a juicy, crunchy, and zesty variety of produce-producing trees. Please give us your top 5 summer must-have fruit trees that our gardeners can look out for at their GCA Garden Centre this season. 

  • Pomegranates (King of fruits)
  • Figs (Queen of fruits)
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Citrus
fruits, summer, wow, waermelon, blueberries, Kids, fun, tasty, tasty summer, heat, chop, blend, lollies, colour, cool, cold spring, greenery, life is a garden,
fruits, summer, wow, waermelon, blueberries, Kids, fun, tasty, tasty summer, heat, chop, blend, lollies, colour, cool, cold spring, greenery, life is a garden,

2. We love your selection of the more uncommon nut, berry, and fruit tree/plant varieties. For our gardeners looking to grow something special, which trees/plants would you recommend and are there any growing tips to be aware of? 

We are introducing wine grape varieties this year, and although they are small and seeded, they are edible. Grapes are water-wise and thrive in hot, dry weather conditions.

We also sell special heirloom varieties of figs and pomegranates. In fact, Giving Trees grow the biggest selection of figs and pomegranates in the country and their aim is to preserve the huge gene pool of varieties for future generations. Figs and pomegranates are special spiritual plants as they bring good energy to your garden. Figs and pomegranates are tolerant of hot, dry weather conditions as well once they are established. Persimmons are tough, easy to grow and very rewarding.

fruits, summer, wow, waermelon, blueberries, Kids, fun, tasty, tasty summer, heat, chop, blend, lollies, colour, cool, cold spring, greenery, life is a garden,
fruits, summer, wow, waermelon, blueberries, Kids, fun, tasty, tasty summer, heat, chop, blend, lollies, colour, cool, cold spring, greenery, life is a garden,

3. We recently experienced water restrictions across the country. Are there any water-wise growing/watering methods and practices you could recommend that allow consumers to sustainably grow food?

Easy aloes for beds and containers Self-parenting plants

aloe, industry expert, december, greenery, life is a garden, colour, indigenous, hybrid, south africa, self parenting, flowers, plants, red, orange, soil, garden, gardening

If you’re looking for no-fuss plants that will survive without you for a while, aloes are the perfect choice. Life is a Garden sat down with The Aloe Farm to find out which aloes perform the best and what maintenance practices you need to know. Remember to visit your local GCA Garden Centre for all your succulent needs and great advice to help you, help your plants self-parent this holiday.

December’s topic: Self-parenting plants
Theme: Easy aloes for beds and containers  
Industry expert: Andy De Wet 
Garden centre: Aloe Farm based in Hartbeespoort, Gauteng: www.thealoefarm.co.za

1. We would love to hear about your personal plant journey. How did it all start and what about aloes inspired you to make them your main focus at the Aloe Farm?  

I always loved nature and especially animals as a child, but my horticultural inspiration certainly came from my dad who was an avid gardener his whole life. He bought some aloes when I was a botany student in 1972, and I fell in love with them. I began reading aloe books and collecting species. I soon realised that natural hybrids occur in the wild and was curious about what I could create if I hybridised selected parents from different locations. 

I then began making my first (not too exciting) initial combinations in 1973 and over time I saw the commercial possibilities, which is when the real fun started with clear breeding objectives. These goals developed as I gained experience in retail, wholesale and landscaping. 

I believe that if you want a successful business you have to be unique and The Aloe Farm was an obvious opportunity to me as it could become an interesting indigenous destination nursery, built on a unique strength.

aloe, industry expert, december, greenery, life is a garden, colour, indigenous, hybrid, south africa, self parenting, flowers, plants, red, orange, soil, garden, gardening
aloe, industry expert, december, greenery, life is a garden, colour, indigenous, hybrid, south africa, self parenting, flowers, plants, red, orange, soil, garden, gardening

2. Your website is truly an aloe grower’s dream! With so many to choose from, what advice could you offer our beginner gardeners?