June in the garden
The days might be shorter now, and the nights long and cold, but ‘green fingers’ will still be twitching and there is always something to do in the garden. So, dress up warmly and dig right in!
Fix uneven pathways, toss out broken pavers and re-lay weed matting under gravel and pebbles to suppress weeds. Lift and wash white pebbles in focal areas.
Use excess autumn leaves to make leaf mould in black plastic bags, and also toss them in thin layers on the compost heap. If you don’t have one yet, start making your own compost, which should be ready to use in summer.
Plant lilium bulbs in bold patches as soon as you have purchased them.
Hot tip: Hammer in some bamboo plant stakes next to the planting hole of each bulb to be able to stake them as they grow. This will prevent them from falling over during the early spring winds.
As most deciduous fruit trees have lost their leaves, now is a good time to spray mineral oils to kill scale insects, mites and aphids – enquire at your local nursery for these products. Stake beans, sweet peas and broad beans.
As large shrubs and trees mature, they might start shading your roses too much. Their roots can also start robbing rose bushes of nutrients and water. June is the best month to move threatened roses to a new, prepared bed with more sun. Prune the plants by about a third. Next use a spade to dig out a circle around the rose bush straight down into the soil, severing its roots. Get help from a mate with another spade to lift the rose gently from the hole and replant it immediately in its new position, taking care that its graft mark is just below soil level. Firm the soil around it, and create a little soil basin around it, which should be filled with water in order for it to reach the roots.
Conifers are magnificent in winter. The slender and dark green Cupressus sempervirens ‘Stricta’, which cynical people always refer to as graveyard trees, can grow 20m high. You can stop them from reaching heaven by cutting across their growth points at a more reasonable, human-friendly height. If you continuously ‘shave’ their side branches with sharp scissors you will turn them into fashionable green garden pillars.
Another reminder: Protect your conifers against destructive Italian cypress aphids with a systemic insecticide. These aphids are active from May to September, sucking the sap from the leaves, leading to brown patches and subsequent death.
Plant up an aloe and succulent bed or rockery. Aloes provide the best winter colour and you will be amazed at how much wildlife they attract. They are extremely water wise and require little or no maintenance. Most succulents are more colour-rich in winter and lots of them flower too.
Check for white fly on salvias, mint, beans and fuchsias, and when spraying make sure you spray the underside of the leaves. Keep an eye out for rust on day lilies and hydrangeas, and spray with a good systemic fungicide.
Hot tip: If you want to feed something out there, feed the birds. This is so important, as natural food sources are scarce at this time of year.
In the veggie garden sow more sugar snaps, peas and radishes.
Add an array of colour by planting seedlings like pansies, violas, primulas, primroses, calendulas, stocks, sweet peas, gazanias, bokbaai vygies, poppies, bellis perennis, snapdragons and alyssum.
Sharp combo: Every garden needs a striking patch of yellow! Plant Melaleuca ‘Revolution Gold’ as a backdrop with little Calamondin orange trees and Duranta ‘Sheena’s Gold’ in front which can be pruned into a dense low hedge. This gold and green combination is sure to make a bold statement.
Make sure you have a bird-feeding station. We recommend always adding some suet, which is high in protein and will help to fatten the birds and protect them from the cold.
Keep clivias fairly dry now as this will initiate flower spikes.
Fertilise citrus trees this month. Additional foliar feeding with a water-soluble fertiliser for young lemon trees and those growing in pots is beneficial. Correct yellowing leaves with a microelement mixture. Fertilise papaws and keep mango trees dry until the end of July to encourage good flowering.
Picking sweet pea flowers regularly will make the plants produce more. Plant a creeper with bright yellow flowers over a trellis next to your patio. Gelsemium sempervirens (Carolina jasmine), which flowers in winter, is ideal.
Focal plants like flax (Phormium) and cordylines are eye-catching in a winter landscape. Neaten them up by removing the old flower stalks and leaves from the flax and park your ladder against the cordyline to pull off that petticoat of old leaves below the fresh ones and stringy seed stems.
Hunt down and plant blossom trees like flowering peaches, plums, cherries and crab apples. The bees love their spring blossoms.
In the veggie garden, plant vines, berries and deciduous fruit trees. Prune all the existing deciduous fruit trees.
Do not prune back spring-flowering shrubs like weigelias or Cape may (Spiraea) in winter as this removes all of spring’s flower buds.
Beg a branch or two of your neighbour’s lovely frangipani now that the leaves have fallen off, let it dry out and callous over for a week, then root it in sharp river sand in a nursery bag or in a trench somewhere in the garden.
Palms will look much nicer if you remove their old leaves, where possible. You can use the large old leaves of Washingtonia and queen palms to cover the roof of a rustic summerhouse that you want to build from those old poles lying in the backyard. These tough leaves take years to disintegrate!
Remove any green growth from variegated plants like coprosmas or the plants can revert to just being green again.
Tangy leaves – rocket (Eruca sativa) is tops for sowing and growing in winter and the seeds germinate quickly if sown in a sunny spot. You will soon have lots of peppery leaves to use in healthy salads. Cooler weather prevents them from bolting and setting seed as fast as they would in summer.
Divide overgrown perennial clumps after first watering them well. The best candidates for division to enlarge your existing stock and for replanting elsewhere in the garden are: Shasta daisies, asters, rudbeckias, perennial phloxes, Helleniums and Achilleas. After digging up the clumps, discard the old centre growth, break up the younger side-shoots up into small clumps and replant into well-composted soil.
Hot tip: When planting out annual seedlings from punnets like pansies or violas, and odds and ends after division, you are sometimes left with plantlets that wouldn’t fit into the intended space. Don’t discard it, simply plant them together in a pot for a mixed and colourful focal feature on a patio.
Broad beans, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, peas and spinach must be fed regularly throughout their growing season.
Ensure that ties and stakes supporting young trees and standard roses are secure. Also pack away or tie down your garden furniture – the northwesterly wind can easily lift and toss it into the neighbour’s yard! Remove all sick, weak or dead branches from large trees that can cause damage to your house, car, or the neighbour’s property.
Stop flooding by clearing drains and gutters of old plant material that might clog them up.
Start winter pruning: Prune vines, plum and apricot trees at the end of June and spray with lime sulphur. Don’t use last year’s supply as it will have lost its potency. Buy fresh stock and use only on plants that have become completely dormant.
Water the garden frequently, especially the bulbs that have already broken ground. Also don’t forget about plants growing under the eaves of the roof (we all do!).
Plan and then build a new rock garden. There is an amazing range of succulents and cacti that love the warm summers, cold winters and lack of water in this region, and lots of them flower in winter. If you hate rock gardens, try a strong floor pattern like a spiral design with a combination of stones and tough succulents.
Think of vygies – they grow all over the wilds and turn spring into real veld magic. But by the time they are flowering they are hard to find in nurseries as everybody wants them. So, jump the gun and buy all kinds of vygies (even if they are not in flower yet!) to plant in those often neglected and dry areas of the garden, like a pavement.
Don’t be tempted to trim plants that have been burnt by the first frost, even if they beg for it. The damaged parts act as protection.
Pruning can encourage new growth if the weather suddenly turns mild, which will be slapped doubly hard if it turns icy again.