March in the garden
Early autumn is like an alternative spring and March is actually the best month to plant new trees and shrubs. It’s logical – whatever you plant in this temperate month, will have the whole autumn and winter to establish before bursting into new growth in spring, which removes the possibility of the plants having to deal with replanting shock. So, get to it – get in the garden!
- Social garlic – The hardy and easy-to-grow social or wild garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) has always been a popular indigenous perennial. Grown for its bountiful mauve flower clusters on tall stems, its greyish-green strap-like leaves emit a garlicky odor. Flowers, leaves and stems are edible and can be used for their flavour, as well as garnish. Wild garlic has traditionally been used as a medicinal plant, and is also planted to deter snakes and aphids. It is a water wise plant to include in the herb garden, or to be used in mass as border plants.
New exciting varieties include:
‘Himba’ – purple-violet flowers with a prominent yellow-orange crown, medium green foliage and vigorous, upright-mounding growth habit.
‘Ashanti’ – tight, full flower clusters of bright lavender-pink flowers that have a slightly darker crown and tube in the centre of each flower.
- Crape myrtle ‘Black Diamond’ – ‘Black Diamond’ is a new variety of the old favourite Pride of India (Lagerstroemia indica) which has survived many dry summers all over the world! This revolutionary new series, which has stunning near-black foliage, crowned with masses of vibrant blooms, is no exception. It is low-maintenance and drought tolerant, and simply beautiful! Available in a wide range of colours, including Black Diamond ‘Purely Purple’, ‘Mystic Magenta’, ‘Lavender Lace’, ‘Best Red’ and ‘Pure White’.
- Dreamy hibiscus – a superior selection of upright, mounding and free-flowering hibiscus marketed under the brand name HibisQs, is just waiting to be planted. The foliage is dark green and glossy, and the flowers vary from yellow (Boreas yellow), two-tone pink and white (Adonicus), two-tone orange and yellow (Apollo), bright orange (Arionicus) and apricot (Adonicus Apricot). Most of the flowers have dark coloured throats. This is a series of late summer-flowering shrubs to plant in sunny and light shade in containers on a patio or balcony, or in the garden. Medium to low water usage in the garden, but will need a little more in pots.
National Plant a Flower Day 2019
Folks in the Northern hemisphere plant a flower on this day (12 March) in the hope that their spring will arrive soon. South Africans enjoying a balmy, early autumn and sun for months to come, will go all out with the Salvia Heatwave series – compact salvias guaranteed to add heart-warming colour in hot, and dry climates. You will enjoy lots of flowers for minimal water, minimal feeding, and minimal pruning!
Rose care for March
Build healthy leaves by fertilising with a rose fertiliser this month. With lots of leaves present, the process of photosynthesis remains in full swing, strengthening the plants’ stems for fast spring sprouting, but also to enable it to flower magnificently on new stems, well into winter.
Remember: Early autumn is a perfect time to plant new roses. You will find them in glorious flower at any GCA Garden Centre, so jump to it!
March is a bit early for the traditional winter annuals, but a perfect time to plant the hardy and adaptable Verbenas, Lobelias, Alyssums, Dianthus and Petunias. They will enjoy the last heat of summer, as well as cooler weather when autumn really arrives.
It’s time to start treating conifers against the Italian cypress aphid. Use a systemic insecticide as a spray or soil drench. Continue Treating every two weeks until the end of August
Put your pooch onto a healthy herb diet
There is a reason why dogs sometimes eat grass. It alleviates some digestive discomfort. Animals like dogs have an instinctive herbal knowledge, but probably don’t know the difference between kikuyu or other grass types, and safe dog grass (Agrospyron canina). At the herbs stand in your local GCA Garden Centre, you will find dog (and cat) grass. Plant up a patch of it for your dog to munch on.
The following well-known herbs can be used regularly and in small doses over your pet’s food:
- For digestive support use rosemary, thyme, fennel, mint and coriander.
- For worms and parasites use yarrow, thyme and oregano – add to food weekly.
- For arthritis and inflammation use feverfew, comfrey leaves, Asiatic pennywort (gotu kola), celery, parsley and yarrow.
- For a tonic use parsley, comfrey leaves, pennywort, borage and yarrow.
- For skin care (internal or topical) use calendula, thyme, chamomile and lavender.
- For flea protection stuff a pillow with pennyroyal, rosemary, tansy and pyrethrum and place it in the doggy bed or kennel. You can also make an infused spray with these herbs.
- Internal use
Use small amounts of chopped herbs as a sprinkle over food or brew a tea by adding between 1t and 1T to a cup of boiled water. Cool down and pour over food.
- External use
Brew a tea of the suggested herbs for skin ailments, cool down, and fill a spray bottle with it. Spray the affected area regularly until symptoms improve.
Wild dagga (Leonotis leonurus) is a very hardy, drought and frost resistant, evergreen perennial shrub. This well-loved, decorative shrub produces abundant clusters of tubular orange or white velvety flowers, repeated in circles up the length of every long stalk from February to July. It is an important food and nectar plant for sunbirds, bees and butterflies during autumn and winter. Plant it in sun or semi-shade and cut back severely after flowering for best results and mass flowering the next season.
(Gauteng, Free State, Northern Cape, North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo)
- Sow sweet peas, Iceland poppies, Primula, Foxgloves, hollyhock and larkspur. Follow the instructions on the seed packets closely.
- Dig and prepare planting holes for new deciduous fruit trees – fresh stock will be available in nurseries soon.
- Good perennials for winter and spring colour for planting in light shade, are helleborus and Japanese anemones. Both are romantic plants which enjoy a cool root run. Water them regularly.
- If you notice that water is simply running off the surface of the soil, leaving the soil beneath bone dry, you need to add more compost. Do not dig it in, simply layer it on top.
- Feed all shrubs and the lawn with a potassium-rich fertiliser, to strengthen the cells and stems before winter comes.
- Start sow California poppies, Cornflowers, Godetias, Bokbaaivygies and Namaqualand daisies in situ.
- Start lifting and dividing overgrown perennials like daylilies, Dietes and Liriope.
- Cut back spent Heliconia and Cannas, and cover root areas with a mulch of compost, or well-rotted kraal manure.
- Be kind to Camellias and Azaleas, with ample and deep watering in dry spells or they will drop their buds.
- Sow lettuces, Asian greens, radishes, Swiss chard, peas, all the cabbage types, carrots and beetroot. If you do not have a veggie patch, you can grow most of the above squeezed in anywhere, or in containers.
- Waste not want not, so harvest crops like basil and coriander, and process into pesto for the winter season.
- Feed fruit trees which have just finished fruiting. Mulch and water well afterwards. Do not allow citrus to dry out, they need moisture while the fruit is swelling out. If the crop looks too heavy and their branches start bending, thin some fruit out.
- As soon as the first winter rains have fallen in the Western Cape, gardeners can start planting restios, ericas, proteas, pincushions and buchu into the warm, moist soil.