March in the Garden
According to the calendar it should be early autumn, but in South Africa, Mother Nature’s sun is still hot and sitting high in the sky with yet no great hurry to set at the end of the day. Enjoy this special month by running around with your wheelbarrow filled with dark compost to nurture the soil. Plant like there is no tomorrow, feed everything that has given you pleasure to do it again, and go shopping for winter- and spring-flowering bulbs.
Plant new roses! There are many disease resistant stalwarts like ‘Queen Elizabeth’, but also newer varieties such as ‘Eyes for You’. Feed existing roses to prepare them for a stunning autumn flower flush, water well, and keep on spraying for fungal diseases which are prevalent at the coast during humid times.
Seasonal colour to plant are Cassia fistula (Golden shower tree) and Tibouchina spp. (Glory bush), but it is not too early to start thinking of aloes – big and small – for winter colour in beds and pots.
In the veggie garden you can keep on sowing seeds of short lived herbs such as coriander, rocket and dill. Also plant basil, parsley, borage, chives, garlic chives.
Sow seeds of spinach, globe artichokes, beans, beetroots, radish, carrot, gooseberries and turnips.
Remember to: Do companion planting with wild garlic, yarrow and comfrey.
Time to lift and divide agapanthus, wild iris (Dietes), penstemon, campanula and asters. Cut them back, lift them out, split up and re-plant into freshly composted soil.
Sow Namaqualand daisies, sweet peas, poppies, primula, foxgloves, hollyhock, larkspur – don’t be scared to sow the flowers that you love, it is easy and success is guaranteed if you just follow the instructions on the seed packet closely.
Sow seeds for new lawn grass, especially in colder areas where Shade Over and All Seasons Evergreen grow well.
In the veggie garden sow fast-growing greens like lettuce and spinach, and also start preparing to plant winter crops like cabbage, cauliflower, parsnips and broad beans.
Hot tip: Before it gets cold and the job becomes uncomfortable, clean out your water features. Check that your pump is clean and in good condition. You do not want to do this in mid-winter!
The main call to action is to fertilise; use 3:1:5 SR all over your garden and then put your plants (especially the fruit trees) to bed with a generous layer of compost or old kraal manure. Feeding will strengthen the plant’s cells before winter and adding bulk loads of organic mulches will protect them and give them a jumpstart in spring again.
It is a perfect time to plant new trees and backbone shrubs, but also time to prepare for a magnificent spring garden by planting swathes of bulbs like freesias, anemones, ranunculi, hyacinths, muscari and daffodils as soon as soil temperatures have cooled down. After bulb planting, follow up with winter- and spring-flowering annuals like lobularia (alyssum), pansies, violas, Iceland poppies and primulas – this wintry province is ideally suited to these cold-loving plants, so go for it!
Hot tip: Spray or sprinkle insect granules around your conifers against the dreaded Italian cypress aphid which becomes active in cool weather.
Winter veggies to plant now are cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, spinach and definitely onions!
Tick over in March by trying to get the most out of summer’s annuals and perennials by dead heading them regularly. There will still be a number of snails about, so keep your bait traps full at night.
Winter bulbs will be available and can be planted into the open ground or pots and containers as soon as the weather cools down. Remember to dust the bulbs with insecticide powder to keep the worms at bay
Keep the garden well watered in the heat and fertilise with a general fertiliser.
Winter veggies to sow now are: Peas, lettuce, cauliflower, cabbage and radishes, it is best to sow the peas directly into the ground, but sow the other veggies in trays first. Use a quality, commercial seedling mix when sowing.
Start off by preparing the soil for planting winter and spring annuals and bulbs as soon as temperatures cool down. Dig in compost and superphosphate or bone meal at the recommended application rates. While doing this, also tidy up the dead leaves on hellebores and mulch with layer of leaf mould. This ensures a good winter display. Divide strelitzias if necessary and move other evergreens and conifers planted in the wrong place. Feed palms with a general fertilizer and water well. Start lifting and dividing overgrown perennials like daylilies, dietes and liriopes.
Hot tip: It might still be too hot to plant Spring flowering bulbs. Store in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator and plant out when the weather cools down in 4 to 6 weeks.
Spend lots of energy in the veggie garden: Plant seeds of peas, broad beans, carrots, parsnips, turnips and radish. Harvest the last of summer’s crops like pumpkins and squashes. Plant out seedlings of cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, spinach. Stagger plantings at 3 to 4 week intervals. Sow more parsley, mustard and rocket. While grafting there, fertilize bananas, mangoes and pawpaw’s and cut down asparagus foliage. Early citrus crops will start ripening now. Check citrus trees for red scale on leaves and stems.
Hot tip: Waste not want not, so harvest crops like basil and coriander and process into pesto for the winter season.
Add the following jewels in colour pots or bags to your garden now: Cosmos, Echinacea purpurea, Amaryllis belladonna (March lily), Black-eyed Susan, Pride of the Cape and all the Plectranthus spp. and varieties. For magnificent autumn colour in future years, plant Quercus palustris (Pin oak) as a specimen tree. It grows very well here.
This is definitely indigenous bulb country, so buy all those lovely veld beauties like ixia, babiana, freesia, tritonia and chincherinchees which naturalises so easy in the garden. Wait till it is much cooler and the first winter rains have fallen, before planting them.
Plant of the month: Leonotis leonurus (wild dagga) is a fast and easy growing shrub that flowers profusely and attracts wildlife to the garden, such as birds, bees and butterflies. The flowers are tubular and bright orange in colour; however there are white and salmon coloured ones available too.
In the veggie garden sow: Beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, kale, leek, lettuce, onion, peas, radish, Swiss chard and turnip.