September in the Garden
Make it a spring resolution to bring back easy-to-grow garden flowers like cornflowers, godetia (satin flower), cleome (spider flowers), sunflowers, love-in-a-mist and zinnias to your garden. Get down and dirty with direct sowing to create a meadow or bed filled with the controlled chaos of flowers to wander through and enjoy. All you have to do is prepare the soil well with compost and bone meal and to follow the instructions on the back of seed packets for each type of seed. The soil should never dry out after sowing. If necessary, give a light sprinkling of water twice a day. As soon as germination is completed and the first true leaves show, you can give less water.
Your advantage: Growing plants from seeds is the cheapest way to garden and the seed packets are available anywhere and everywhere – even at the corner café in small towns.
No need to replace frost-damaged bedding begonias with new plants. Simply cut them back to remove the damaged parts and dose back to health with a soluble fertiliser.
Feed and start watering the lawn regularly and fix bare patches in the lawn with a top-dressing of fine compost or commercial lawn dressing.
Plant charming perennials in your spring garden like columbines, gauras, carpet geraniums, bearded iris, giant statice and sweet violets.
Hot tip: The flower power of some tall-growing perennials which are dormant in winter can be increased by pinching out the main stems in spring when they have emerged again and are about 20cm high.
Clivias are in flower! Visit your local nursery or clivia shows to buy more plants to brighten up your shade garden. Do not be tempted to divide existing plants too often as the clumps prefer to be left undisturbed for years.
Start spraying fruit trees against fruit fly and codling moth once about 75% of the blossoms have dropped off. Spray every 10 – 14 days.
Try growing asparagus – seedlings are available in punnets nowadays. The wait for the crowns which will form in about 12 months from sowing the seed, to spear production is 3 years, but well worth the simple care like richly composted soil, water and fertiliser in summer which the plants need.
Plant all the water wise Mediterranean plants like rosemary, thyme, Pelargonium peltatum, olive trees, Agave geminiflora, Salvia leucantha and lavenders in anticipation of summer. All love dry and hot conditions and you will love their good looks when other heat-tender plants look tired and wilted.
Divide and re-plant Zantedeschia aethiopica (white arum lily) into boggy areas of the garden – you can never have too many of these veld beauties that also loves to grow on the southern side of the house.
Plug in some “local is lekker” with the many indigenous perennials and ground covers that flower profusely in gentle weather. Most of these old favorites, have been hybridized intensely to enlarge the range of Arctotus (African daisy), Diascia (twin spur), Gazania (treasure flower) and Osteospermum (Cape daisy).
Plant a row of young Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Gold Crest’. Stake their main stems well and straight and keep on removing all the side growth from the bottom two thirds of the plant. As soon as a height of about 1,2m is reached, you can start shaping the top growth into balls. You will soon have your own golden-yellow lollypops. Spray all conifers for the last time against Italian cypress aphids. Use a systemic insecticide.
Hot tip: Plant a Wisteria to climb over your pergola. They love cold climates with winter frosts, blooms in spring and will supply cool shade in summer.
Refresh, top-up or replace pebbles and gravel around the garden. Especially between paving stones where dust and mud accumulate to spoil the effect.
By the end of this month you can prune away the frost-damaged parts of affected plants to tidy them up and encourage new growth. Give them all a feed with a slow releasing fertilizer, mulch well with a fresh layer of compost and water deeply.
All the summer flowering seedlings are ready for planting from now on into the New Year. Bedding begonias, dahlias, salvias, marigolds, New Guinea impatiens, torenias and browallias are just some of the plants coming into season.
Hot tip: Combat fungal disease so prevalent here, by watering the garden early in the morning.
With rapid growth now, hedges, topiaries and standards will loose their shape. Do not allow this, rather clip regularly and lightly then one drastic hack now and again. The best way to keep the shape of flowering standards is to regularly pinch out the growing tips of stems and wait until after each flower flush to give it a good clipping.
In the veggie garden it is time to plant seed potatoes. Plant out seedlings of tomatoes, chillies, peppers, egg plants as well as lettuces, cabbages, beetroot, spinach and chard. Sow seed of all the pumpkin family, dwarf beans, runner beans, maize and sweetcorn.
Feed roses every 4 weeks, spray weekly with a fungicide. Compost and mulch rose beds and under plant roses with annuals, such as lobularia (alyssum) which don’t compete with the rose roots. Aphid problems can be solved with eco oils, strong jets of water or in severe cases, use a systemic root drench to avoid spraying.
Annuals to plant now include petunias, dianthus, begonias and portulaca.
Azaleas and camellias must be exhausted from blooming through winter and spring, feed every four weeks with an acid plant food and mulch with bark chips.
Good garden practice: Plant insect and bird attracting plants, so that they don’t depend on been fed with nectar and seed feeders. Keep up with weeding from early in the season as one year’s seeds can become seven year’s weeds. Mulching will help suppress weed growth.
Plant fruiting crops in your vegetable patch such as, tomatoes, egg fruit and peppers and tropical fruits like bananas and paw paws.
Take cuttings of favorite foliage plants like acalypha and crotons. Also clean out stale water from the urns of bromeliads and remove some of the suckers to plant elsewhere to start a new patch of these beauties growing.
In the veggie garden plant out young plants of all the different basil types. Sow sweet basil and coriander seed regularly. Prune back any aggressive herbs and fertilise the entire herb garden. Plant young citrus and sub-tropical fruit trees like avocados, mangoes and litchis. Stake them after planting and protect from sunburn with temporary shade structure over the young tree.
Make softwood cuttings of herbaceous shrubs like lavender, daisy bushes, fuchsia, pelargoniums and summer herbs.
Plant some of the colorful arum lilies now in pots to brighten up your patio. There are lots of summer-flowering bulbs like amaryllis, eucomis, galtonia, gladioli, zephyranthus, liliums and dahlias that can be planted too.
Lessen you veggie garden graft: Plant your strawberries in hanging baskets. There is no need to ridge up beds or worry about the fruit rotting. They will just cascade over the edge – fabulous for picking and the flowers are a feature as well. Make sure you fill the basket with a rich, well draining potting soil and hang it in a sunny spot.
Sow 50cm wide rows of spinach, leaving the rows between them for other vegetables. The spinach seedlings acts as a nurse crop, shading and protecting the interplanted seedlings. The spinach can be harvested to eat or just hoed off and left on the soil surface to provide a mulch. If dug in later, it becomes green manure.