September in the Garden

September in your garden

As Margaret Atwood so finely put, “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt”, we couldn’t agree more! The birds are chirping, the days are getting longer (and warmer!) and it’s the perfect time to do a happy dance and get into the garden. Get up and garden!

Trending – Gym in nature!

Giving yourself a good workout in the privacy of your own backyard is much nicer and cheaper than taking out a gym contract, and you don’t have to force your ‘love handles’ into unbecoming lycra!

While you are getting fitter and trimmer with pruning, weeding, composting, raking, digging, planting and mowing, your garden will reward your spent time and perspiration with lush growth and great harvests of flowers and edibles. Another advantage is that spending time outside in the sunshine and fresh air, has a positive influence on your psychological health as well – it relieves stress and depression too.

Smart planting in September

Cape thatching reed (Elegia tectorum): This graceful restio specie is found from Clanwilliam in the Western Cape to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape and naturally grows in moist, sandy dongas. The plant is, however, quite hardy against frost and dry conditions and will grow virtually anywhere. It is a fast grower with a rounded, tufted growth habit and can reach a mature size of about 1,5 m high, with a spread of 1,5m – 3m. The reed-like stems are dark green and smooth with dark brown bracts. Slender, compact flower spikes with brown bracts appear in autumn.   

Hebe ‘Sunset Boulevard’ flowers heavily with bright purple and pink, from spring far into the summer. This plant and all the many other veronica (Hebe) varieties, are irresistible to butterflies. It grows into a beautiful bright green sphere of about 80cm high and wide. ‘Sunset Boulevard’ grows in full sun in moist, but well drained soil. It is a perfect container plant on patios or balconies and great for small urban gardens.  

Vygies (Lampranthus) – amongst the many species with upright or trailing growth habits, there is a wide colour range which includes white, cream, pink, salmon, red, yellow, mauve and purple. Smother your dry zones or rock garden with vygies – few other plants can beat their spring splendour and   economical water usage!

The confetti bush (Coleonema) displays beautifully the rich flora that South Africa offers the gardening world. This evergreen, indigenous shrub has feathery sweet aromatic foliage. A profusion of small flowers covers the various species during late winter, spring and early summer months. Once spent, the flowers scatter on the ground as would confetti at a wedding, hence the name confetti bush. Confetti bushes enjoy full sun with well-drained soil. Once planted, keep plants moist, until well established. After that, they will survive long periods of drought. These very hardy plants are perfect for coastal gardens and are able to withstand strong wind too. Bees, butterflies, insects and birds are attracted to the flowers.

Bedding Besties

Add bright colour to the hottest and sunniest spots in your garden with bedding Verbenas available in a wide colour range from soft pink, hot pink, purple to reds. These bushy little guys grow about 25cm high and wide. They love sandy, well-drained soil and regular water.

Also look out for columbines (Aquilegia). They are charming long-stemmed cottage-style spring flowers on tall stems, above lacy green leaves.

Lawn questions:

Q: Is spring a good time to lay a new instant lawn? And, to save on cost of the sods can it be laid in a checkerboard pattern?

A: Instant lawn can be laid in any season, but spring is the best time in colder regions. To lay the sods in a block pattern can save money, but if not done with care, will result in a very uneven lawn which will be expensive to fix. After laying the sods and tamping them down with a spade or wooden block, you need to fill the open spaces between them with a mix of fine compost and river sand, to the same level as the sods.

Q: Can one use ordinary garden soil as filling or for top dressing after spring scarifying an existing lawn?

A: Never use garden soil or so-called ‘topsoil’ as it can cause bad drainage or could be infested with dormant weed seed. Rather invest in commercial lawn dressing which will be in stock at GCA garden centres.  

Trees for life!

National Arbour Week is from 1 – 7 September which gives you seven official days to plant trees. One of the trees to plant in 2018 is the real yellowwood (Podocarpus latifolius) which is also our National Tree. As this stately evergreen heritage tree with its neat growth habit and glossy green leaves becomes a very large tree, we suggest that you plant one in a roomy pot to use as a Christmas tree at the end of the year. We also recommend the following fruit trees for planting:       

Pomegranate ‘Wonderful’ (Punica granatum) is a leading cultivar with a resistance to adverse conditions and a high yield potential of huge blush red fruits. It is a small deciduous tree (2,5m high) for climates with cool winters and hot summers.

Olive varieties – these hardy, but beautiful trees with their dull green leaves with the silver reverse, can tolerate very cold (and hot) temperatures and wind. Good varieties are ‘Manzanilla’ and ‘Mission’. Olive trees are not only functional but grow into really pretty shade trees that blend well within any planting scheme or garden design.

Rose care for September

Fine tune roses for a spectacular flower flush next month. Pinch-prune about a third of the shoots, start increasing watering to at least twice a week. Fertilise again at the end of the month and spray fortnightly against pests and disease.

Pest patrol

Our gogga of the month is the aphid. Symptoms of an aphid infestation include the appearance of colonies of aphids on young plant stems, leaves and buds, as well as honeydew on leaves and fruit, with black sooty mould, or yellowing leaves. Plant growth is stunted, leaves eventually die off due to sooty mould fungus, bud growth is prohibited, and the plant eventually dies. Eradicate biting and sucking insects like aphids, by spraying with a contact insecticide every two weeks or use a seasonal soil drench with a systemic insecticide.

Patio and balcony living

Balconies and patios allow one to garden really intensely in small spaces.

  • Fill up roomy pots with bright, spring-flowering Azaleas and Barberton daisies.  
  • Hang up hanging baskets with new petunia varieties in gaudy shades like Petunia Amore ‘Queen of Hearts’ and Petunia ‘Baby Doll’ and ‘Night Sky’ – all new kids on the block!
  • Vertical gardening on a patio is a lot of fun. Recycle old wooden pallets and fill them with succulents, herbs, or colourful annuals.
  • Paint one wall with the brightest shade you can handle and also some old clay pots with the same colour. Ask your handyman to make a few iron rings big enough to hold the painted pots, fix them to the wall, and fill them with pretty annuals in flower or a collection of succulents.  

Balcony DIY: Double-storey strawberries

Buy two plastic or clay pots of different sizes. Fill the bottom, larger pot with good quality potting soil and a small handful of bone meal. Place the smaller pot, also filled with soil mix, inside the bigger pot on top of the soil and plant rooted strawberry runners in both. If you buy quality, fairly mature plants from your local GCA nursery now, you will see that you can easily divide them into rooted runners to plant. This project will stretch your strawberry season deep into summer.    

Inland gardening
(Gauteng, Free State, Northern Cape, North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo)

  • Visit a GCA garden centre renowned for quality plants and frequent deliveries of fresh stock. Recommended and easy to grow summer herbs to plant now include thyme, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, basil, rocket, parsley and mint.
  • Start planting begonias and impatiens in shade and Sunpatiens in sun.
  • Start spraying fruit trees against fruit fly and codling moth once about 75% of the blossoms have dropped off. Spray every 10-14 days.
  • The blooming power of some tall-growing perennials, which are dormant in winter, can be increased by pinching out the main stems in spring when they start emerging again and are about 20cm high.
  • Berries of all kinds are good for your health and different varieties are readily available. To ensure a good crop, prepare beds by working soil over with a fork and adding in compost and a balanced fertiliser for fruit and flowers prior to planting.
  • You are not done with bulb-planting, as the summer-flowering bulbs are now on sale. Start planting coloured Zantedeschia hybrids and dahlias.   
  • Weed regularly before it gets out of hand. Treat weeds on paving, pathways and in gravelled areas with a non selective herbicide. If you’re not sure what a “non selective” herbicide is, visit a GCA garden centre – these guys know!
  • Top tips for using chemicals:
    • Never spray on a windy day for fear of drift
    • Always spray in early in the morning or late afternoon – never in the heat of the day

Coastal gardening
(Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal)

  • Prune hibiscus and poinsettia and other winter-flowering shrubs.
  • Plant gerberas and gladioli bulbs.
  • Create a pretty spring border with the following indigenous flowering plants; gazanias, Arctotis, blue felicias, Scabiosas and Cape Daisies (Osteospermums).  
  • Refresh, top-up or replace pebbles and gravel around the garden – especially between paving stones where dust and mud have accumulated.
  • Check for algae and moss on paving. Scrub down with a solution of copper sulphate or use a moss killer.
  • If you have decided to plant a fig tree (Ficus carica) this spring you are totally in. All the well-known hybrids like ‘Adam’, ‘Black Velvet’, ‘Cape Brown’ or ‘White Genoa’ are easy to grow.
  • Your top flower priority is to fill sun-drenched spaces with indigenous gazanias which are in flower and available in seedling trays all over now. New hybrids of these spectacular plants appear every year, sporting huge flowers in stunning colour ranges.
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