The clivia is king of spring and it is definitely the plant of the month. Gardeners all over will probably agree! It is easy to grow, great for shade, uses water sparingly, and if protected from the worst winter cold, will warm the cockles of one’s heart with its glowing flowers, later turning into very ornamental seeds in a warm, rusty-red shade – the one indigenous plant that reassures us that there is something like gardening ubuntu out there!
Take time out from a busy planting month in September, to visit a clivia show in your area to meet up with real ‘clivia fanatics’ (they might scare you silly with their passion as they are old plant ‘smoochers’!) and to appreciate the many, lovely hybrids that they have bred from the species and other hybrids of these fantastic indigenous plants.
Prune winter-flowering shrubs and perennials to neaten them. As it is the start of the windy season, ensure that all young trees and standard plants are securely tied down to their stakes.
Add colour with salvias, Begonia ‘Dragon Wings’, verbenas and penstemons. Warm season bulbs like tuberous begonias, dahlias and amaryllis can also go to ground. For summer bedding colour, include masses of petunias, dianthus and gazanias.
Hot tip: Summer recipes for lovely hanging baskets to plant up now include; trailing pelargoniums in the brightest of colours, or mix the grey foliage of Helichrysum petiolare ‘Limelight’ (everlasting) with cool, snow-white cascading petunias.
In the veggie garden, plant mature strawberry plants in rich, well composted soil. Sow seeds of tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, beans, beetroot, eggplants, carrots, peppers, cucumbers and mealies.
Remove weeds before they go to flower and seed. You can apply a selective herbicide to your lawn, but feed it first, so that the herbicide is more effective.
Time to select late-winter and spring-flowering shrubs for cold climate gardens – camellias and azaleas are just two examples that are in flower and available now.
Trees to plant are olives or almonds. Both are ornamental in their individual ways, easy to grow, and will give you their fruits to enjoy.
Hot tip: Primula malacoides (fairy primulas) are excellent self-seeders, so when they have finished flowering, simply dig them into the ground or pull them out and leave them above ground in the shade of large shrubs. You are guaranteed to enjoy free colour next winter!
Tomatoes, chillies and granadillas take a while to reach their harvesting potential so, do not wait around, sow and plant them. As they are hungry feeders, enrich the soil with copious amounts of compost and bone meal and feed them with 3:1:5 granular fertiliser every three weeks. Plant the seeds of all the pumpkin varieties like squash, butternuts and marrows.
Roses need dedicated feeding this month to encourage a spectacular show in October. Use a systemic drench to give season long protection against aphids.
Prune mayflowers and banksiae roses as soon as they stopped flowering. Pinch out the growing tips of shrubs that are showing new life to encourage branching and bushiness.
Start planting dahlia and other summer-flowering bulbs and also divide and replant overcrowded perennials that did not get the ‘treatment’ in autumn.
If your are wondering about charming perennials to add to your spring garden, consider these: columbines, angel wings (Gaura), bearded iris, Limonium perezi (giant statice), Scabiosa columbaria ‘Butterfly Blue’ (cornflower) and Viola odorata ‘The Czar’ (sweet violet).
Hot tip: The summer 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.
Revamp your patio and outdoor areas with pots and colourful bedding plants like petunias, dianthus and the floriferous calibrachoas.
You can sow and plant most vegetables and herbs as long as you can keep those that is tender to late frost or need time to grow up in seedling containers first, protected, moist and warm. Good companions and pretty plants in general for a veggie garden are calendulas, lavender, marigolds, nasturtiums, parsley, thyme and wild garlic.
As soon as about 80% of the blossoms on fruit trees have dropped, you should start spraying against fruit fly. Developing fruit that is packed too closely together, can be thinned out.
With the rainy season approaching, follow a regular spraying programme for your roses with a systemic fungicide. Mulch the soil around the root systems of all plants to keep them cool and the soil moist for longer.
Keep on dead-heading pansies and violas to make them last until October and November. Trim daisy bushes that have finished flowering, and plant more osteospermums and pelargoniums for perennial colour. A bedding plant favourite to add sizzling summer colour are marigolds in all shapes, colours and sizes.
If there are irregular areas in your lawn, you can correct this with lawn dressing.
Blueberries and raspberries can now be planted in the veggie garden.
Hot tip: Add vertical interest in the food garden by planting herb topiaries like standard cut specimens of lavender, bay leave, or rosemary.
Fruit trees like mangos, litchis and other stone fruit must be fertilised now.
All the summer and autumn flowering seedlings are ready for planting from now on like bedding begonias, dahlias, salvias, marigolds, New Guinea impatiens, torenias and browallias.
Hanging baskets planted in autumn will soon need to be re-planted. If you want to ring the changes, plant them up with a wide selection of summer herbs with some companion flowers inbetween.
Sow the summer stalwarts like cosmos, sunflowers, zinnias and portulacas in situ. Stake alstroemerias and other tall perennials that have a tendency to fall over.
Plant new lawn grass seed or grass plugs. It’s the best time for establishing a new lawn.
Hot tip: Pest patrol begins in earnest. Watch out for crickets and ants. If you suspect crickets in the lawn: Put out bread that is slightly wet. The Hadedahs will feed on the lawn and eat the crickets as well!
Time to plant seed potatoes. Also plant out seedlings of tomatoes, chillies, peppers, eggplants, lettuce, cabbages, beetroot, spinach and chard. Sow seed of all the pumpkin family, dwarf beans, runner beans, maize and sweetcorn. Harvest spring crops like globe artichokes.
Different types of basil are now available. Plant all of them. They are not only the tastiest when cooking, but pretty in the garden. Plant new curry leaf trees when all danger of frost is over. They are a member of the citrus family and need to be looked after in a similar manner. Sow coriander seed regularly. Prune back any aggressive herbs.
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.
Spring can sometimes be a very short season in this region when hot weather and drying out wind suddenly arrive. So, pick flowering plants that are hardy and able to survive on minimal water. Plant gazanias, wild garlic, wild irises, and off course the wide range of bright and beautiful vygies available.
Wildlife-attracting and spring-blooming trees to plant are the paper bark acacia, fever tree, pompon tree, forest elder and the cape chestnut. Popular flowering shrubs and perennials to try are felicia’s, polygalas, pelargoniums, argyranthemums, arum lilies and carnations.
Sow in situ: beans, Swiss chard, pumpkin, gem squash, sweet corn, baby marrow, carrot, turnips, radish and beetroot. Plant seedlings of cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and the tubers of potato and sweet potato.
Hot tip: Basil and tomatoes are good companions. The basil keeps the aphids, fruit flies and beetles away from the tomatoes and is said to enhance their flavour.