Welcome, novice farmers! We are delighted to see your green fingers in bloom, exploring the world of homegrown goodness. Experience for yourself what all the hype is about by starting your own little veggie garden or edible pot. There is something truly special about fresh greens from the Earth – their incredible flavour loaded with nutrients, the direct connection with Mother Nature, and the unbeatable sense of pride from harvesting the fruits of your labour. Find out how to start your own edible journey below.
For your first growing quest, we recommend starting small. Think about whether you would like to use containers, plant straight into the ground, or if you would like to make raised beds. Consider your space and available time to guide your growing style. Sowing a couple of seeds in an empty space in your flower bed is as good a beginning as any.
With the idea of starting small in mind, where you choose to grow is an equally important factor to consider. Veggies love the sun and will flourish in open areas that receive as much sunlight as possible with no big trees throwing shade on your new babies. Examine your space through eco-eyes: take note of the sun’s movement, surrounding foliage, and expansion space needed as your greens grow.
Your first go-to is Google where you can access all the LIAG articles on what to sow and when. Seasonal veggies (meaning the ones to plant for that season) are your best bets for success as these greens are naturally adapted to the climate of the given time. Also, consider how the plant grows – some grow like ground covers (pumpkin) and need plenty of space, while others like to climb (beans) requiring support structures, some veggies also need deeper soil (potatoes) and appear more bush-like on the top.
There’s always time and space, even for a single vegetable to be sown. Pick your favourite and plant it, it’s that simple, and the reward is marvellous! Gain a deeper appreciation for the food you eat by watching it grow and observing all the different phases of the life of a veggie – now that’s nature’s magic at its best!
Winter has arrived, but luckily our days are still blessed by lovely, lunchtime sunshine in most parts of the country. This is the perfect time for a little midday gardening and a braai with the family. For an enticing entertainment area plant seedlings like fairy Primulas for a dazzling flush of colour. Hanging baskets are back and add a wonderful variety of vibrant texture to your patio. When the party moves indoors, dragon trees and delicious monsters are a great choice.
Friday 5 June is World Environment Day. Celebrate your surroundings by thinking about our feathered garden friends. Birds often find it difficult to source food in the colder months, but we can lovingly assist them by putting out bird feeds. Beautiful seed feeders, suet, fruit feeders and even bird pudding can be found at your nearest GCA Garden Centre. Nesting logs will encourage Barbets to nest in your garden. In addition, any of these would make an ideal gift for Father’s Day on Sunday 21 June. You could also consider a bonsai plant and bonsai accessories as a Father’s Day gift.
It is a good time to sow Dianthus spp. also known as pinks, as their flowers are mostly pink, salmon, dark pink or white with bi-colours of lavender, purple and reds also available. Their flowers have a spicy fragrance and they belong to the same family of plants as carnations. One of the larger Dianthus is the specie we know as Sweet William, (Dianthus barbatus) which has bigger flowers and a spicy fragrance with hints of cinnamon and cloves. Sweet William is available in both single and double blooms and are biennial (flower in the second year) and self-seeding.
Pinks need at least 6 hours of sun per day and prefer to be watered on the soil, as water on the leaves may cause mildew spots. Use a slow-release fertilizer in your bed preparation or fertilise regularly for best results.
Claim to fame: The new-age Dianthus varieties flower for up to 6 months!
Tip: Removing the spent blooms (dead-heading) is very important if you want to encourage further flowering.
Continue sowing leafy greens like spinach, lettuce and beetroot which are all very easy to grow. They are also a great choice for kids to sow as an introduction to the fabulous and fun hobby of gardening.
Tip: 16 June is Youth Day – share your gardening wisdom and enthusiasm by inspiring new, little green fingers. This is your opportunity to show children how to plant these easy-to grow veggies.
Reap your rewards by picking the veggies that you sowed or planted a few months back:
Ranunculus, or Ranunc’sas they are fondly referred to, can be planted from pots if you forgot to buy the claws/bulbs when they were on the shelves with the rest of the Spring flowering bulbs.. Phew… we seldom get a fantastic second chance like this! The brilliantly coloured flowers of ranunculus are often compared with looking like a crepe-paper, origami masterpiece.
Tip: How marvellous for us that they are long-lasting cut flowers too.
Primulas are the queens of the winter and spring shaded garden. Lucky for us, there are three stunning types of Primula to choose from:
If you have trees and shrubs that need moving, this is the best time to do so. You may want to open your view or separate plants that were planted too close together. Plants need adequate light and air circulation for good growth. Palms, Cycas, cycads and small to medium-sized conifers, deciduous shrubs and trees will have the best chance of success. Visit your local GCA Garden Centre to get the correct advice, tools and products that are necessary to maximise your transplanting success.
Indoor plants are high fashion and are being used to decorate all rooms in the house, especially the living areas and kitchens. Score some points on the trend barometer by going leafy indoors. Large leaf plants are trending in large and medium-sized pots. Here are some hot favourites:
Tip: Indoor plants will all benefit from regular feeding – consult your local GCA Garden Centre.
Feed your winter and spring flowering annuals and bulbs while they are actively growing. Visit your local GCA Garden Centre for a recommended fertilizer that will promote both growth and flowering.
As large shrubs and trees mature, they might start shading your roses too much. Their roots can also start robbing nutrients and water from your roses. June is the best month to move threatened roses to a new, prepared bed in a more sunny spot.
Set your garden alight with a Fire Sticks plant (Euphorbia tirucalli). It resembles sea coral with pencil-like upright leaves. They are very noticeable in winter when they change from lime green and yellow colour to having flaming red and orange tips.
Tip: If you need to cut or prune this plant, take care to not let the milky latex-like plant sap touch your skin, and especially do not get it into your eyes as it can be very harmful. All parts of the plant are poisonous if ingested.
Paving the way - Winter is a great time to get creative with pathways and paved or gravelled areas. Now is the time for you to put in practice what you have seen and longed to have – like a beautiful pathway or extend an entertainment area. Your local GCA garden centre has a range of pavers, pebbles, gravels and plants that can allow your dream garden to become a reality. Remember to use a weed-suppressing fabric under paved areas and to set the pavers on a cushion of river sand so that it is stable.
Tip: It is also the best time to do maintenance in the garden. If its cold outside, put your jumper on and jump to it!
Hot trend alert: Gabion landscaping is all the rage. This makes use of wire and steel gabions, mostly filled with river pebbles or dump rock as the structural, hip element. They allow for exciting height changes in the landscape, as well as being a fashionable bold feature to contrast soft plantings.
Hot tip: To celebrate and tie in with World Day of Desertification and Drought on Wednesday 17 June, plan to plant waterwise succulents around your fire pit. Fire pits are fast becoming a regular feature in suburban gardens.
Pruning your Hydrangea macrophylla, the regular mophead hydrangea, will increase its vigour and increase the size of the blooms, especially if you have not pruned for many years.
Traditionally, most deciduous fruit trees and berries were planted in early spring as open-ground plants (i.e. with their bare roots wrapped in newspaper). Because we now buy them in pots or bags, it is not necessary to plant them as early. However, old habits die hard and these plants are ready for sale in spring. It is always a good idea to get in first and buy your berries as soon as you can.
Most berries like well-drained, well-composted soil in a sunny area of the garden. This means that if you have clay soil, you will need to amend it with lots of compost turned into the soil, or simply make raised beds for your berries. You can choose to add a general fertilizer into the soil now, or after planting. Don’t forget to add superphosphate or bone-meal into the planting holes, water regularly and remove weeds between the plants as they grow.
Tip: Add plenty of acid-compost or peat moss to your soil in the area you want to plant blueberries as they are acid-loving plants.
What better way to get your garden and health back on track and into shape then by sowing delicious leafy greens for those summer day salads. The following greens can be sown now:
Leafy greens are very easy to grow and will reward you best if you pick the leaves regularly and pinch out flower buds later in the season. Be on the lookout for cutworm, snail & slug damage to plants. Aphids love the hot summer months as much as we do. While you are shopping for "table greens" grab a few "tiny leafy greens" like Mint, Basil and Parsley plants to complement the other leafy greens.
Tip: Last chance: Whilst, not a "green" you can still sow tomato seeds in the first two weeks of January – so rush out and sow.
Did you know that Basil and Tomatoes are great companion plants? This means that when planted next to one another, they both improve each other's flavour. We also know that they are great companions in food too.
What To Plant
January is always a good time to plant up areas with colourful seedling annuals. The "heat is on" so what better way to brighten up the garden and get it into shape than by planting these sun-worshippers. Some great choices to beat the heat will be:
With their botox-looking pouty lips, from which the Snapdragons get their name, Snapdragons have become fashionable again. Striking colours and multiple blooms that seemingly stand to attention are simply charming. Dwarf varieties are great as pot or hanging basket fillers too. Keep moist while young. Snaps can reward you by continuing to flower into winter.
More colour, colour, colour!
Vinca plants which are as tough as nails when mature are what some people term the Impatiens for sun due to their similar-looking flowers. Don't be fooled into thinking that these are the same as the Vinca's of old – these new hybrids, flower profusely and easily.
The new age Zinnias are also a sight for sore eyes when they flower. They create a tremendous meadow-like profusion of blooms. The dwarf variety is a charming cutie.
If you like strong, bright colours, then you need to plant Celosia which are commonly known as Cock's Comb. The flowers may have a flattish crested plume or an upright feathery plume. They deliver on rich, bright, almost neon colour.
Be on the lookout for yellow patches appearing suddenly in your lawn from early January. This is a sure sign of the night-time foraging Lawn Caterpillar, (also known as Army Worm). To be sure place a moist bag or cloth on the patch in the evening and check underneath in the morning. If it is caused by Army Worms, they would still be crawling under the cloth thinking it is still night.
Ask your local GCA Garden Centre for the correct treatment method.
Power up the plants
We may have slimming on our minds in January but our garden needs nutrients to boost our plants and get the garden into shape. A good option is an 8:1:5 fertiliser or if you prefer the organic alternative, they are both available. Your garden and pots will benefit, but remember to fertilise between the plants on moist soil and to water over the fertiliser afterwards.
Pruning & Rose Care
A light summer pruning is recommended for roses in January. We know that it feels difficult to prune a plant that may still be flowering but it will help to extend quality flowering into winter. Cut back stems by up to one-third of their length.
Continue using a cocktail rose spray i.e. a combination of a fungicide and insecticide every two weeks to avoid leaf drop. Fertilise monthly and add mulch or top up the existing mulch. Now all that is left to do is to continue good, deep watering … and you will be so happy with your "blooming success" over the coming months.
Give your Fuchsias a boost by cutting back the stem tips after flowering. By cutting the stems back only up to about 5 or 10cm from the tip, you will allow it to bush out and give the plant more vigour to see the season through.
The popular indigenous Cape Leadwort, better known by its scientific name Plumbago, (Plumbago auriculata), is a great filler plant to cover large open spaces. It is an extremely tough, fast growing rambling, shrub. It grows in any soil and is drought tolerant. It gets covered with trusses of pale blue or white flowers which are a favourite nectar source for butterflies, it also makes a great hedge. The flowers of the cultivar 'Royal Cape' are of a considerably deeper blue.
Another indigenous beauty is our very own Cape Forget-me-not, (Anchusa capensis). It's tall stems that rise above the lower growing foliage have clusters of petite blue flowers with a white centre. They also attract butterflies with their nectar-rich flowers as well as other beneficial pollinating insects like bees. The pretty blue flowers are edible and a fab addition to salads or desserts. A well-drained soil is favoured by these drought resistant plants.
'Bougs" or "Bougies" are our affectionate nicknames for the spectacular Bougainvillea plants that can put on an unrivalled explosion of colour for months in our gardens. They are fast-growing and drought tolerant. Bougs are happiest in full sun whether they are spread-eagled over a pergola, wall or in a large pot, (smaller varieties are preferred for pots). Guess what? They also attract butterflies!
Due to the popularity of succulent plants in recent years, we are spoiled for choice in our local garden centres. They are just so easy to grow and lots of fun to combine in the garden, or even in a potted patio garden since many of them have gorgeous tinges of yellow, orange and red on their green, grey or blue-grey leaves. You can't go wrong with Sedums or Crassulas which are mostly indigenous and all water-wise and sun-lovers. There are many different shapes and sizes of plants in these two groups of plants that both go by the common name of Stonecrops. A popular sedum with tall dusty pink flowers is the Autumn Joy Stonecrop, (Sedum 'Autumn Joy'), and among the Crassula's, the Jade Plant, (Crassula ovata), is a medium-sized shrub with tiny white or pink flowers.
Days of interest
5 January – National Bird Day
Take a few moments to appreciate our beautiful bird-life or give your support to a birding cause.
10 January – House Plant Appreciation Day
Be reminded of the benefits of Indoor Plants – their beauty and positive impact on our health and well-being.