Although spring only officially starts on the 1st of September, we don’t need a calendar to see that spring has sprung! For most of the country there is a delightful springiness in the air. For the Free State and Western Cape, your time is soon to come. Although August is warm to even hot in various parts of the country, always apply the following rules when planting or sowing plants that are sensitive to frost damage:
With pruning behind us, there is so much to do in the garden, so push aside the winter chills and spring into action. Your spring bulbs and annuals should be a riot of colour by now, inviting you out onto the patio with family and friends during our balmy, warm August days. The beauty of spring may only be rivalled by the stunning women that surround us. The 9th of August is National Women’s Day and the perfect opportunity to celebrate both Mother Nature and all of womankind!
An African appetite
Have you considered growing an edible local fruit? The following shrubs, trees and ground covers can form an aesthetic part of your garden and become a valuable, unusual food source:
Tip: They attract birds and butterflies and their flowers feed honey bees.
Play & plan with the COLOUR palette
Your spring and summer palette of plants can be a crazy cacophony of colours with a wonderful variety of colour combinations for your consideration. Have fun playing with these flowering plant colours now available in pots:
No wonder, they say Life is a Garden – let’s enjoy it!
Top tip: Improving your SOIL is the priority at this time of year. Before or at the time of planting, add and mix into it plenty of organic matter to the soil such as compost, manure, autumn leaves or other suitable products offered by your local GCA Garden Centre. This will boost soil fertility and ensure healthy plant growth.
It’s a pet’s life
Dogs will often eat grass blades when they have a stomach ailment. Did you know that there is a plant aptly named dog grass (Elymus caninus) that your dog will simply love to chew on rather than your lawn? You have the ideal excuse to indulge your dog this month since 10 August is Spoil your Dog Day! Why stop there, cats are smitten over catnip (Nepeta cataria) and love to chew and roll all over the plant.
What to sow
Got that green finger tingle? Let’s sow some seeds! Marigolds germinate within a week.
Even the lightest and laziest green finger will have success sowing the following seeds:
Claim to fame: Planted among veggies, marigolds are great companion plants since their scent repels many different pests including Nematodes.
Tip: The cornflower has nectar-rich flowers, which attract many beneficial insects to the garden. These are nature’s helpers and keep unwanted insects away.
Need to know: Bean flowers and leaves are also edible.
Tip: In areas that experience late frosts, hold off sowing beans for a few weeks until frosts are past.
Visit your local GCA Garden Centre to see what else you can sow now!
Plant: Love these locals
Many of the most popular plants in the world are our very own. Here are two local lovelies which you can buy as flowering plants in pots, ready to add colour to the patio or the garden:
Pelargoniums: Bush geraniums (Pelargonium x hortorum) and ivy, or cascading geraniums (Pelargonium peltatum), are some of the most sought after of our indigenous plants. Geraniums are incredibly rewarding as garden plants and do exceptionally well in containers too. They love a sunny to semi-shade position and well-drained soil that should be moist but not wet. Give them a weekly mild liquid feeding for excellent results.
Osteospermums: These are also known as the African daisy. Their masses of gorgeous daisy-like flowers with dark centres come in shades of white, yellow, pink, purple and blue. Their eye-catching, bold coloured flowers make them a fabulous choice for a sunny spot in the garden, tumbling over rocks or spilling down the sides of containers. Osteo’s are water-wise, flower for long periods, and are perennial in areas where frost is not heavy.
Coloured arum lilies: Although hybridised, they stem from our indigenous arums or Zantedeschia’s. Often referred to as Zant’s, they have the most beautiful, elegant vase-like flowers in gorgeous colours. You can buy them already in flower, in a pot, or as bulbs.
Tip: Zant’s are best planted in the sun.
Need to know: There is a whole range of summer bulbs at your local GCA Garden Centre. These include Amaryllis, Eucomis or pineapple lily, flame lilies and more. The flame lily is the most delicate, precious climbing plant with exquisite flowers that is best planted where it can easily be seen and shown off, whether on an arch or frame in a pot. Tip: Wait until next month to plant in very cold areas where late frosts are still expected and areas with winter rainfall.
WOW and water-wise! There are a few different perennial vygies and each is as stunning as the next, especially when in full spring bloom. Their rich, luminous jewel-like colours cover the plant and stand out as a jaw-dropping colour bomb. These sun-worshippers make stunning border plants, are great for rock and succulent gardens, spilling over low walls and pots or hanging baskets too. Your local GCA Garden Centre will be proud to show you their vygies. If you prefer to use vygies as seasonal colour then ask for the annual vygie or Livingstone daisies that are available in seedling trays.
Plant: Fruity fragrance
Lemon-scented verbena: Also known as Aloysia, this is a must-have if you enjoy drinking deliciously refreshing lemony tea. A delightful drink is easily made from the scented leaves or you could use them to add fragrance to the garden. If you locate the plant close to a path, the lemony scent will be released whenever a person brushes past the leaves. This rather wispy looking shrub can reach up to 2m in ideal conditions, but normally about 1m tall in areas of light to moderate frost as it can survive a little icy chill. Prune back every spring if you prefer a dense, bushy plant. It is easy to grow and the sprays of white flowers it bears are a bonus.
Claim to fame: The lemon-scented verbena leaves contain essential oils, which have many culinary and aromatherapy uses.
Choosing Verbena for your warm-season colour would be a wise choice. Their dazzling range of colours will add va-va-voom to the garden. They will cascade over hanging baskets, window boxes or containers. Treat yourself - go and have a look at the Verbenas on offer at your local GCA Garden Centre.
Tip: Verbenas like well-drained soil and prefer not to be watered in the evenings.
Feed and pick
Feed fruit trees and vegetables and reap the rewards of the last of the winter veggie harvest.
Did you know that blueberries should be pruned about every four years? When pruning them, try to prune them into a wine glass shape to encourage good air movement and light penetration.
If you want good quality fruit from your peach, nectarine, apricot and plum tree, it is best to prune them every year (this is also true for most berries). However, if you want your fruit trees to grow tall and provide shade, then only prune to shape it when necessary.
Tip: Pruning is easy if you know how. Call your local GCA Garden Centre or visit them for pruning advice.
If you forgot to prune your roses in July, August is a better time than never! Especially tend to the espaliering of climbing roses. With the rapid increase of new shoots, water at least once a week with a deep drenching.
Repot water lilies and add bone-meal into the soil - it is organic and safe for fish. Make holes in the soil, insert the bone-meal, and then cover it with soil on top so that the fish do not eat it. While you are busy with the pond, maintain and clean the pond and service the UV light if you have one. Clean out the algae and start with algal control.
Lawn: proud or pitiful – what makes the difference?
It’s time to give your Kikuyu lawn a boost with some spring treatment:
Now just watch and wait for your stunning new grass to appear though the lawn dressing. Fertilise monthly for best results and water at least once a week until the rains start.
Lowveld and in warm frost-free coastal regions:
Sow the following vegetables now: asparagus, Capsicum (peppers), carrots, cucumber, bush beans, aubergines (brinjals), all melons, all marrows, parsley, pumpkin, radish, runner beans, Swiss chard.
Western Cape – winter rainfall areas:
Sow the following vegetables now: asparagus, beetroot, broad beans, Capsicum (peppers), carrots, cucumber (under protection), aubergines (brinjals), leeks, lettuce (Cos), all melons, all marrows, onions, parsnip peas, radish, spinach, squash, Swiss chard, tomato, turnip.
The flu season started early this year with the arrival of Covid-19, which has had an unprecedented impact on the whole world. With still no cure in sight for the common cold, our best line of defence is prevention. Gardening is your secret weapon, folks! Did you know that you can grow your own powerful medicine? Sustainable living has never been more important, so let’s transform gardening from just a hobby to a flourishing lifestyle choice! Here’s why and how you can grow your own natural remedies and assemble yourself a little home-grown first aid kit:
First up is Garlic – a cure-all, champion vegetable!. Classified as part of the onion genus, garlic is jam-packed with the good stuff. It has antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal properties, which help relieve cold and flu symptoms. Garlic is high in nutrients and vitamins, especially flu-fighting Vitamin C and B6, which assist your body in recuperating faster and shortening your downtime. Planting garlic is fairly easy; pop them in the ground about 5 cm apart in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Whether you are nursing a cold or preparing your body to fight one, a couple cloves in the garden are always recommended as part of your first aid kit!
Growing and tending to a lemon tree teaches patience, commitment, embodying what it means to reap the fruits of your labour, and for some it even represents childhood memories and a sense of nostalgia. This powerful medicine is loaded with Vitamin C and is rich in potassium with twice as much Vitamin C as oranges. Lemons support and strengthen the immune system in fighting off the winter nasties. If your granny believed in drinking lemon water, either hot or cold, she’s on to something. Freshly squeezed lemon juice increases the absorption of iron, which further promotes a resilient immune system. Lemons are a great source of flavonoids - a powerful antioxidant, which improves blood circulation and lowers the risk of having a stroke.
Another champion choice for your natural first aid kit is the powerhouse of antioxidants - the blueberry. These delicious little morsels are packed with flavonoids that not only support your immune system but also reduce the chance of contracting upper respiratory infections - your first line of defence against colds and flues. Blueberries have a certain flavonoid called quercetin, usually found in dark blue and red fruits, which has antiviral properties. Quercetin also helps to prevent inflammation in cells and helps to protect the upper respiratory tract. You can easily add these little virus-fighting bombs to a smoothie, or give them to kids a superfood snack. Avoid paying a pretty penny for blueberries, and instead, grow your own! They thrive in sunny spots sheltered from harsh wind, grow in beds or pots, and love rich, well-drained soil.
If you are committed, like us, to a home-grown medicine solution, we highly recommended this ancient natural remedy, used all over the world to ease cold and flu symptoms. Ginger is a hearty, healthy spice, loaded with nutrients and bioactive compounds that are not only healthy for your body but also beneficial for your brain. With its powerful anti-inflammatory properties, ginger is used to alleviating muscle pain and soreness due to over-exercise. Ginger also supports the digestive system and helps to treat nausea and motion sickness. The active nutrient in fresh ginger, known as gingerol, helps to lower the risk of infections. Gingerol inhibits the growth of many types of bacteria, especially oral bacteria, and can aid in the treatment of bleeding gums, gingivitis and cold sores. This super spice also supports the lungs and upper respiratory tract to ensure the common cold or flu symptoms are less severe, and therefore shortening your recovery time. A sure must-have as part of your medicine garden!
This super starch is packed with fibre, vitamins and minerals. Sweet potatoes are packed with beta carotene, Vitamin A and other antioxidants responsible for aiding the immune system and supporting a healthy heart, teeth and eyes. Sweet potatoes, especially the orange ones, aid the mucous membranes and ensure a healthy gut. This nutrient-dense, high fibre root veggie is versatile and can be added to your diet in both sweet and savoury dishes. Sweet potatoes can be grown in a variety of soils with some home-made compost, a good sunny spot, daily watering with adequate draining, and a little patience. We love sweet potatoes as they are not only a wonderful medicine but also a delicious and versatile ingredient which health benefits for the whole family!
Another immune booster superfood for a go-to natural remedy, rich in vitamins A, C and K, is red pepper. These beauties are rich in antioxidant vitamins A and C and help to prevent cell damage, cancer, and support the immune function. Vitamin K promotes proper blood clotting, strengthens bones, and helps protect cells from oxidative damage. They are packed with carotenoids Lycopene and Beta-cryptoxanthin, which have cancer-fighting properties especially prostate, bladder, cervix, pancreas and lung cancer. When planting red peppers, loosen the soil deeply and mix in fertiliser, manure or compost thoroughly. They will start bearing fruit about 11 weeks after planting – not a long time at all for such a sweet superfood!
The pharmacy is not the only source of medicine out there. Humanity has been blessed by an abundance from Mother Nature and all of her natural medicines, remedies, superfoods, and overall nutrition! By adding more herbs, veggies and fruit to your diet, you can help build your body’s natural defences against viruses and bacteria to keep you flu fit this winter. There’s no better time or reason than now to equip yourself and your family with a constant, easily accessible, and home-grown first aid kit!
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.
February is great for outdoor living and entertaining on our patios, around the pool or braaing and picnicking in our gardens. The end of the month will be a great time to sow Sweet William seed to provide splashes of colour in your happy place. Part of the carnation family, Sweet William, (Dianthus barbatus), bear masses of single flowers that are mostly striped and have pretty, serrated edges, available in pinks, whites, purples, violet and more. Scatter the seeds onto the soil in a sunny spot and water lightly every few days. These biennials have a sweet, peppery perfume and are prized as a cut flower. Their nectar attracts bees, butterflies and birds and they tend to self-seed.
Tip: Start preparing your soil in strips or ridges for the sowing of Sweet Peas in March and April. Don’t forget the trellis or other support framework for them to climb up.
What to Plant
It is a good time to start planning your plantings of winter flowering annuals. Across most of our country cold winter days warm up sufficiently by midday to enjoy a winter braai to compliment the rugby or simply enjoy with friends. Winter and spring flowering annuals provide the colourful WOW factor in your happy place. The nights will start to cool down soon and by March and April you will be able to buy your favourites.
Hold onto your heart, while you get introduced to royalty, the new Petunia “Queen of Hearts” and “King of Hearts”. These two regal gems are set to smitten you with their large flowers bordered by perfectly formed red hearts set in a yellow background, for the Queen, and white background for the King of Hearts. In favourable conditions the flowers often smother the plant…. with their hearts ….. or should we say kisses? Grow them in full sun or partial shade in the garden, pots or hanging baskets.
What to Spray – to protect your happy place
Intense Summer heat combined with the under-watering of certain plants, (like roses), are ideal conditions for Red Spider Mites and Two Spotted Mites to cause damage to your plants. To identify them you will need to look out for white/yellowish spots/patches on their upper leaf surface. These spots multiply and the leaf becomes more yellow with the outer edges of the leaf staying greener. This is an indication of the increase in mites sucking on the underside of the leaves. Later leaves may drop off, and in severe cases, tiny web-like strands can be seen on the plant. Turn the leaf over and by using a magnifying glass you will notice a few, (or many), very tiny adult mites moving around. If in doubt, take a few sample leaves into your local GCA Garden Centre to identify the pest. Make sure that the sample is carefully sealed in a zip-lock bag. Certain recommended oils are best used to spray on the underside of the leaves in order to suffocate the pest and these can be bought at your garden centre. Tip: Do not apply oil sprays in the heat of the day.
Powdery Mildew is a fungal disease that loves hot, wet and windy weather. Affected leaves, stems and even fruit look like they have been powdered. The pathogens may have overwintered in the plant or spread by wind. Tentacles enter the plant to take out nutrients and moisture, but the powdery spreading takes place outside the plant. The disease stresses and weakens the plant and if it covers large areas of the leaves it may also reduce the sugars produced in the plant and thus the flavour of the fruit or vegetable. Here are some of the most common plants that are more susceptible to Powdery Mildew: roses, begonias, dahlias, zinnias, melons, zucchini, squash, grapes, potato plants, peppers and lettuce. Visit your local GCA Garden Centre for a recommended solution.
What to Feed
Give your happy place plants a boost to get them through the Summer. This can be done in several ways, firstly there are the traditional granular/pelleted fertilisers. At this time of year any flowering or fruiting plants will benefit from a balanced fertiliser. Your favourite GCA Garden Centre will have a range on offer for you. Like roses and lots of other flowers they need to keep growing and require nitrogen as well as some phosphates.
Liquid fertilisers are said to be like Red Bull for plants! Yes, like other fertilisers, they can be used to boost the health and nutrition of both indoor and outdoor plants. They are easy to apply either as a soil drench, with some being great as a foliar feed too.
What to Pick – from your happy place
It is almost autumn and that means harvesting season. Growing berries has become quite the thing to do. So, let’s look at some popular berries you can expect to harvest now and in the coming months:
Tip: Removing berries early on thins the berries out and allows the remaining ones to grow larger.
Let’s bring a little love into our happy place with “pomme d’amour” the old French word for a tomato (which literally translates to love apple). It is time to harvest tomatoes. Don’t despair if you did not find time to plant any this season because there is an “instant fix” in the form of “patio veg”. This is a range of often smaller growing veg that are ideal for planting in pots on a sunny patio or elsewhere. These include amongst others, tomatoes conveniently on offer almost fully grown in pots and hanging baskets…. just about ready to harvest and enjoy! Some amazing patio veg tomato varieties to look out for are “Sweetie”, “Little Sicily”, Orange Zinger and the weeping “Tumbler”.
Tip: Refrigerating fresh tomatoes spoils the texture and flavour that make up that garden tomato taste, so rather place them in a fruit bowl.
It’s time to tackle algae in the pond on paving or pathways. Go into your GCA Garden Centre and ask for the correct products for ponds – remember to state whether you have fish or plants in the water since some products are harmful to them. When using algaecides on patios, driveways or pathways in the garden, be careful when using them near plants.
Vertical gardening adds another dimension to gardens, placing an arch to divide garden rooms or to accentuate an entrance or path can be a stunning new addition to the garden. Arches are natural “frames” or windows to a view or focal point in the garden. There are also an abundance of exquisite climbing plants that can further enhance an arch like: Climbing Roses, Yellow Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens), Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), Chinese or Winter jasmine (Jasmine polyanthemum) and Mandevillas, to name a few.
Landscaping on the coast
Successful gardening along the coast is enhanced by improving the soil quality by incorporating humus from a compost heap, worm farm and or Bokashi system. Walls and retaining walls can barrier plants that are not salt-resistant from the salty winds. Halophytes are plants that are adapted to withstand these conditions with their normally thick, succulent-like leaves. Here are some recommendations: Beach bean (Canavalia rosea), Beach pumpkin (Arctotheca populifolia), Cyperus crassipes, Dune spinach (Tetragonia decumbens), Natal sour fig (Carpobrotus dimidiatus), Phylohydrax carnosa, Pig's ears (Cotyledon orbiculata), Trailing gazania (Gazania rigens).
A2 Garden for a lifestyle poster for your Garden Centre – with marks (for printing at a print shop)
A3 Garden for a lifestyle poster for your Garden Centre – with marks (for printing at a print shop)
A2 Garden for a lifestyle poster for your Garden Centre – with no marks (for printing at a print shop)