January’s topic: Eat your heart out healthily
Theme: Delicious produce-producing trees and vines
Industry expert: Charles Oosthuizen
Grower: Tuberflora Nursery based in Muldersdrift, Gauteng: https://www.tuberflora.co.za/
Life is a Garden met with expert grower, Tuberflora, to find out about the latest edible hybrids and delicious fruit tree varieties available this summer at your GCA Garden Centre. With serious water restrictions experienced across the country recently, are you equally mulch-serious yet? Come get some professional growing advice and choose the perfect produce-producing tree for gardens and patios of all sizes.
1. Your website lists such a juicy, crunchy, and zesty variety of produce-producing trees. Please give us your top 5 summer must-have fruit trees that our gardeners can look out for at their GCA Garden Centre this season.
- Pomegranates (King of fruits)
- Figs (Queen of fruits)
2. We love your selection of the more uncommon nut, berry, and fruit tree/plant varieties. For our gardeners looking to grow something special, which trees/plants would you recommend and are there any growing tips to be aware of?
We are introducing wine grape varieties this year, and although they are small and seeded, they are edible. Grapes are water-wise and thrive in hot, dry weather conditions.
We also sell special heirloom varieties of figs and pomegranates. In fact, Giving Trees grow the biggest selection of figs and pomegranates in the country and their aim is to preserve the huge gene pool of varieties for future generations. Figs and pomegranates are special spiritual plants as they bring good energy to your garden. Figs and pomegranates are tolerant of hot, dry weather conditions as well once they are established. Persimmons are tough, easy to grow and very rewarding.
3. We recently experienced water restrictions across the country. Are there any water-wise growing/watering methods and practices you could recommend that allow consumers to sustainably grow food?
The exciting thrill of a successful watermelon harvest doesn’t end at picking your prized fruit at just the right time. Have you ever wondered how to hero this bootylicious edible even further? These creative carving ideas and mouth-watering recipes from Life is a Garden are sure to help you get all the WOW’s from your watermelon this summer (with no added sugar and vegan friendliness)!
Frozen coco-melon lollies
Ingredients: Fresh watermelon and any other soft ripe fruit of your choice (try berries, kiwi or banana) and a can of coconut milk.
Equipment: A blender and ice lolly moulds for the freezer.
Method: First, blend your second fruit choice, such as blackberries, and fill a quarter of the lolly mould. Pop in the freezer to set. Then, blend your watermelon (remove as many seeds as possible) together with the coconut milk and pour the mix into the mould (on top of your frozen berries) and freeze immediately. Enjoy your double-coloured, homemade lollies!
Try this: Add a handful of fresh garden herbs when blending your bottom fruit mix for a pop of surprise flavour at the end.
Fancy-pants punch bowl
Ingredients: A whole fresh watermelon, a bottle of soda water, lemon/lime slices, crushed ice, and mint leaves.
Equipment: A sharp knife, large spoon, blender, and ladle for serving
Method: Cut your watermelon in half so that you have two halves that can stand on their own. Hollow out the inside flesh and pop all the goodness into the blender, give it a whizz. Then, pour your watermelon blend back into its shell, slowly add the soda water followed by the lemon/lime slices, and then the crushed ice. Give it a gentle stir and add mint leaves to garnish – voila!
Try this: Add a splash of gin or rum to the punch and a tot of passionfruit cordial as an adult’s only option.
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:
- In frost-free areas, start planting at the beginning of August.
- In areas of light to moderate frost that lasts until about the end of August, plant in early September.
- In areas with late frosts or winter rainfall, wait until late September.
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:
- The kei-apple (Dovyalis caffra) is an evergreen large shrub, or small tree, that creates an impenetrable hedge with its spiny thorns. The yellowish-orange fruits are delicious and mostly used for jam, jelly, and syrup-making. The flowers feed honey-bees and attract butterflies whilst the fruit is a delicacy for several birds.
- The shrub num-num (Carissa macrocarpa) and the ground cover num-num (Carissa macrocarpa ‘Green Carpet’) both have beautiful glossy leaves with compact, thorny growth.
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.
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.
What to Sow
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.
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?
A3 Garden for a lifestyle poster for your Garden Centre – with marks (for printing at a print shop)