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).
With the 20th of October being ‘Garden Day’ and October being ‘Rose month’ – what an opportune month to celebrate gardening!
Your roses should be producing their first flush of perfect blooms and the sun is still not too scorching – allowing the blooms to last longer. Spring is also the ideal time to select and plant new rose bushes in your garden. These are some of our favourites:
Pop in to your nearest GCA Garden Centre for more inspiration and supplies.
As soon as the soil warms up in mid spring, you can start to sow all your summer veggies, including beans, sweetcorn and tomatoes. Two of your main “must haves” for your summer salads are cucumber and celery.
Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) - one of the easiest and most rewarding bulbs to grow, amaryllis produce showy, trumpet-shaped blooms that add a flamboyant touch to your garden or home. Often referred to as the Christmas flower because they typically bloom around five weeks after being planted (during the warmer months). For this reason, amaryllis make a wonderful gift at Christmas time and can also make gorgeous centre-pieces for the Christmas dinner table.
Amaryllis do well in most soil types, provided they get sufficient drainage. Plant in a sunny or semi-shade position and for the best results, give your amaryllis some bulb food every two weeks. These beauties are perfect for pots, and can be planted in groups in your garden.
As they retreat into dormancy at the end of the warmer months, you can decrease watering and leave them in the soil throughout the various seasons. Do not stop water them until all of their foliage has receded.
Star Flower or Egyptian star cluster (Pentas lanceolata) - a fast-growing, small to medium-sized herbaceous shrub with light green foliage. Pentas comes in a variety of colours, including pink, red, mauve and white. The beautiful flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds and make great cut flowers. The shrub grows quickly in full sun or semi-shade and vary in height but the modern hybrids are lovely compact bushes, growing +-100cm tall and +-30cm wide. Plant them into rich, well-drained soil. Cut off the dead flowers regularly to encourage re-flowering or continuous blooms.
There are many types of broadleaf weeds that can get their roots into your lawn. Clear out and control weeds in lawns, by using a selective broadleaf weed killer that is safe for use on established lawns.
Chat to a specialist at your nearest GCA Garden Centre for advice on the various products available and what would work best for your needs.
Growing your own veggie garden is both fun and rewarding. Ready for harvest in October are: asparagus, broad beans, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, lettuces, rocket, spinach (Swiss chard) and spring onions. The perfect ingredients for some very tasty and creative summer salads and veggie dishes. If you don’t have your own edible garden established yet – it is never too late to start.
It’s not hard to see why October is “Rose month” as you enjoy your roses in all their glory.
Water deeply at least once a week - for roses to flourish it’s best to water them twice weekly giving them 15mm of water each time. Roses that were fertilised in mid-September should be fertilised again in mid-October or early in October if September was skipped. This encourages root activity and new leaves and flowering stems to sprout. Only use the recommended amount of granular rose fertiliser.
To prevent aphids, bollworm, thrips, powdery mildew and black spot, spray fortnightly with the correct organic spray.
For quality blooms, disbud hybrid teas by removing side buds out of the leaf axles beneath the terminal bud. Remove spent blooms; not only will your rose bed look tidier; this also encourages the production of new quality stems. If you’d like long stemmed blooms for the house, don’t cut more than half of them on a bush.
Visit your local GCA for advice on the best products to use to meet your needs.
On Sunday, 20 October 2019 we will celebrate Garden Day. Instead of working in your gardens – this is a day to put down your garden tools, invite family and friends around, relax and celebrate your garden with them. Flower crowns are a beautiful way to celebrate your garden. Making and wearing the fun and colourful accessory is a great way to show off your garden blooms. Pick a few flowers from the garden and make your own flower crown.
(Gauteng, Free State, North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo)
(Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal)
Contribute your own little piece of Eden to the Earth and invite the buzz, whir and tweet of some colourful little guests that will appreciate it as much as you do. The beautiful colours and scents that attract these special creatures are also a treat for your own senses.
Cape Gooseberries (Physalis edulis) is a quick-growing annual or perennial fruit plant that originates in South America. It has been grown extensively in many parts of South Africa for the little golden berries that are produced in abundance, on bushes that can reach a height of about 1m.
Gooseberries are a worthwhile fruit to grow in your garden as they are excellent for making jams, jellies, desserts, chutneys and wine.
Grow them from seed, in almost any, well-drained soil – they even cope with poor or impoverished soils. Position them in full sun in an open, exposed area where the plants can literally grow wild. You can grow them all year round in frost-free climates.
For summer colour in abundance, Nemesia (Nemesia strumosa) and Twinspurs (Diascia integerrima) make the best of indigenous friends.
Nemesia (Nemesia fruticans) - The flowers resemble little snapdragon flowers and are dusty-pink or mauve or even whiter in colour - decorated with bright yellow. Used mostly as a flowering bedding plant and as an ornamental pot plant. Various colour forms are available from specialist nurseries.
Plant in well-drained soil, enriched with compost in a sunny position.
Twinspurs (Diascia barberae)- a dainty little perennial plant originating from the Drakensberg mountain range. It produces numerous upright stems growing to 30cm tall. The tubular flowers are rich salmon pink in colour. They grow best in full sun and look spectacular in rock gardens, especially tucked into joints and cracks between large rocks.
Encouraging birds, bees and butterflies in your garden is a great way to nurture an environment that supports biodiversity. These creatures are crucial pollinators in our eco-system and every small haven created for them ensures a better future for our green and wild life.
The way to attract these pretty creatures is to make sure your garden has a ready supply of what they love and need. And think variety: the bigger the variety in your garden, the more varied your inhabitants will be. This includes plants, rocks, nesting logs, water features and even rich soil. Boost your soil with nutrients (Chat to the professionals at your local GCA Garden Centre for advice on the best products to use). Happy soil + happy plants = happy garden visitors.