Be a winter-winner, get your May maintenance in check, sow cool-season seeds, and grow with the flow as we enter our last month of autumn. We’re celebrating our adaptable green fingers by also highlighting Africa Month and all our glorious indigenous glory. The party doesn’t stop there – say hello to Phlebodium, the perfect indoor plant baby to gift to the woman you adore this Mother’s day!
Crispy blooms to plant
Bulb up: Honour our African heritage with a jive of colour from Sparaxis (Harlequin Flower), ixia, and Tritonia. Try also these perennial bulbous plants: Sweet garlic (Tulbaghia fragrans), Weeping anthericum (Chlorophytum saundersiae), Red-hot poker (Kniphofia praecox).
Bush out: Pork bush (Portulacaria afra) is a lekker local hero hedge. Good as a barrier plant, tolerates frequent pruning, extremely drought-resistant, and fast-growing.
Succ in: Aloes are in full swing, oh yeah Try Peri-Peri, Sea Urchin, and Porcupine.
The 4 P’s: Get down to your local GCA Garden Centre and start planting with the 4 P’s - poppies, pansies, petunias and primulas.
Rose bed revival: Long-stemmed roses can be picked now. If the plants are in full leaf, continue with your spraying programme but reduce watering. Plant winter-flowering annuals like pansies, poppies, or compact snapdragons, around rose bed edges to give them a revived burst of colour (and hide bare branches).
Split & divide: If the following perennials have stopped flowering, they’re ready for the operating table: Japanese Anemones (Anemone japonica) and Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana).
Be wise, fertilise: Annual stocks and larkspurs benefit from extra nitrogen to promote good growth and flowering throughout winter. Consult your GCA Garden Centre expert for advice on liquid fertilisers and other plant food.
Eye candy: Add rows of ornamental (and inedible) kale between other winter vegetables. Companion plants include beetroot, violas and pansies (both have edible flowers), onions, nasturtiums, and spinach. Ornamental kale makes an unusual but stunning winter option for colour.
Mixed masala: Interplant leafy winter veggies and root crops with herbs like lavender, thyme, oregano, parsley, yarrow, and comfrey.
Cuppa’ your own Joe: The coffee plant (Coffea arabica), which is actually a TREE, will earn you kudos from coffee snobs if you can manage to grow it successfully in a high-light indoor area. Imagine grinding home-grown beans? Count us in!
Un-gogga your cabbage: Pull up old sweet basil plants, chop them up, and then use them as a natural insect repellent mulch around your cabbages – fancy, na?
If it’s yellow, it ain’t mellow: Prevent disease by removing all yellow leaves from brassicas such as Brussel sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, and broccoli.
Fruitful advice: Feed avocado trees with 3:1:5 and mulch ‘em up. Plant litchis and citrus, while also keeping mango trees dry before their flowering starts. In coastal and lowveld areas, feed granadillas with a nitrogen and potassium combination fertiliser. Seek advice from your local GCA Garden Centre.
Prevent pests: Prevention is better than cure! Remember that good soil + good drainage + mulch + fertilising/feeding = a healthy plant with more flowers, more fruits, and more veg!
Spray away: Keep spraying those conifers with insecticide.
Rake it, baby: Rake fallen leaves off the lawn to prevent them from blocking out sunlight, and then pop them on the compost heap. Coastal gardeners can still apply one more dose of fertiliser before winter sets in.
Freeze alert: Make sure that you don't water too early or too late – wet plants will freeze, haai shame!
As the last month of summer comes to an end, it’s time to start preparing the garden for autumn and winter growing. March presents ideal conditions for sowing seeds as the day temperatures are still warm enough, while night temperatures begin dropping gradually. This is also a great time for cool-season seed germination varieties, and let’s not forget that much-loved gardening maintenance.
The autumn climate is well-suited for planting as new roots get a chance to establish themselves before spring. Try sowing these lovelies now for a brilliant flush of colour and fragrance:
Before sowing sweet peas, prepare their new home by digging deep trenches and working in some nutritious compost from your local GCA Garden Centre. Bonemeal (if you don’t have dogs) and super-phosphate are excellent choices to assist in creating your sweet pea sanctuary. Remember to soak the seeds overnight in lukewarm water before sowing directly into the ground.
Roses are a simply spectacular sight in autumn! To ensure quality blooms into winter, continue with regular preventative treatments/spraying for black spot, beetles and bollworm. As the days get shorter, the roses start to go dormant and withdraw food from their leaves. To compensate for this and to provide enough food for new growth and flowers, fertilise with rose food – your GCA Garden Centre guy can advise you on the best option. Regular watering is very important if there is insufficient rainfall.
Tree tip: Plant new fruit trees from mid-March onwards in temperate regions to ensure a good spring and summer harvest. Your GCA Garden Centre has a tasty selection of fruits to grow, go check it out.
Winter veggies are ready to be planted for delicious soups and stews to enjoy during the chilly nights. Remember that your GCA Garden Centre supplies both vegetable seeds and seedlings to get you started. Sow/plant these cool-season sensations now for an autumn/winter harvest:
Bedding bestie tip: Do companion planting with wild garlic, yarrow, comfrey, and Marigolds to assist with soil nutrition and natural pest control.
For an on-demand homegrown supply of fresh herbs during winter, start harvesting and preserving your greens now. Chop mint, parsley, basil and lemon balm, place them in an ice tray, fill with water, and pop them in the freezer. Aromatic herbs such as oregano, marjoram, thyme, sage, bay leaf, and rosemary, are better air-dried. Continue to feed herbs monthly with a half-strength liquid fertiliser and water regularly.
March is a month of maintenance, for which you’ll be gloriously rewarded as we move into winter. Give the garden a little extra TLC in preparation of the changing season. A little goes a long way in terms of the overall appearance and fertility of your beds, plants, and harvest. Start these maintenance jobs now:
Although summer has loved and left us, autumn has come with its own wonderful variety of sowing opportunities. There’s always a flower, fruit, and veggie in need of a home, roses looking for a pruning, and a little maintenance to make all the difference. Enjoy March in the garden and tick off your to-do checklist with the help of tools, accessories, and seeds available at your GCA Garden Centre.
The garden in November is usually filled with a rich colour palette of late spring blooms. The bold and beautiful Hydrangeas are part of this glorious mix and never fail to wow us, year after year. Their local name is Krismisroos and they remind many people of the coming holiday season. Conveniently, Friday 27 November is Black Friday - a day where many shoppers look forward to buying bargains as Christmas gifts. Look out for specials at your local GCA Garden Centre and enjoy getting ready for the festive season. Life is a Garden, so go ahead and decorate yours!
Here are some planting tips for your beetroot seedlings:
Tip: Fertilise lightly with a 2:3:2 or equivalent organic fertilizer i.e. that is not high in nitrogen as too much nitrogen will encourage mostly leafy growth. Water sparingly since overwatering encourages leafy growth and bolting (flowering and not producing a vegetable). Beetroot also grows well in combination with blood sorrel Rubus sanguineus.
Neat to know: A century-old companion planting method used by the Iroquois, an American tribe, was called the Three Sister’s planting. The Three Sisters planting technique utilises corn, climbing beans, and squash or pumpkin. Each plant serves a purpose in this design. The corn or mielies provide the climbing (pole) for the beans and the beans add nitrogen to the soil. The squash or pumpkin protects all the sisters by using its large leaves to shade the soil, to reduce weeds and keep the soil moist. Try it for yourself!
Mole crickets are very destructive pests that tunnel below the surface of the lawn and cause widespread root damage.
An important part of pest control is to correctly identify the pest. Mole cricket can be heard chirping at night when they are most active. The adults are golden brown and about 2,5 to 3,5 cm long with large mole-like front claws combined with oversized, lobster-like heads and bodies similar to common brown/black crickets. The nymphs, or babies are about 1cm long and are miniature look-alikes of the adults.
Tip: An easy soap water drench helps confirm mole cricket activity. Mix 1 tablespoon of dishwashing liquid with 5 litres of water and soak the damaged area with a watering can. Mole cricket adults and nymphs will come to the surface as the soapy water penetrates their tunnels.
Signs and damage: Although the damage starts in spring it is often only noticed in summer when dead and dying patches appear on the lawn as the grass turns brown.
Control: The hard work is over. Now that you have identified the pest you can visit your local GCA Garden Centre for more advice and organic control solutions.
NB: Once you have the treatment, always read the product labels and follow the instructions carefully, including guidelines for pre-harvest intervals in edible gardens.
Crotons have striking leaf colours, which makes them very popular as landscaping and hedging plants in frost-free coastal regions. Indoors, their bright colours are sought after and add a distinctly vibrant, young tropical flavour. They require bright light and do well on a sunny window sill.
Tip: Allow the soil to dry out between watering as they do not like to be over-watered and enquire at your local GCA Garden Centre for an appropriate plant food.
Celosia, or cockscomb, is one of the most vibrantly coloured summer annuals. If you like to be bold and playful in the garden, cockscomb is made for you. There are two types of celosia, one with an arrow-like feathery plume for a flower and the other resembling the almost heart-shaped hump of a cock’s comb. Both are lots of fun and create a lovely tropical green backdrop around a pool or entertainment area where they can enhance a vibey party atmosphere.
Tip: Celosia is generally a non-fuss plant that is easy to grow.
In most regions, roses are or should be sprouting for their second flush in November. In cooler regions of the country and in the Western Cape, they are at the height of their beauty. Regular dead-heading not only provides a neat look in the garden, but it encourages quality new sprouting. A monthly application of fertiliser brings even more blooms. .
Edging rose beds with dwarf marigolds is another option of keeping pests away from the roses as their roots have an anti-nematode action.
Watering should never be neglected at this time of rapid growth.
Lawn: If you want a green lawn for the holiday season, now’s the time to fertilise. This should be done every six to eight weeks in the growing season.
Garden: Remember to water in the early morning or late afternoon – we need to be sustainable water-wise gardeners. Start mulching the beds to keep the water at root level cool.
As the humidity increases, look out for an increase in fungal diseases such as the different mildews on susceptible plants. Spray accordingly or visit your local GCA Garden Centre for organic advice.