Dear readers. You are exclusively invited to this month’s super special edition of Life is a Garden. We’re taking you on a journey from nucleus to nursery and sharing some trade secrets about the life of plants. Join us now on a plant pilgrimage and see just how much preparation and planning goes into those adored annuals we love so much.
In the womb of the seed vault
Our journey begins in the seed vault. This is a specialised environment, much like a womb, and is perfectly harmonised to stimulate new life. The temperature is set at 10°C as the soil awaits its seed. The sowing process varies between product coated and edible seeds. Larger vegetable seeds are sown by hand as well as some flowers such as Marigolds. Coated seeds are sown using a nifty machine, which takes care of the picking up and planting.
Did you know?
Annuals, like our beloved Dianthus, are planned six months in advance using carefully calculated timesheets. The timesheets are planned out on a week to week basis with the aim to sell the plants during week 26, from seed vault to nursery showroom.
Gestation and germination
Once the seeds are safely tucked in with moisture-retaining soil, the second phase of the plant’s life begins. The germination station is an exciting place – this is where we begin to see the magic happen! The germination room is set between 24 - 25°C and will be the new home of the seeds for 2 – 9 days, depending on the plant. Unlike the conditions in the seed vault, the humidity in the germination room is cranked up to 100%.
Once the plugs are big enough, they get planted out in their eventual packaging, pots, 8-packs or 30-packs. The growing medium is a blend of buffered coir, imported peat moss, possibly a bit of composted bark or river sand and a controlled-release fertiliser.
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.
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.