The beauty of bee keeping

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F is for Fearless February! Dare to do something different and come buzz on the wild side with Life is a Garden as we explore the beauty of beekeeping. Whether you live on a plot or farm, townhouse or flat – the enchanting world of beehives, honey extraction, bee courses and baked goods are all available to you. Here’s the basics to get you going. 

 

Beekeeping has a few rules 

Before we fly on, there are specific by-laws for beekeeping stipulated by the Metropolitan Municipality Public Health. You can’t own a hive on your balcony in the suburbs, for example, but you can go on an epic beekeeping course and tend to a hive away from home. For our plot and farm dwellers to have sufficient space, here is a brief overview of the current laws:

  • No person may keep bees on any premises unless that person is the holder of a permit authorizing that activity and every beehive is situated –
  • A minimum of five metres from any boundary of the premises.
  • A minimum of twenty metres from any public place or building used for human habitation or from any place used for the keeping of animals.
  • The bees are kept in an approved beehive and the beehive is kept in an area inaccessible to children and animals, kept in the shade at all times, and supplied with a source of drinking water within five metres of the hive.

 

It is important for beekeepers to register with The South African Bee Industry Organisation (SABIO) so that your set-up is in accordance with the regulation standards. This is to ensure all bees live a happy life and to prevent accidents or injuries to your neighbours. Now that we’re all clued up, let’s look into the benefits of starting a beehive and what treasures could be yours! 

Posh nature pools

Garden Pools, Natural Pool Design, Eco-friendly Gardening, Sustainable Landscaping, Aquatic Plants, Water Features, Garden Water Conservation, Wildlife Habitat, Garden Pond Maintenance, Organic Pool Design, Biodiversity in Gardens, Natural Swimming Pools, Water Gardening, Ecosystem Balance, Garden Oasis

Picture your next swim; chemical-free and full of life - that’s the sort of posh pool we’re after! Success means different things to different people, but we’d like to think that a living pool is one of those grand stamps of achievement and style for the gardener. Known also as eco-pools or Earth pools, these swimmable (and often drinkable) mini wetland-lakes are the perfect waterway back to Mother Nature. Get connected and join Life is a Garden with top South African experts as we splash into the magical world of biofiltered, living water! 

 

Swap the chlorine for nature’s green

An eco-pool uses a biological filtration system instead of chemicals to clean the water. A biological filter uses natural processes, microorganisms, and selected smart plants. With the correct ecosystem in balance, biofilters actually purify water better than pool chemicals!  Although such chemicals are designed to kill living organisms (like bacteria and algae) they don’t actually remove other harmful substances like ammonia and phosphates. 

Biofilters, however, are able to remove ammonia, phosphates, and nitrogen from the water so that algae struggles to grow, resulting in water that you can even drink! Biological filters, or biofilters,  include plants and beneficial microscopic life, like good bacteria, plant plankton, and zooplankton (small good-guy animals). Aiding this process is water which is constantly filtered through a sand/gravel filter along with a powerful pump to trap any algae and insoluble material in the water.

Did you know? You can easily convert your existing pool into a natural pool as conventional set-ups are very well suited for conversions. There is a selection of creative and inspiring options to help you transform your pool into a living wetland wonderland, just be sure to seek expert advice and professional services.

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Will I swim in a swamp?

No. A regeneration grow zone with plant life and a gravel bed is built adjacent (and still connected) to the primary swimming area, which is kept open and clear like a standard pool.

Become A Water Warrior This Spring

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Here are some of our top tips to being a responsible water user in your vegetable garden!

Time Your Watering

Proper watering is crucial for maintaining a thriving vegetable garden and knowing when to water is essential to ensure that plants receive adequate moisture without risking overwatering or underwatering.

It is generally best to water vegetable gardens in the early morning, as this allows plants to absorb water before the heat of the day sets in. However, it is important to monitor the soil moisture regularly and adjust watering frequency based on the specific needs of your plants – in the heat of summer you will probably have to water in the evening too, to help your plants recover. 

Watering at the right time:

  • Minimises evaporation. 
  • Gives plants ample time to dry off before nightfall. 
  • Reduces the risk of fungal diseases. 
  • Ensures that water reaches the plants’ roots.
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Mulching

Mulching is a gardening technique that involves spreading a layer of organic or inorganic material on the soil’s surface – there should be no bare soil visible at all. In the veggie garden we recommend always using an organic mulch, such as straw, grass clippings, compost, wood chips or leaves, as it helps to improve the soil and doesn’t add anything harmful to the soil (and therefore to your food). 

This protective covering serves multiple purposes, including:

  • Regulating soil temperature. 
  • Adding organic matter to the garden. 
  • Suppressing weed growth. 
  • Conserving moisture.
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Create Hydrozones

Grouping plants according to their water use, known as hydrozoning, is a smart and efficient approach in gardening that can help conserve water and it is particularly effective in the edible garden. By strategically arranging your herbs or veggies with similar water requirements (high, moderate, low and very low water usage) together, gardeners can ensure that each group receives the appropriate amount of water without wasting resources. 

Spring Into Action as a Water Warrior

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You don’t have to use litres of water to make your garden beautiful. Here are some smart techniques for responsible water usage.

In The Hydrozone

Hydrozones are a game-changer when it comes to efficient gardening. By grouping plants based on their water requirements, we can tailor our watering practices to meet their specific needs. Whether in garden beds or containers, arranging plants with similar water needs together allows us to provide adequate hydration without wasting resources. For instance, high-water-usage plants can be placed in one hydrozone, while those with low water requirements can form another group. 

This arrangement offers numerous benefits: 

  • Optimises water usage. 
  • Promotes healthy growth. 
  • Minimises water stress on plants.
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Improve Your Soil

Plant health starts with soil health, and good soil also helps to save water. Prep your soil well before planting by adding organic matter in the form of compost or rotted manure, as well as bone meal or superphosphate for strong roots, and a slow-release organic fertiliser. Vermiculite is also a good option if you need to increase soil’s water-holding capacity. 

By doing this you will:

  • Create strong roots for more efficient water absorption. 
  • Reduce water runoff. 
  • Increase water-holding capacity. 
  • Grow healthier plants.
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Water At The Right Time

We all know that we need to water our gardens, but many of us choose to water at the wrong times. By understanding the best times to water, we can ensure our plants’ wellbeing while minimising water wastage.

It is generally recommended to water gardens in the early morning to allow plants to absorb moisture before the heat of the day sets in. However, it’s essential to monitor soil moisture regularly and adjust watering frequency based on specific plant needs. During hot summer months, additional watering in the evening might be necessary to help your plants recover overnight. 

Bio-diversify Your Backyard

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Welcome South Africa’s handy helpers to the garden and reap the rich rewards. Fall in love with your eco-friendly backyard that’s flying, swarming, and crawling with life! 

Local is the lekkerste: Growing indigenous plants means more habitat creation for our local wildlife, while also increasing our native plant species reduced by urbanisation and deforestation. SA’s critters and greens have a lekker advantage of being naturally adaptive to our environment, meaning less maintenance and more life in your garden!

Bring in biodiversity by

Planting for pollinators: Attract bees, butterflies, birds, and eco-barometers like frogs and lizards by planting salvia, borage, lavender, and antirrhinum.

Companion planting: Get your edibles elated, your flowers flourishing and seeds spreading by adding pentas, echinacea, marigolds and sunflowers to the veggie patch. 

Organic pest-control: Naturally repel a variety of pests by planting basil (for flies), citronella grass and rosemary (for mozzies), as well as chrysanthemum (for spider mites).

Helpful predators: Avoiding pesticides attract natural predators such as ladybugs, spiders, dragonflies and praying mantises who make quick work of mealybugs, aphids, scale, and more.

Happy soil = happy plants: Make sure you’ve got good drainage, use compost, mulch up, and fertilise.

Wonderful water: Give your garden critters a drink with water features and birdbaths. Enjoy watching all your favourite friends come to visit. 

House wildlife: Install bird, bat, bee, and owl houses around your garden for fewer rodents, mozzies, and locusts. Become a beekeeper and harvest your own honey too! 

Indulge in indigenous: Clivias, vygies, African lily (Agapanthus spp.), crane flowers and salvias attract colourful indigenous flyers for your viewing pleasure. 

Evade the invasive: Remove invasive plant species from your garden. Aliens may overconsume water, negatively transform the land, and hinder our local biodiversity. 

The tree’s knees: Our local Wild pear (Dombeya rotundifolia) tree is a massive wildlife attractor and butterfly breeding gem that is also spring-blooming and suitable for container planting and small gardens.

Heroic Hydrozoning

Become the hero of your garden by saving water and protecting your plants from dying in a drought. The new climate cycle, El Niño,

Become the hero of your garden by saving water and protecting your plants during the dry summer ahead. The new climate cycle, El Niño, is predicted to reach us at the start of 2024, which includes heat waves and less rainfall. Luckily Life is a Garden is preparing all green fingers with loads of practical ways you can go about maintaining a lush garden. One of the easiest ways is to begin with Hydrozoning. 

Garden jargon check

Hydrozoning is a landscaping technique where plants of similar water requirements are grouped together, grown in the same area. This can be done in beds as well as mixed containers. You may have to do a bit of admin in the beginning, but once you have made the necessary transplants, hydrozoning will save you hours of maintenance time and many litres of water. 

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Water warriors

Hydrozoning also allows you to keep better track of your watering schedule and it prevents over/underwatering of plants. You can set your irrigation system to only water certain beds as opposed to the full garden that isn't actually at risk of dying soon. For example, a mixed bed with aloes and canna lilies are not the best match as aloes are low water and canna lilies are high. You can see that a bed like this would not be efficient during a drought as the aloes will be receiving unnecessary water. 

The key is not to get rid of your beloved canna lilies, for example, but to provide these plants with a bedding bestie that has similar needs. Your Garden Centre will be able to give you great advice on which plants to pair up. If you are unsure about your current bedding companions, post a picture on Life is a Garden’s SA Seasonal Grow Guide group on Facebook and our experts will help you identify the plants and make helpful companion suggestions. 

The flower tribe has spoken

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Here’s a quick overview of SANA’s stats accumulated over the past two months. How well do you really know your consumers? 

Most-bought seed packets

  1. Flowers
  2. Vegetables

 Big spenders

  1. Perennials flowers
  2. Annual flowers
  3. Trees and shrubs

 Outdoor top-sellers

  1. Flowers
  2. Seedlings

Garden care

  1. Compost and potting soil
  2. Plant food

 Hard landscaping

  1. Hoses and fittings
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A trendy heads-up 

Get your Garden Centres and Home Stores stocked. Here are the gardening trends looking to take root in a fertile bed and container near your consumers! 

Sexy small spaces

This trend is all about unique growing styles combined with sassy plants that may be small in size but large in personality. Our significant townhouse/balcony/patio demographic will be looking for something special that expresses their individuality within a limited space. 

  • Dwarf varieties in mini pots for the patio
  • Stylish kitchen windowsill herb farms
  • Statement-making vertical walls and hydroponics

Stock list: attractive dwarf hybrids, minimalistic rectangular containers for windowsills and all the herbs, leafy greens and cherry tomatoes for hydrophonic growing, hydro set-ups, and vertical wall containers with charismatic indoor and outdoor plant options. 

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El Nino-proof gardens

With the predicted dry and hot summer ahead, indigenous landscaping, rainwater harvesting, and wildlife habitat creation is top priority. Our Earth Custodians will be looking for drought-proof plants, inspiration on how to redesign beds for water conservation, as well as ways to support wildlife. 

  • Indigenous hydrozoning
  • Water collection and storing
  • Pollinators and friendly critters 

Stock list: In-store labels that indicate hydrozone compatibility as well as a large variety of local plants, rainwater tanks and other water harvesting supplies, wildlife houses and plants for pollinators that are grouped together and highlighted in-store. 

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Indoor jungles

As temperatures rise, indoor gardening will see an increase in demand for exotic collectables and classic creepers. Consumers will likely be more willing to spend on indoor landscaping owing to water restrictions and heat. 

Local Luxuries

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Celebrate the return of spring with some spectacular indigenous plants and trees that are in bloom now. 

Colour popping plants 

  • Plectranthus ‘Mona lavender’  is an evergreen shrub with dramatic purple flowers and aromatic dark green leaves. They are shade-lovers and well-suited for containers. 
  • Botterblom (Gazania krebsiana) will flourish in full sun and require little water. This tufted, evergreen groundcover boasts blooms in a vibrant array of colours and petal details. 
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  • Wild garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) is an excellent pest repellent with brilliant pink to lavender flowers. Grow them in sun to semi-shade and enjoy their flavoursome leaves in salads.
  • Blue Daisy Bush (Felicia amelloides) will reward the garden with sweet blue flowers contrasted by a bright yellow centre. This fast-growing bush likes full sun in beds or pots.
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Gardening for Biodiversity, South African Gardening, Biodiversity Conservation, Native Plants, Wildlife Habitat, Eco-Friendly Gardening, Sustainable Landscapes, Biodiverse Garden, Planting for Nature, Garden Ecosystem, Local Flora and Fauna, Green Gardening, Natural Habitat, Conserving Biodiversity, Garden Biodiversity, Nature in Your Backyard, Wildlife-Friendly Garden, Plant Diversity, Sustainable Gardening, Garden for Wildlife, South African Flora, Creating Habitats, Garden Biodiversity Awareness, Biodiversity Awareness, Garden Ecosystems, Flora and Fauna Balance, Biodiversity in Gardens, Garden Eco-Systems, Planting with Purpose, Supporting Biodiversity, Garden Conservation, Garden Biodiversity Initiative, Local Ecology, Planting Natives, Garden Habitat, Biodiversity Education, Garden Biodiversity Tips

Try these too: The Cape honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis) has tubular red flowers that attract nectar-feeding birds while the Cape leadwort (Plumbago auriculata) has blue-purple blooms and is host to the common blue butterfly (Cyclyris pirithous). Does not show up in the directory at all, not by its common name and not its official name either 

Top tip: Remember to prune back all bushes and shrubs after flowering to increase their blooms during the next regrowth period. 

Gardening for Biodiversity, South African Gardening, Biodiversity Conservation, Native Plants, Wildlife Habitat, Eco-Friendly Gardening, Sustainable Landscapes, Biodiverse Garden, Planting for Nature, Garden Ecosystem, Local Flora and Fauna, Green Gardening, Natural Habitat, Conserving Biodiversity, Garden Biodiversity, Nature in Your Backyard, Wildlife-Friendly Garden, Plant Diversity, Sustainable Gardening, Garden for Wildlife, South African Flora, Creating Habitats, Garden Biodiversity Awareness, Biodiversity Awareness, Garden Ecosystems, Flora and Fauna Balance, Biodiversity in Gardens, Garden Eco-Systems, Planting with Purpose, Supporting Biodiversity, Garden Conservation, Garden Biodiversity Initiative, Local Ecology, Planting Natives, Garden Habitat, Biodiversity Education, Garden Biodiversity Tips
Gardening for Biodiversity, South African Gardening, Biodiversity Conservation, Native Plants, Wildlife Habitat, Eco-Friendly Gardening, Sustainable Landscapes, Biodiverse Garden, Planting for Nature, Garden Ecosystem, Local Flora and Fauna, Green Gardening, Natural Habitat, Conserving Biodiversity, Garden Biodiversity, Nature in Your Backyard, Wildlife-Friendly Garden, Plant Diversity, Sustainable Gardening, Garden for Wildlife, South African Flora, Creating Habitats, Garden Biodiversity Awareness, Biodiversity Awareness, Garden Ecosystems, Flora and Fauna Balance, Biodiversity in Gardens, Garden Eco-Systems, Planting with Purpose, Supporting Biodiversity, Garden Conservation, Garden Biodiversity Initiative, Local Ecology, Planting Natives, Garden Habitat, Biodiversity Education, Garden Biodiversity Tips

Local trees for wildlife 

  • Tree wisteria (Bolusanthus speciosus) may well be the epitome of local luxuries. With its graceful weeping habit and gorgeously fragrant, violet-blue blooms, this small tree is the perfect addition to all sunny beds and containers. They attract a host of butterflies and wild animals like monkeys, gemsbok, and grey duikers. 
  • Tree fuchsia (Halleria lucida) is medium-sized and hardy with brick red to orange tubular flowers that grow in clusters directly off the branches. Regarded as one of the most valuable, they attract sunbirds, white-eyes, thrushes, robins, pigeons, flycatchers, loeries, mousebirds, barbets, as well as bees and butterflies.

Fiery fynbos

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Fynbos is a specific group of vegetation that is known as Proteaceae. Fynbos has expertly adapted over millions of years and has thus become the world’s most diverse plant habitat, even more than a tropical rainforest.

Proteas

King Pink is our national flower and a dramatic addition to the garden. They enjoy full sun in beds and containers, are drought and frost-hardy, and make for stunning cut flowers. Enjoy their bold blooms from July to October every year. 

Ericas

Fairy Confetti is a sweetheart shrub with masses of tiny pink flowers that add happiness to the garden. Their pretty blooms can be expected from spring, along with the many indigenous wildlife visitors they attract. Plant then in full sun in beds or pots. 

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Leucospermums

The Scarlet Ribbon is a vigorous grower with no shortage of blooms. Their intricate flower heads will bring any bed or container to life with striking red, orange, and yellow details. Grow then in full sun and enjoy their flowering time from September. 

 

Leucadendron range

Inca Gold is a decorative foliage plant with bright green, lime/yellow leaves that contrast perfectly with their pink edges. Grow them in full sun beds where you can look forward to a unique flower show from November to September.

Top tip: Fynbos love organic, rich dirt and thrive in sandstone derived, acidic soil with good drainage and no manure.   

Top tip: Mulch your plants with acid compost once a year and remember to prune your fynbos after flowering or before spring for nice full growth. 

Hanging basket bulker: Plant begonia ‘Dragon Wings’ in shades of light pink and reds for added hanging basket cuteness in full to semi-sun areas. 

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In the garden

Lawn love

Give your grass the pre-spring treatment by low mowing, spiking, feeding, and firm raking (scarifying). Apply a generous layer of lawn dressing and fertiliser, available at your garden centre, and cover the area so that just the tips of the blades are visible.

El Niño ready 1: the new climate cycle

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Scientists are predicting the full impact of El Niño to play out in 2024, with temperatures expected to soar across the globe. Changing climate cycles are as old as the Earth itself and a natural part of what humanity will experience while living on our gorgeous blue planet. As gardeners, these changes are particularly influential as we already have a close relationship to rainfall and the weather in general, as well as the needs of our plants and garden wildlife. A period of noticeable changes is heading our way, imploring us more than ever to practice sustainable watering.

The coming change in weather pattern from La Nina (cool phase) to El Niño (warm phase), will affect the entire continent across multiple sectors – from food production, fuel and food prices, agriculture, plant life, and as we’ve seen – the possibility of day 0 in our own homes.

In this article, we’ll be answering the following questions:

  1. What is El Niño and why the change from La Nina?
  2. What has Africa learned from El Niño in the past?
  3. What can South Africa Expect? 
  4. How will El Niño impact the home gardener?

 

Before we dive in, this article is number 1 of 3 in Life is a Garden’s El Niño Preparedness Series. We recommend that you read them in chronological order for a comprehensive understanding. Together, these 3 articles will leave you well-informed and equipped for gardening in a drought. 

Article 1: El Niño - the new climate cycle (you are here)

Article 2: Gardener or Earth Custodian? 

  • What is the Good Gardener Ethos?
  • What is my conscious gardening advantage? 
  • How can I be a wildlife guardian and habitat creator?
  • How can I look after my family?

 

Article 3: The Water Warrior Way 

  • How can I affordably collect and store rainwater now? 

El Niño ready 2: Gardener or Earth custodian?

As we approach the new El Niño climate cycle, we also enter a deeper understanding of how influential and important the gardener is. Predicted dry times and heat waves ahead will have a significant impact on gardening and likely to our usually cheerful dispositions as hardships from around the country make the news. It can be challenging to remain positive and solution-driven during these times. However, The South African Nursery Association (SANA) and Life is a Garden are working hard to ensure you thrive, not only survive this period.

The first step in preparing for this weather cycle begins with the correct education. Be sure to have read Article 1 to school yourself on the fundamentals of El Niño. In this article, we arrive at the second phase of our El Niño preparedness, which is a change in mindset or ethos upgrade that recognises the evolution of the gardener from an everyday plant grower to a mighty Earth Custodian (if you aren’t one already).

We hope that you are just as inspired as we are to take on this shining title and join Life is a Garden on our mission to play for team plants, people, and planet!

In this article, we’ll be answering the following questions:

  1. What is the Good Gardener ethos?
  2. What is my conscious gardening advantage?
  3. How can I be a wildlife guardian and habitat creator?
  4. How can I look after my family?

*Before we dive in, this article is number 2 of 3 in Life is a Garden’s El Niño Preparedness Series. We recommend that you read them in chronological order for a comprehensive understanding. Together, these 3 articles will leave you well-informed and equipped for resilient gardening.

Article 1: El Niño - the new climate cycle 

  • What is El Niño and why the change from La Nina?

El Niño ready 3: The Water Warrior Way

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We’ve got some time from now (August) until summer when El Niño’s heat and dryness is predicted to reach us in full swing. Estimated to last for 9 to 12 months, it is to prepare a resilient garden and make the necessary changes to our habits and water collection infrastructure.

Having read article 1 and article 2, the topics of Earth Custodian and Water Warrior should be familiar tools to have for gardening in a heatwave. In this 3rd article of Life is Garden’s El Niño Preparedness Series, we will be digging our spades into some practical ways that you can save and efficiently manage your water consumption to keep your garden thriving.

To recap, a Water Warrior is part of the Earth Custodian’s everyday gardening habits - from water-wise practices to wildlife protection and rainwater harvesting. The Earth Custodian is both a mindset and ethos upgrade that recognises the gardener as more than just a plant grower, but an essential service individual who is conscious of the big-picture footprint their water habits have.

To be a Water Warrior means that we have ‘woken up’ to the accountability of our household’s water consumption and how our daily habits impact the country as a whole, as well as surrounding wildlife and the precious balance of Mother Nature. By extension, becoming a Water Warrior also means that we do not transfer all resource and infrastructure responsibility to municipalities and government.

 

In this article, we’ll be answering the following questions:

  • How can I affordably collect and store rainwater now?
  • How can I grow a resilient garden?
  • Is hydrozoning right for me?
  • How should I be watering my containers, beds, and lawn?

 

Before we dive in, this article is number 1 of 3 in Life is a Garden’s El Niño Preparedness Series.