Like us, plants require food to keep them healthy and strong. Get your plants off to a good start with decedent, nutrient-rich soil. For plants to grow well and produce lots of leafy growth, flowers, and fruit, they need to be well-fed. We are spoilt to live in a country with a generally mild climate and mostly good soil, which allows us to grow a wide range of beautiful plants. However, this tends to make us forget that they do require a little feeding. The key to a flourishing garden is hugely affected by your soil health and fertility.
Tip: Good soil = good roots = a good, healthy plant
Food for thought: According to the Gallup Gardening Survey, less than half of the world’s home gardeners use any kind of fertiliser or plant food on their lawns or gardens. What's unfortunate about this statistic is that it means gardeners aren't getting as many flowers or as much produce as they should. And they're probably struggling with disease and insect problems that could be avoided. Well-fed plants are healthier, more productive and more beautiful.
Soil, often called the living skin of the Earth, is arguably the most important and valuable resource we have. Soil is made from three main components, besides air and water – minerals from weathered rocks, organic matter, which is mainly decomposed plants, and living organisms like earthworms in the soil. There are many different types of soils depending on the composition of the above components. Here is s fun way to test the basic type of soil you have:
Loam soils are the most preferable since sandy soils dry out very quickly and clay soils can stay wet for too long. Luckily, both sandy and clay soils can become loam when you add compost to them.
Need to know: It generally takes about 200 to 400 years to form 1cm of soil and several thousand years to naturally make it fertile!
Fertilisers contain nutrients that plants need. They can mostly be split up into macro-nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium and sulphur, as well as micronutrients such as zinc, iron, manganese, copper, boron, molybdenum and chlorine. Macro-nutrients are needed in larger amounts than micro-nutrients, which are equally important if they are lacking in the soil. Most of the organic fertilisers contain a good mix of both and they also add organic matter to the soil, which makes it more workable and fertile.
Fertilisers are available as granules, pellets, liquid drenches and liquid foliar feeds. For information on what fertiliser to use, visit your local GCA Garden Centre.
Adding both fertiliser and compost is the best combination as fertiliser adds nutrients while the compost holds the fertiliser in the soil for longer.
Compost is made from decomposing plants and is the most important addition to your trolley when you buy plants. It can also be added to garden beds in bulk at least once a year. A famous horticulturist once said that the three most important elements in gardening are 1. compost, 2. compost and you can probably guess that number 3 was - also compost. This makes one realise how important compost is in successful gardening as a soil amendment.
To recap: Compost will loosen and add air into clay soils while also improving water andnutrient retention in sandy soil. Compost also attracts micro-organisms, beneficial fungi, earthworms and other beneficial soil-borne organisms that improve the health of your plants.
Bonemeal & superphosphate are organic and chemical (or inorganic) fertilisers respectively, which are essentially phosphates. Phosphorus is a macro-nutrient and responsible for many plant-growth functions, but it specifically initiates root growth. Because phosphates do not “travel” well in the soil, meaning they don’t move down in soil quickly, they are usually placed in the soil or planting hole.
Need to know: Be aware that some dogs may want to dig up the bonemeal fertiliser.
Mulch: Mulching material can be bark, compost, dump rock, wood chips, and a few others. Mulching is essentially spreading a layer on top of the soil to retain moisture underneath. Mulching keeps the soil cooler in summer and warmer in winter. It aso prevents weeds from growing and if organic, will decompose and improve the soil. Mulching will benefit the whole garden and especially cooler season plants like lilies and more thirsty plants like hydrangeas and roses.
Need to know: Mulching is great as you don’t need to water your garden as regularly.
Think of your soil as a bank account - the more you invest in it, the better the soil and the more gorgeous your plants and garden will be. Season after season the plants will be making “withdrawals” of nutrients from the soil and you will need to keep the soil bank topped up on a regular basis. Don’t forget to mulch much!
Happy holidays is the theme and sentiment this month across much of the world. December, for some, is a time for relaxing and taking in the beauty of their summer gardens, while for others it means time to have fun giving TLC to their indoor, patio and garden plants. It is exciting to spruce up the home, patio and garden during this season of family time. Ask your family for gardening gifts that you may have eyed at your local garden centre. Plants are living gifts that will last for years in the garden – the type of gift that keeps on giving! Life is a Garden, so get the family in on it too!
Add some zing to your cuisine these holidays with the following herbs:
Mint: A sprig of mint foliage is currently an all-the-rage addition to mojito cocktails, gin, other home-made cordials, as well as other trendy sundowners. Mint has very fragrant leaves with a fruity, aromatic taste.
This easy-to-grow groundcover prefers well-drained soils and good, regular watering. They are prized in the kitchen and as a landscaping plant in the garden.
There are many mints to choose from, here are some popular ones:
Visit your local GCA Garden Centre to see these and other mints available.
Tip: For those of you that like spicy dishes there is even a “Hot mint”, which is also called Vietnamese coriander.
Neat to know: Young leaves are tastier than old leaves. The key to keeping the plant healthy will be to harvest sprigs regularly to stimulate new young shoots.
Did you know?: Although best eaten fresh, sprigs can be left for a few days in water, mint leaves can be frozen or air-dried.
Rosemary: A favourite herb! Many of us would use much more rosemary in our food if we had a plant or two growing in the garden. Rosemary can be used in a multitude of dishes including roast vegetables, poultry, lamb, stews and soups. In addition, this herb also adds a lovely savoury flavour to vegan and vegetarian dishes.
Tip: Use sprigs of rosemary fresh or hang up bunches and allow them to air-dry and then store them in an airtight container in the cupboard.
Neat to know: Rosemary is a beautiful evergreen shrub with blue flowers. There is the unusual prostate Rosmarinus officinalis ‘McConnell’s Blue’ and the upright Rosmarinus Tuscan Blue or braai rosemary.
Dill: Dill Anethum graveolens is a landscaping winner due to its fine feathery texture. It is a favourite in European and Asian cuisines and a must when paired with fish on the braai. Dill is commonly used to enhance the flavour of salmon, potatoes, stews, soups, with green beans and yoghurt-based sauces, and for pickling. Try adding some dill to your next summer salad and enjoy a little exotic taste!
Tip: Sow seeds every few weeks into early summer. In this way, if you are planting dill to use for pickling, you will have an on-going supply for when you harvest the veg you wish to pickle!
Something amazing! Dill is a host plant for the caterpillar of the Black Swallowtail butterfly and also attracts beneficial insects like wasps and other predatory insects to your garden. Dill for the win!
Let’s go gardening with Elfie:
Poinsettia hammocks: Take two poinsettias and sling a DIY hammock between their pots. Elfie can use this to relax and enjoy watching you and the family during the holidays (while also keeping an eye out for naughty behaviour).
Harvesting your watermelons: Yes, if you sowed your seed early, you should have watermelon ready to be picked, hooray! Hello, healthy dessert for Elfie and all!
Climbing up Amaryllis: Let Elfie see how far up the flowering stalk of your Amaryllis he can climb. Apparently, he’s quite an agile fella!
Everyone is welcome at Christmas, regardless of religious affiliations, and even if you simply enjoy the sentiment of gift-giving, there is a tree for you! Besides, what’s more awesome than enjoying the look on your child and loved one’s face when you finally nailed it! There are both large and small artificial and living Christmas trees to choose from. We don’t always need to choose a traditional Christmas tree, so let’s have a look at some of the options:
Visit your local GCA Garden Centre to view the various Christmas trees available. You may even be surprised to find tree lights and décor at some of them.
There are many plants that are very useful to make your own fresh décor with. Here are a few easy tips for those finishing holiday spirit touches that’ll certainly impress your guests. family and may make you the envy of your friends:
If you don’t have these plants in your garden, then take a trip to your local GCA Garden Centre. Remember that once you plant them you will have a constant source of fresh plant décor from the growing plant.
Make good use of the holidays and day trip to your local GCA Garden Centre. Keep an eye out for new colours and varieties of pretty perennials like:
Tip: As with most new things, new plant varieties are often superior to their predecessors in a range of different ways, such as being more disease resistant, flowering for longer, producing larger blooms, or even a new flower colour. Don’t be shy to ask your local GCA Garden Centre salesman to show you all the new plants they have in stock for the season, you won’t regret it!
December is an ideal time to consider new directions in the home or garden. You can begin implementing changes and improvements while you are still on holiday, or you can carry them over as New year’s resolution.
Are you getting the best from your garden? Consider who uses the garden the most and what you use the space for. Are you utilising your lawn and planting beds? Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:
Tip: A simple coat of paint on your inner garden walls can have a huge influence on the atmosphere in your garden. A dark olive or dark green paint can make the walls seem to disappear.
Have fun with family and friends in your garden this December! Treasure every moment as though your Life is a Garden, and plant flowers and food wherever you go.