The Underground Internet

The Underground Network

We’ve been so spoiled with rain this summer and there’s certainly been no shortage of lush greenery in the garden. March has its own almost-autumn adventures in store with intelligent ornamental grasses leading the pack. It’s time to unearth the internet underground, prep cool-season herbs, and keep an eye out for some pesky bugs. 

 

Networking, smart grass 

Plants have a secret language underground that allows them to ‘talk’ to each other. Communities of plants network amongst themselves to transfer information about the environment, share nutrients, and even provide help to other plants in distress. This underground internet is an essential part of all forests and flourishing landscapes everywhere. 

Instead of growing plants alone, rather go for a community of intelligent ornamental grasses that will adapt and multiply, filling up barren spaces and creating the ultimate abundant look. 

Try these fantastic fountain grass varieties:

  • Pennisetum ‘Fireworks’, ‘Rubrum’ and ‘Vertigo’
  • Pink muhly grass 
  • Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’ (Zebra grass) 
  • Carex ‘Frosted Curls’
  • Coman’s ‘Khaki’
  • Festuca ‘Silver Eye catch’ 
  • Indigenous restios like Elegia tectorum (Cape thatching reed)

Top tip: Collect seeds from flowering grass to keep as birdfeed for our beloved hungry winter visitors. 

Did you know? Mycelium is the multicellular vegetative body of fungi. Think of it as an underground root system that super-charges the sharing of information and nutrients to the entire plant network. Mycelium grows outwards, looking for water, nitrogen, carbon, potassium (and more), which is then transported back to plants around the garden. Incorporating some super mycelium into your landscape is easy. Edible, non-toxic mushroom grow kits are available at GCA Garden Centres with simple instructions and access to all resources needed. 

Pink muhly grass
Carex ‘Frosted Curls’

Uncapped Earth Wi-Fi

Maximise your plant network with these fuss-free, friendly perennials: 

  • Long-flowering - acanthus, campanula, centranthus, diascia, gaura, Japanese anemone, kangaroo paw, nepeta, rudbeckia and echinacea.
  • Drought resistant - armeria, artemisia, bergenia, felicia, eryngium, salvia and penstemon.

4 Season Gardening Goals

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Life is a Garden has compiled an easy-to-follow, 4 season gardening guide to help you sow, grow, and eat all year round. Enjoy another year in the garden and never miss an opportunity to plant your favourite veggies and flowers. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for those pesky pests! 

Summer (December, January, February)

Pretty plants 

  • Grab seed packets of show-stopping violas, primulas, pansies, snapdragons, ornamental kale, poppies, wildflowers, sunflowers, gazanias, and dianthus.
  • Towards the end of summer, you can sow calendula, cosmos, daisies, violas, primula, pansies, snapdragons, ornamental kale, gazanias, poppies, wildflowers, Bellis, dianthus, and marigolds.
  • Seedling trays for quick colour include petunias, impatiens, calendula, dahlias, verbena, alyssum, cosmos, marigolds, nemesias, and dahlias.
  • For picture-perfect cut flowers, harvest your roses, cornflowers, hydrangeas, carnations, delphiniums, lilies, gladiolus, sweet peas, cosmos, gypsophila, agapanthus, sunflowers, and geraniums.

Top bulb tip: Buy flower bulbs for the new season but don’t plant them just yet. Wait for the weather to cool down and prepare the soil with well-aged organic matter before planting.

Everything edible 

  • In January, sow from seed or plant from seedling treys: dwarf beans, beetroot, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflowers, celery, lettuces, leeks, radishes, rocket, spinach, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts, celery, eggplants, peas, potatoes, and pumpkins.
  • You can harvest beans, beetroot, capsicums, chillies, courgettes, cucumbers, eggplants, garlic, lettuces, onions, and tomatoes this month.
  • In February, you can sow beetroot, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflowers, celery, kale, leeks, lettuce, radishes, rocket, spinach, Swiss chard, coriander, parsley, Brussel sprouts, peas, rosemary, sage, and thyme.
  • You should be able to pick passion fruit, strawberries, raspberries, apricots, peaches, plums, and apples during your last month of summer. 

Top fruit tip: Once nectarines, peaches and plums have finished fruiting, prune the plants to shape, and remove any dead or disease-infected branches.

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gardening, gardening guide, gardening tips, seasonal gardening, gardening for beginners, spring gardening, summer gardening, fall gardening, winter gardening, garden maintenance, plant care, garden design, gardening ideas, seasonal plants, gardening techniques, gardening advice
gardening, gardening guide, gardening tips, seasonal gardening, gardening for beginners, spring gardening, summer gardening, fall gardening, winter gardening, garden maintenance, plant care, garden design, gardening ideas, seasonal plants, gardening techniques, gardening advice
gardening, gardening guide, gardening tips, seasonal gardening, gardening for beginners, spring gardening, summer gardening, fall gardening, winter gardening, garden maintenance, plant care, garden design, gardening ideas, seasonal plants, gardening techniques, gardening advice

Quick Maintenance

  • Mulch all beds and containers well to improve water retention and keep the soil moist.

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! 

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.