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.
Gardening is so exciting, isn’t it? Equipped with all this knowledge, it’s time to have a peaceful, but victorious war against the weeds! After all, Life is a Garden, so let’s escape and have some fun.
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:
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:
Tip: They attract birds and butterflies and their flowers feed honey bees.
Play & plan with the COLOUR palette
Your spring and summer palette of plants can be a crazy cacophony of colours with a wonderful variety of colour combinations for your consideration. Have fun playing with these flowering plant colours now available in pots:
No wonder, they say Life is a Garden – let’s enjoy it!
Top tip: Improving your SOIL is the priority at this time of year. Before or at the time of planting, add and mix into it plenty of organic matter to the soil such as compost, manure, autumn leaves or other suitable products offered by your local GCA Garden Centre. This will boost soil fertility and ensure healthy plant growth.
It’s a pet’s life
Dogs will often eat grass blades when they have a stomach ailment. Did you know that there is a plant aptly named dog grass (Elymus caninus) that your dog will simply love to chew on rather than your lawn? You have the ideal excuse to indulge your dog this month since 10 August is Spoil your Dog Day! Why stop there, cats are smitten over catnip (Nepeta cataria) and love to chew and roll all over the plant.
What to sow
Got that green finger tingle? Let’s sow some seeds! Marigolds germinate within a week.
Even the lightest and laziest green finger will have success sowing the following seeds:
Claim to fame: Planted among veggies, marigolds are great companion plants since their scent repels many different pests including Nematodes.
Tip: The cornflower has nectar-rich flowers, which attract many beneficial insects to the garden. These are nature’s helpers and keep unwanted insects away.
Need to know: Bean flowers and leaves are also edible.
Tip: In areas that experience late frosts, hold off sowing beans for a few weeks until frosts are past.
Visit your local GCA Garden Centre to see what else you can sow now!
Plant: Love these locals
Many of the most popular plants in the world are our very own. Here are two local lovelies which you can buy as flowering plants in pots, ready to add colour to the patio or the garden:
Pelargoniums: Bush geraniums (Pelargonium x hortorum) and ivy, or cascading geraniums (Pelargonium peltatum), are some of the most sought after of our indigenous plants. Geraniums are incredibly rewarding as garden plants and do exceptionally well in containers too. They love a sunny to semi-shade position and well-drained soil that should be moist but not wet. Give them a weekly mild liquid feeding for excellent results.
Osteospermums: These are also known as the African daisy. Their masses of gorgeous daisy-like flowers with dark centres come in shades of white, yellow, pink, purple and blue. Their eye-catching, bold coloured flowers make them a fabulous choice for a sunny spot in the garden, tumbling over rocks or spilling down the sides of containers. Osteo’s are water-wise, flower for long periods, and are perennial in areas where frost is not heavy.
Coloured arum lilies: Although hybridised, they stem from our indigenous arums or Zantedeschia’s. Often referred to as Zant’s, they have the most beautiful, elegant vase-like flowers in gorgeous colours. You can buy them already in flower, in a pot, or as bulbs.
Tip: Zant’s are best planted in the sun.
Need to know: There is a whole range of summer bulbs at your local GCA Garden Centre. These include Amaryllis, Eucomis or pineapple lily, flame lilies and more. The flame lily is the most delicate, precious climbing plant with exquisite flowers that is best planted where it can easily be seen and shown off, whether on an arch or frame in a pot. Tip: Wait until next month to plant in very cold areas where late frosts are still expected and areas with winter rainfall.
WOW and water-wise! There are a few different perennial vygies and each is as stunning as the next, especially when in full spring bloom. Their rich, luminous jewel-like colours cover the plant and stand out as a jaw-dropping colour bomb. These sun-worshippers make stunning border plants, are great for rock and succulent gardens, spilling over low walls and pots or hanging baskets too. Your local GCA Garden Centre will be proud to show you their vygies. If you prefer to use vygies as seasonal colour then ask for the annual vygie or Livingstone daisies that are available in seedling trays.
Plant: Fruity fragrance
Lemon-scented verbena: Also known as Aloysia, this is a must-have if you enjoy drinking deliciously refreshing lemony tea. A delightful drink is easily made from the scented leaves or you could use them to add fragrance to the garden. If you locate the plant close to a path, the lemony scent will be released whenever a person brushes past the leaves. This rather wispy looking shrub can reach up to 2m in ideal conditions, but normally about 1m tall in areas of light to moderate frost as it can survive a little icy chill. Prune back every spring if you prefer a dense, bushy plant. It is easy to grow and the sprays of white flowers it bears are a bonus.
Claim to fame: The lemon-scented verbena leaves contain essential oils, which have many culinary and aromatherapy uses.
Choosing Verbena for your warm-season colour would be a wise choice. Their dazzling range of colours will add va-va-voom to the garden. They will cascade over hanging baskets, window boxes or containers. Treat yourself - go and have a look at the Verbenas on offer at your local GCA Garden Centre.
Tip: Verbenas like well-drained soil and prefer not to be watered in the evenings.
Feed and pick
Feed fruit trees and vegetables and reap the rewards of the last of the winter veggie harvest.
Did you know that blueberries should be pruned about every four years? When pruning them, try to prune them into a wine glass shape to encourage good air movement and light penetration.
If you want good quality fruit from your peach, nectarine, apricot and plum tree, it is best to prune them every year (this is also true for most berries). However, if you want your fruit trees to grow tall and provide shade, then only prune to shape it when necessary.
Tip: Pruning is easy if you know how. Call your local GCA Garden Centre or visit them for pruning advice.
If you forgot to prune your roses in July, August is a better time than never! Especially tend to the espaliering of climbing roses. With the rapid increase of new shoots, water at least once a week with a deep drenching.
Repot water lilies and add bone-meal into the soil - it is organic and safe for fish. Make holes in the soil, insert the bone-meal, and then cover it with soil on top so that the fish do not eat it. While you are busy with the pond, maintain and clean the pond and service the UV light if you have one. Clean out the algae and start with algal control.
Lawn: proud or pitiful – what makes the difference?
It’s time to give your Kikuyu lawn a boost with some spring treatment:
Now just watch and wait for your stunning new grass to appear though the lawn dressing. Fertilise monthly for best results and water at least once a week until the rains start.
Lowveld and in warm frost-free coastal regions:
Sow the following vegetables now: asparagus, Capsicum (peppers), carrots, cucumber, bush beans, aubergines (brinjals), all melons, all marrows, parsley, pumpkin, radish, runner beans, Swiss chard.
Western Cape – winter rainfall areas:
Sow the following vegetables now: asparagus, beetroot, broad beans, Capsicum (peppers), carrots, cucumber (under protection), aubergines (brinjals), leeks, lettuce (Cos), all melons, all marrows, onions, parsnip peas, radish, spinach, squash, Swiss chard, tomato, turnip.
With the 20th of October being ‘Garden Day’ and October being ‘Rose month’ – what an opportune month to celebrate gardening!
Your roses should be producing their first flush of perfect blooms and the sun is still not too scorching – allowing the blooms to last longer. Spring is also the ideal time to select and plant new rose bushes in your garden. These are some of our favourites:
Pop in to your nearest GCA Garden Centre for more inspiration and supplies.
As soon as the soil warms up in mid spring, you can start to sow all your summer veggies, including beans, sweetcorn and tomatoes. Two of your main “must haves” for your summer salads are cucumber and celery.
Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) - one of the easiest and most rewarding bulbs to grow, amaryllis produce showy, trumpet-shaped blooms that add a flamboyant touch to your garden or home. Often referred to as the Christmas flower because they typically bloom around five weeks after being planted (during the warmer months). For this reason, amaryllis make a wonderful gift at Christmas time and can also make gorgeous centre-pieces for the Christmas dinner table.
Amaryllis do well in most soil types, provided they get sufficient drainage. Plant in a sunny or semi-shade position and for the best results, give your amaryllis some bulb food every two weeks. These beauties are perfect for pots, and can be planted in groups in your garden.
As they retreat into dormancy at the end of the warmer months, you can decrease watering and leave them in the soil throughout the various seasons. Do not stop water them until all of their foliage has receded.
Star Flower or Egyptian star cluster (Pentas lanceolata) - a fast-growing, small to medium-sized herbaceous shrub with light green foliage. Pentas comes in a variety of colours, including pink, red, mauve and white. The beautiful flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds and make great cut flowers. The shrub grows quickly in full sun or semi-shade and vary in height but the modern hybrids are lovely compact bushes, growing +-100cm tall and +-30cm wide. Plant them into rich, well-drained soil. Cut off the dead flowers regularly to encourage re-flowering or continuous blooms.
There are many types of broadleaf weeds that can get their roots into your lawn. Clear out and control weeds in lawns, by using a selective broadleaf weed killer that is safe for use on established lawns.
Chat to a specialist at your nearest GCA Garden Centre for advice on the various products available and what would work best for your needs.
Growing your own veggie garden is both fun and rewarding. Ready for harvest in October are: asparagus, broad beans, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, lettuces, rocket, spinach (Swiss chard) and spring onions. The perfect ingredients for some very tasty and creative summer salads and veggie dishes. If you don’t have your own edible garden established yet – it is never too late to start.
It’s not hard to see why October is “Rose month” as you enjoy your roses in all their glory.
Water deeply at least once a week - for roses to flourish it’s best to water them twice weekly giving them 15mm of water each time. Roses that were fertilised in mid-September should be fertilised again in mid-October or early in October if September was skipped. This encourages root activity and new leaves and flowering stems to sprout. Only use the recommended amount of granular rose fertiliser.
To prevent aphids, bollworm, thrips, powdery mildew and black spot, spray fortnightly with the correct organic spray.
For quality blooms, disbud hybrid teas by removing side buds out of the leaf axles beneath the terminal bud. Remove spent blooms; not only will your rose bed look tidier; this also encourages the production of new quality stems. If you’d like long stemmed blooms for the house, don’t cut more than half of them on a bush.
Visit your local GCA for advice on the best products to use to meet your needs.
On Sunday, 20 October 2019 we will celebrate Garden Day. Instead of working in your gardens – this is a day to put down your garden tools, invite family and friends around, relax and celebrate your garden with them. Flower crowns are a beautiful way to celebrate your garden. Making and wearing the fun and colourful accessory is a great way to show off your garden blooms. Pick a few flowers from the garden and make your own flower crown.
(Gauteng, Free State, North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo)
(Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal)