As the last month of summer comes to an end, it’s time to start preparing the garden for autumn and winter growing. March presents ideal conditions for sowing seeds as the day temperatures are still warm enough, while night temperatures begin dropping gradually. This is also a great time for cool-season seed germination varieties, and let’s not forget that much-loved gardening maintenance.
Flowers and foliage
The autumn climate is well-suited for planting as new roots get a chance to establish themselves before spring. Try sowing these lovelies now for a brilliant flush of colour and fragrance:
- African daisy (Dimorphoteca) to beautify beds, borders, and containers.
- Livingstone daisy, known also as Bokbaai vygie (Mesembryanthemum) are colourful customers.
- Virginian stocks (Malcolmia maritima) as an enthusiastic and cheerful bloom.
- Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) to keep pests at bay in the veggie patch.
- Blue Felicia bush (Felicia amelloides) for fast-growing, striking sky-blue flowers.
Before sowing sweet peas, prepare their new home by digging deep trenches and working in some nutritious compost from your local GCA Garden Centre. Bonemeal (if you don’t have dogs) and super-phosphate are excellent choices to assist in creating your sweet pea sanctuary. Remember to soak the seeds overnight in lukewarm water before sowing directly into the ground.
Roses are a simply spectacular sight in autumn! To ensure quality blooms into winter, continue with regular preventative treatments/spraying for black spot, beetles and bollworm. As the days get shorter, the roses start to go dormant and withdraw food from their leaves. To compensate for this and to provide enough food for new growth and flowers, fertilise with rose food – your GCA Garden Centre guy can advise you on the best option. Regular watering is very important if there is insufficient rainfall.
Companion planting means growing certain plants close together for their mutually beneficial effects, such as pest protection or growth enhancement. Bedding besties allow you to have your cake AND eat it – your desired harvest flourishing gogo-free and eco-friendly with little other effort required from you. Mother Nature is clever like that – she knows what’s up. Here’s what to plant and reasons why your veggie needs a bestie. Life is a Garden, let’s optimise yours!
Reinventing the veggie patch
We often think of a veggie garden as produce sown in neat rows, exposed soil, and clear of any other plants not on the menu. Well, it might just be the time to revise this idea. There is so much to benefit from including other herbs and flowers to the veggie garden, which take care of pest control, weeds, water evaporation, poor soil conditions, composting, barren spaces and of course, pollination. Consider the idea of a starting a “mixed masala patch”, if you will, and let’s venture beyond the concept of a “vegetables-only” party.
Friends with benefits
Although we’re going for a “mixed masala patch”, it should be mentioned that not all plants like each other, and some can be pretty picky about who they bunk with. Your GCA Garden Centre guy will be able to advise you on the best buddy for your baby, but for now, here are some general friends of the veg with no-strings-attached benefits:
- Natural pest controllers: Plants such as lavender (for fleas), basil (for flies), citronella grass and rosemary (for mozzies), as well as chrysanthemum (for spider mites), repel a variety of insects owing to their essential oil compounds and deterring scent. You can sporadically plant these in and around the veggie garden as long as they are in close range of the greens.
Hello sunshine! That’s the cheerful greeting from marigolds, and what better tonic is there than a bed, border or container filled with marigolds.
Marigolds are fuss-free, quick-growing, and cope with the heat even during the hottest time of the year. They are relatively drought tolerant, needing regular but not excessive watering. The flowers are edible, the leaves can be used in insect-repelling sprays and the roots produce a substance (alpha-terphenyl) that suppresses the growth of plant-parasitic nematodes and other organisms such as fungi, bacteria, insects, and some viruses. A good, all-round garden citizen.
There are two types of marigolds, and each has their charm and use in the garden.
African marigolds (Tagetes erecta) have large double flower heads that are ball shaped. Most varieties are 30 – 40cm high, carrying the round heads above dark green leaves on sturdy, compact plants that always look lush and healthy. In addition to yellow, gold and orange there is a creamy-white variety called ‘Vanilla’. They are best used as a bedding and landscape plant, massed in front of taller perennials like salvia, pentas, ornamental millets, grasses and shrubs.
French marigolds (Tagetes patula) have a variety of flower shapes; anemone, frilly doubles and crested doubles. The anemone type is the showiest, with a wide range of colours, the prettiest being mahogany edged with yellow or golden yellow tipped with red. The double crested varieties have larger frilly flowers that come closest to the pom pom shape. Novelties are ‘Fireball’ and ‘Strawberry Blonde’ that produce multicolour blooms on the same plant. Most French marigolds grow 25cm high and wide but there are very compact dwarf varieties that stay 15cm high and wide and are very heat tolerant.
French marigolds are good edging and border plants for smaller spaces and can be used en masse as bedding plants.