The heat is on this Feb and that means three things for the summer gardener:
- Mulch-up to the max
- Smart water-wise gardening
- Exciting heat-loving plants to grow
Life is a Garden has all you need to help you beat the heat and ensure your beloved plant children not only survive, but thrive in our African summer sun. Take care of your lawn, feed and spray, sow and grow, and keep your containers hydrated.
What’s so magical about mulch? Leaves bark chips, macadamia shells, compost, and pebbles are all considered mulch. The magic of mulch is that it keeps the soil and plants’ roots cool, thereby decreasing evaporation and increasing water retention. That’s less water consumption for the Earth and less time spent on watering for you! #winwin
To sow: Spinach, globe artichokes, parsley, carrots, radish, cauliflower, celery, cabbage, oriental vegetables, sweet basil, coriander, nasturtium, and flat-leaf parsley.
To plant: Bush beans, onions, spinach, lettuce, carrots, beetroot, and Swiss chard.
To tend to: Remove summer vegetables that are coming to the end of their productive cycle to make space for the next seasonal harvest. Add compost to veggie beds and make sure your soil is nice and loose, and reloaded with nutrition.
To prep: It’s time to prepare beds for winter and spring crops. Plant your first crop of seed potatoes for an early winter harvest.
To remember: Don’t forget about companion planting as your secret pest and pollination weapon. Increase your crop yield and utilise the bad-bug-repelling power of flowers. Learn more here.
Primetime babes: Bougainvilleas, hemerocallis (daylilies), variegated and green foliage plants are showing off their charm this month. Yours may need some TLC if they’re not popping by now.
Sweetheart sowing: Amazingly fragrant and fuss-free sweet peas are ready to be sown from seed packets available for your nursery.
September always kicks off with Arbor Week and this year it officially kicks off on Monday 31 August and runs until Friday 4 September.
- Common tree of the year is the Cape ash or essenhout Ekebergia capensis, which is a stunning, lush evergreen tree that grows in many parts of the country, except the regions with heavy frost. It has fragrant flowers and its fruit attracts many birds and mammals.
- The second tree of the year is the baobab or kremetart Adansonia digitata. Also known as the upside-down tree, it dominates the Limpopo landscape with its swollen trunk and limbs. It yields the coveted cream-of-tartar fruits and can be grown in frost-free areas.
Tip: The initiative of Arbor Week is to promote the greening of communities. Celebrate Arbor Week by planting either of the above two trees or any other trees or shrubs. If they are indigenous and water-wise that would be a bonus. It is said that Life is a Garden … so create yours and celebrate the plants you love most.
There is a multitude of both flowering and edible seeds that can be sown now. Visit your local GCA Garden Centre to see the range and perhaps consider one or more of the many tomato varieties available to sow now:
- Roma – Firm, fleshy with few seeds. Great for canning and cooking. Fairly long shelf life. High yields, it requires a trellis or stakes.
- Heinz – Large fruit with rich tomato flavour. One of the first tomatoes to be used to make Heinz ketchup. Requires a trellis or stakes
- Cherry tomatoes – Several on the market. Bite-size and has a delicious flavour, is small and round and can be eaten whole in salads.
- Cherry yellow pear – An heirloom variety with small yellow pear-shaped fruit.
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:
- In frost-free areas, start planting at the beginning of August.
- In areas of light to moderate frost that lasts until about the end of August, plant in early September.
- In areas with late frosts or winter rainfall, wait until late September.
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:
- The kei-apple (Dovyalis caffra) is an evergreen large shrub, or small tree, that creates an impenetrable hedge with its spiny thorns. The yellowish-orange fruits are delicious and mostly used for jam, jelly, and syrup-making. The flowers feed honey-bees and attract butterflies whilst the fruit is a delicacy for several birds.
- The shrub num-num (Carissa macrocarpa) and the ground cover num-num (Carissa macrocarpa ‘Green Carpet’) both have beautiful glossy leaves with compact, thorny growth.
One tell-tale sign that summer is in full swing is the arrival of Mosquitos. These annoying little guys transmit diseases, buzz around your ear, suck your blood and if that’s not enough – they leave an itchy bite. A good form of natural mosquito control is to grow certain plants with strong natural fragrances. Grow or place these plants in your entertainment and living areas:
Lavender has a distinct, soothing fragrance which hinders a mosquito’s ability to smell. It endures many climates and grows beautifully in South African soil.
You’ve probably heard of or even used citronella candles before, but little did you know…it’s actually a plant! It produces a strong aroma which masks surrounding scents, preventing mosquitos to be attracted to things close by. You can either plant it in pots or in a garden bed. You can even crush the plant and put it on your skin to fend away the mosquitos.
A member of the mint family which has a strong lemon scent when leaves are crushed. Use the crushed leaves on your skin to repel mosquitos. It can also be used in teas, sauces, and desserts.
Not only used in yummy, fresh food dishes but it makes a great and easy insect repellent. Crushed or not, it gives off an aroma that mosquitos cannot bear. Keep multiple pots outside.
Marigolds contain Pyrethrum (natural insecticide) which is found in many insect repellents due to its distinctive aroma. Mosquitos and other bugs and insects find it to be repulsive.
Colourful flowers in pots are an ideal way to brighten up any area in your garden, patio or balcony. September’s potted garden top picks are: Roses, Marigolds, Impatiens and Begonias. All you need is the right location and enough room for a large container, and you will be able to transform your area into a fragrant retreat glowing with colour.
For sunny spots plant:
- Roses -container-grown roses live happily for years when given what they need. Choose the right rose…fragrant, compact, disease-resistant varieties with continual bloom perform best. Avoid climbers or large shrub roses. Place your pot in a sunny location.
- Marigolds are easy-going plants that bloom reliably, even in direct sunlight, punishing heat and poor to average soil. Although they are beautiful in the ground, growing marigolds in containers is a surefire way to enjoy this delightful plant. They are
For shady spots plant:
- Impatiens are both shade tolerant and very easy to grow. They do very well in containers and hanging baskets. Because they like shade, they can be grown in many areas of your home that may not typically sustain plant life. They come in a variety of colours and will perform best in well-drained soil.
- Begonias are found in shades of white, pink, yellow, and scarlet. They are hardy and easy to grow in containers. All it requires is a little sun, a little water, and much love. Begonias like to sit in locations that have daily full to partial morning sunlight and afternoon shade and prefer well-drained soil.