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.
You don't need acres of garden to grow fresh salads and veggies. All you need is a balcony, patio or a postage-stamp of a garden, some good-quality terracotta pots, the right growing medium and a watering can, and you're A for away. Life is a Garden offers these tips to assist you in creating the perfect container garden.
Whenever we're asked what containers to use on a patio, we tend to recommend a nice big terracotta pot or a matching set of terracotta pots. Why terracotta and not plastic? Terracotta pots are made of clay, and natural materials like clay tend to work better with plants. Terracotta pots can breathe, allowing air and even moisture to move through the walls, keeping plants healthier and helping to prevent fungal root disease.
Plants don't like sudden changes in temperature, and terracotta pots act as insulation, slowing down variations in temperature.
Weight is also an advantage – terracotta pots are heavier than plastic or wood, which is great when you've got a cat that keeps rubbing itself against your veggie pots and knocking them over! Finally, terracotta pots get better and better with age, weathering and developing a beautiful patina that cannot be replicated.
What to plant?
Choosing what to plant can be overwhelming when you're starting out. Our first rule of thumb is to plant what you eat! There's not much point in growing coriander if the flavour offends your very being. But if you love cooking with other herbs, start by planting things like rosemary, thyme, mint and origanum.
Another thing we suggest is to mix things up a bit – don't be boring and grow only edibles. Beautiful ornamentals can do well in containers alongside their edible bedfellows, and some have the added benefit of being edible too. Viola flowers can be tossed in a salad, while the flowers of lavender and calendula have a range of uses.
A good base
The key to potting success is a growing medium that can fulfil a plant's nutritional needs.
Whenever we're getting ready to plant up containers, we start by mixing up a big batch of potting medium. To do this, we mix four parts good-quality potting soil, 1 part palm peat (soaked in water beforehand) and a big handful of pelletised organic plant food. Prepare the medium in a big bucket so that you've got enough for all the pots you'll be planting up.
When planting, place a handful of gravel or stones in the bottom of the pot, to ensure proper drainage and prevent the drainage holes from becoming blocked. Then fill the pot with potting medium to about 2/3 full, place the plants in the pots and fill up the pots to a few centimetres below the rim.
Keep them hydrated!
Plants will put up with a lot, but you can't expect them to survive without water. Containers have a limited water-holding capacity, which is why we add water-retentive materials such as palm peat to our mix.
Check if the soil is dry by pushing a finger into the first inch or so – if it is dry, add water. In hot weather, you'll need to water your containers daily, in the morning before it gets too hot. Check again in the afternoon and water again if necessary. In cooler weather, especially in seasons when plants aren't growing as fast, you can get away with watering pots about 2 – 3 times a week.
Remember that overwatering can be as bad as underwatering, so always do the finger test before watering.
Container-grown plants need regular care, including feeding, as the nutrients in the limited quantity of soil get depleted.