Plant Moms Botanical Boss

life is a garden, nurturing, garden, plants, nature, flowers, greenery, indoor, water
life is a garden, nurturing, garden, plants, nature, flowers, greenery, indoor, water

Plant Mom Addition 

May is for the plant moms! Embrace becoming a botanical boss and dig your way into the world of plant parenting with confidence. Celebrate Mother’s Day with a new addition to the family or gift mommy dearest something to help with that empty nest. Follow Life is a Garden’s guide to successful indoor gardening.

life is a garden, nurturing, garden, plants, nature, flowers, greenery, indoor, water

Seasoned plant moms

If you’re looking for a plant that says “this isn’t my first child”, these three high-maintenance favourites will glamorously show off your expert parenting skills. 

  1. Moth orchid

Tantrums about: could be anything but especially overwatering.  

Bribe it with: patience, loose bark potting mix, indirect sunlight, humidity, scheduled watering. 

  1. Maidenhair fern

Tantrums about: not being able to watch you shower. 

Bribe it with: misting, dappled light, and humidity. Also, some time outdoors where it can see the sunset. 

  1. Calathea

Tantrums about: being the only child and open spaces.

Bribe it with: bright, indirect sun, well-draining soil, lots of friends to increase humidity, and a shallow container (short-root syndrome). 

life is a garden, nurturing, garden, plants, nature, flowers, greenery, indoor, water

First-time plant parents 

When gifting or homing a plant as the first indoor offspring, go for these three easy greens that don’t always need to be the centre of attention. 

  1. Snake plant 

May give glares when: irritated by too many water kisses. 

Give pocket money and: only one or two waterings during winter and almost any light condition. 

 

  1. Spider plant 

May give glares when: it’s too hot to play inside  

Give pocket money and: well-drained soil, indirect light, occasional pruning of playful spiderettes.

  1. Pothos (Epipremnum)

May give glares when: grounded and unable to go anywhere. 

Give pocket money and: a hanging basket or trellis, a little pruning, and a chance to dry out between watering. 

 

Indoor growing guide

Regardless of what you are planning to grow, here are our top tips for successfully raising your bundles of joy indoors. 

Biodiversity – All things that Fly and Crawl

Biodiversity, love your garden, birds, plants, flowers, hydrangeas, animals, life is a garden
Biodiversity, love your garden, birds, plants flowers, hydrangeas, animals, life is a garden

Life is a Garden invites you to become eco-custodians to South Africa’s heralding wildlife, right from your backyard! Reap the rich rewards and fall in love with our vibrant biodiversity that flies, swarms, and crawls with life.

Local is the lekkerste: Growing indigenous plants means more habitat creation for our local wildlife, while also increasing our native plant species reduced by urbanisation and deforestation. SA’s critters and greens have a lekker advantage of being naturally adaptive to our environment, meaning less maintenance and more life in your garden!

Biodiversity, love your garden, birds, plants, flowers, hydrangeas, animals, life is a garden

Bring in biodiversity by

  • Planting for pollinators: Attract bees, butterflies, birds, and eco-barometers like frogs and lizards by planting salvia, borage, lavender, and antirrhinum.
    • Companion planting: Get your edibles elated, your flowers flourishing and seeds spreading by adding pentas, echinacea, marigolds and sunflowers to the veggie patch. 
    • Organic pest-control: Naturally repel a variety of pests by planting basil (for flies), citronella grass and rosemary (for mozzies), as well as chrysanthemum (for spider mites).
    • Helpful predators: Avoiding pesticides attract natural predators such as ladybugs, spiders, dragonflies and praying mantises who make quick work of mealybugs, aphids, scale, and more.
    • Wonderful water: Give your garden critters a drink with water features and birdbaths. Enjoy watching all your favourite friends come to visit. 
    • House wildlife: Install bird, bat, bee, and owl houses around your garden for fewer rodents, mozzies, and locusts. Become a beekeeper and harvest your own honey too! 
    • Indulge in indigenous: Clivias, vygies, African lily (Agapanthus spp.), crane flowers and salvias attract colourful indigenous flyers for your viewing pleasure. 
  • Evade the invasive: Remove invasive plant species from your garden. Aliens may overconsume water, negatively transform the land, and hinder our local biodiversity. 

Happy soil = happy plants: Make sure you’ve got good drainage, use compost, mulch up, and fertilise.

Biodiversity, love your garden, birds, plants, flowers, hydrangeas, animals, life is a garden
Biodiversity, love your garden, birds, plants, flowers, hydrangeas, animals, life is a garden

Remember to visit your favourite GCA Garden Centre where you can purchase all sorts of wildlife accessories and gorgeous gogga-attracting plants.

Tiptop Topiary

Topiary garden plant flowers shrubs greenery trim design environment april
Tiptop Topiary

Show off your champion gardening skills with stunning topiary plants, pruned to sophisticated perfection. Follow Life is a Garden’s topiary style guide and get the look this autumn!  

Top tip: Most evergreen shrubs can be trained to grow into any shape or direction. All you need is some imagination and a good set of shears.  

Get the look

Lollipop: Choose a tall, bushy plant with a strong main stem. Stake the plant well to help it grow upright. Start shaping the head by cutting back stems to about 2 to 3 nodes and clearing the main stem of all other growth. Plant picks: Abutilon, anisodontea, brunfelsia, and Murraya exotica.

Poodle-cut: Go for a slim but bushy plant and stake it securely. Visualise where the dense leaf growth will form the three ‘poodle-cut’ spheres. Shape your balls beginning at the base and clear all other growth. Plant picks: Duranta 'Sheena's Gold', cherry laurel, Cypress, and pittosporum.

Spirals: Choose a slim conifer and challenge yourself with this design. You will need a long, strong stake around which the plant will be twisted, creating the spirals. Complete the look by cleaning around the twists to maintain their spiral shape. Plant picks: Juniperus scopulorum ‘Skyrocket’ and all other pencil conifers. 

Try these topiary styles: Parterres, mazes, labyrinths, knot gardens, espalier, frames, hedging, shapes, and cute animals. 

Topiary colours April garden gardening plants shrubs flowers sow trim
Topiary garden plant flowers shrubs greenery trim design environment april

More terrific topiary plants

Foliage-dense for pruning: Duranta gold, syzygium paniculatum, ficus varieties, ligustrum undulatum, as well as lemon and lime trees. Feed plants monthly with a 2:1:2 fertiliser and mulch around the base with organic plant material. 

Flowering bushes for shaping: Solanum, fuchsias, freylinia, hibiscus, and westringia. Feed plants monthly with a 3:1:6 fertiliser. As soon as they start shooting new branches, cut them back to give them a fuller, more compact shape.

Try these topiary styles: Parterres, mazes, labyrinths, knot gardens, espalier, frames, hedging, shapes, and cute animals. 

April in the garden Everything is awesome in April

April In the Garden
April Checklist Gardening Greenery Flowers Plants Colour Health

Happy second month of autumn, gardeners! Although it’s getting colder, the landscape is truly warmed up by the rich colour pallet around us. With many plants going into hibernation, cool-season flowers are only just waking up and getting ready to treat us to their colourful charm. It’s time to sort out some pre-winter maintenance and prep the veggie patch for soups and stews.  

Awesome flowers to plant 
  • Towards the end of April is the perfect time to plant striking indigenous bulbs like watsonia, freesia, ixia, chincherinchee and Sparaxis. For non-indigenous bulbs, try daffodils, irises, tulips, and hyacinths.
  • For colour and charm, go for primula, poppy, pansy and gazania seedlings, as well as perennials such as lupins, Shasta daisies, and aquilegias. 

Planting new roses now will allow them to ‘settle in’ during winter and gain a head start in spring. Continue to spray your roses against fungal diseases such as mildew and black spot.

Cold Winter Autumn Hyacinths season garden gardening coulour plant flower life is a garden
chincherinchee flowers plants garden autumn april greenery
Biodiversity, love your garden, birds, plants, flowers, hydrangeas, animals, life is a garden
aquilegias.

Awesome plants to sow 

  • Flowers that can still be sown are osteospermum, mesembryanthemums, winter scatter packs and the indigenous scatter pack mix. Individual varieties include Virginian stocks, calendula, and Felicia.
  • Veggies to be sown now include peas, parsnips, carrots, onion Texas Grano (short day variety), beetroot Bulls Blood, and broccoli.
  • For a winter production of healthy herbs, start sowing seeds in windowsill containers. High light is all that’s needed for a good crop with a reasonable indoor temperature. 

Top tip: Guard against leaving containers on windowsills overnight as cold glass may harm plants.

Awesome to spray 

  • Aphids will still be around this time of the year, although their numbers will be less than in spring. Give your flowers a close inspection and if there are still a few around control with Plant Protector.
    • Snails and slugs devastate leaves on plants and ruin their appearance. Snailban and Snailflo are just two of the products which you can purchase from your GCA Garden Centre as a solution. 

Living Mulch Garden Mastery: Living mulch

Life is a Garden invites you to bring your soil to life this March with mulch that’s teaming with both micronutrients and gorgeousness. With our special selection of plants, you can grow living, eco-optimal mulch solutions that will super-charge your soil, save time and money, and increase the beloved biodiversity in your garden.

 

Know your options  

Depending on your personal style, gardening goals, and landscaping purposes, you may be drawn to using different mulch options in specific parts of the garden.  Which mulch suits your needs best?

 

Living Mulch Info
Pebbles
Wood chips
Bring your soil to life

Living mulch mimics a forest floor with an ever-growing protective layer of foliage that keeps soil temperature cool in summer and warm in winter. As plants loose leaves, organic, biodegradable matter is added to the micronutrient hot pot, increasing good bacteria and homing insects.

Living mulch is especially advantageous for:
  • Filling large barren areas and beds
  • Creating thriving plant communities
  • Diversifying plant species
  • Protecting edibles in the veggie patch
  • Saving you money as plants multiply
  • Optimal moisture retention
  • Full, lush landscaping
  • Increasing and sustaining biodiversity
Take caution of smothering

Using living plants as mulch means that they will grow, of course. Take caution against accidental smothering of your other crops and adapt your plant choices arrestingly. Here are some tips:

  • When planting living mulch in full sun, hot/dry climates, plant compactly to fully protect the soil.
  • In cool/wet climates (or in shaded areas), plant living mulch with a bit of space between the plants to allow excess moisture to escape and to allow each plant to spread out and access more sunshine.
  • When in doubt, use fewer living mulch plants in the vegetable garden and go for beneficial companion plants that won’t shade out the crop in question or interfere with its root system.

Did you know?

A hot and handsome February February Checklist

The heat is on this Feb and that means three things for the summer gardener:

  1. Mulch-up to the max
  2. Smart water-wise gardening 
  3. 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

 

Sexy veggies 

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.

Radish
Flirtatious flowers

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. 

Get your garden into shape January Checklist

Get your garden into shape and looking snazzy for the new year. There’s a lot to look forward to and a huge selection of flowers and edibles to be planted now. A little maintenance goes a long way in neatening up your garden’s appearance, so be sure to check out our handy hacks.

 

Sow a salad

What better way to get your garden and health back on track then by sowing nutritious leafy greens for those summer salads. The following edibles can be sown now:

  • Lettuce
  • Rocket
  • Spinach and Swiss Chard
  • Beetroot (baby leaves are delish)
  • Kale

 

Top tip: Leafy greens are very easy to grow and will reward gardeners best if you pick the leaves regularly and pinch out flower buds later in the season. Be on the lookout for cutworm, snail and slug damage to plants.

Lettuce
Swiss chard
Beetroot
Kale
Plant a paradise

January is always a good time to plant up areas with colourful annual seedlings. The heat is on so brighten up beds by planting these sun-worshippers.

  • Salvias flower throughout summer and autumn. Their upward-pointing sword-like blooms range from fire engine red to purple, deep blue and other powdery colour variations. They are waterwise and easy to grow in pots too.
  • Snapdragons offer striking colours and multiple blooms that stand to attention and are simply charming. Dwarf varieties are great as pot or hanging basket fillers. Keep plants moist while young and they’ll reward you by continuing to flower into winter.
  • Petunias don’t need special treatment or a lot of water either. Flowering increases as they grow, putting on a spectacular show of colour when mature. Petunias love the mild winter months too and will carry on growing in this time.
Plant Salvias
Plant Snapdragons
Plant Petunias
Plant petunia night sky
Indoor peace parade
  • The peace lily (Spathiphyllum wallesii) can grow in low-light conditions, which effectively means that it can thrive almost anywhere in the home.

Mulch Mulch More Mulch Feature Diamond Sponsor – Bark Unlimited

Whether you are a McEntire from Glasgow or a Makatini from Maritz borough, not mulching your garden might just ruin a friendship.

 

Why mulch? Where do we start when it comes to mulching a garden? What can I use as a mulch? Where can I get mulching materials from? These are some of the most frequently asked questions about mulch. Let’s see if we can shed some light on some of these pressing issues and remove all doubt about mulch.

Mulch in the garden
Mulch in the garden

Firstly, the benefits of mulch in the garden are endless as one of the biggest reasons to mulch is water retention. We live in a country with quite a low rainfall, and it is vital to utilize this precious natural gift to the best of our ability. By mulching we create a blanket that covers the naked soil and protects it. So, when the rains come the water seeps through the mulch into the soil and less of it runs off ending up where it is of little use. Once the water is trapped under the layer of mulch it cannot evaporate easily, nor can the soil be dried out by the sun or wind. This can save an enormous amount of water. When weed seeds are blown in by the wind and lands on top of the mulch, they do not stand a good chance at germinating or developing into weeds and if they do, are easily removed. Mulch also creates the right environment for all the good microorganisms your garden needs to be healthy. These little critters as well as earthworms and other beneficial insects will slowly decompose the mulch from below and make the nutrients available to your plants. Soil temperature control is another added benefit of mulch, keeping the soil cooler during the day and warmer at night, protecting the root zone of your plants.

How to plant a plant Back to Basics

How to plant a plant

Out the pot and into the ground, simple as that, right? If you would like your plants to thrive there are in fact several important aspects to consider in perfecting the art of transplanting. New additions to the garden can cost a couple of pennies too, so let’s make sure you get all the bloom for your buck. Here is Life is a Garden’s guide on how to properly plant a new plant.

 

Reading planting instructions  

The information provided on every pot or label at the nursery contains essential information that helps you make an informed decision on what to choose and where to plant. Each container and seed packet indicates:

  • Sowing/growing season (when to plant it)
  • Position (amount of sun/shade needed)
  • Spacing (how far apart they need to be from the next plant)
  • Watering guide (how often to water)
  • Germination and flowering (how long seeds take to germinate and when they plant flowers)

 

*Top tip: GCA Garden Centre attendants are both knowledgeable and friendly. They are available to help you choose the best plants for your environment. Ask them for help and they’ll show you which new lovelies are best suited to your needs.

How to plant a plant
How to plant a plant
Planting in pots

If you have chosen to grow in a container, here are some simple ways to give your new plant the best head start in life. Remember to ask your garden centre advisor to assist you in choosing the correct potting mix and fertiliser for your plant.

  1. Wash your homing pot before transplanting with a gentle disinfecting soap.
  2. Ensure there are sufficient drainage holes.
  3. Line your planter to keep it clean and help protect plants against mineral deposits and disease. Ask your garden centre advisor about which lining material would be best for your container and plant. Remember to also make drainage holes in the lining.

June in the Garden Checklist for the outdoor artist Gardening Checklist

Consider the June garden as an inviting blank canvas, welcoming you to paint with a rainbow of winter blooms. For your cool-season muse, Life is a Garden has gathered a few vibrant beauts to plant-paint with, as well as some artsy edibles to inspire your soups. Learn how to defend your plant babies against black frost and enjoy our handy maintenance tips. Embrace the cold and plant on!

 

Chilled thrills in the Western Cape
  • Have faith in your fynbos and head over to your GCA Garden Centre to checkout new protea hybrids and visit some old faves too. Leucospermums (pincushions) and leucadendrons are stunning choices you can go bos with in the garden. Remember, proteas grow in pots too!
  • Aunt Gale’s wind is always around the corner so make sure all ties and stakes supporting young trees and roses are super secure. You may also want to check your garden furniture and make sure that nothing will end up in your neighbour’s yard.
  • Avoiding flooding at home by clearing drains and gutters of old plant material.
  • Begin winter pruning on vines, peach, plum, and apricot trees. Visit your GCA Garden Centre for products to spray on dormant trees after pruning.
Plant flowers from Wonderland
  • Pansies and Violas: These annuals are perfect to plant as borders and edgings, in window boxes and containers. Position them where they receive full sun in winter but partial shade in spring and early summer, to give them a longer lifespan. They like fertile, composted soil with good drainage and regular watering.
  • Snapdragons: These short-lived, yet super-cute perennials are ideal in mixed border gardens, flower boxes, and as potted patio décor. Bright snapdragon flowers will bloom profusely all winter long in full sun to partial shade. Begin germinating seeds indoors and when they’re ready, pop them into nutrient-rich soil that drains well.

Throwing shade at the sun Shade gardening

Fuchsia
Wild iris (Dietes grandiflora).

Gone are the days when shady means barren! This month, Life is a Garden is shedding light on darker spaces with a little shade-spiration to bring all areas of the garden to life. There are many flower varieties, shrubs, creepers, and even veggies that will flourish in every type of shade. Let’s begin by understanding the different degrees of shade and how these conditions affect the surrounding soil and plants that can grow there.

 

Full shade

An area that receives no direct sunlight at all is called full shade, known also as deep shade. Underneath a canopy of large evergreen trees or next to tall buildings or high walls is where you’ll typically find full shade and often barren spaces. The soil in such areas can be classified into these two groups below:

 

  • Full shade with wet soil

In these deep shade areas, moisture drainage is poor and the soil appears constantly soggy, boggy, and swampy. Try adding coarse compost mixed with gritty river sand to improve the drainage and quality of the soil in these areas.

Plant picks: Hen and chickens (Chlorophytum comosum), holly fern (Cyrtomium falcatum), and forest bell bush(Mackaya bella).

 

  • Full shade with dry soil

Some areas with full shade have dry soil owing to the growth of the trees that once allowed some sunlight in, but have now grown to completely block out direct sunlight. Enrich these areas by loosening the soil, adding nutritious compost, and covering with mulch to assist in retaining moisture.

Plant picks: Bush lily (Clivia miniata), agapanthus, and wild iris (Dietes grandiflora).

Hen and chickens (Chlorophytum comosum)
Forest bell bush (Mackaya bella).
Bush lily (Clivia miniata)
Dappled shade

Also known as filtered shade, this happens as sunlight filters through openings in tree branches throughout the day, shifting the pattern of sunlight trickling in. In these areas, it’s best to plant in accordance with the trees natural growth and shedding phases.

January in the Garden Checklist January Check List

January in the Garden Life is a Garden
January in the Garden Life is a Garden

The new year is always a great time to start afresh and get back into the garden. Remove any tired or spent annuals and fill the gaps with new babies that will flower into autumn. Planting fresh herbs and veggies will also help you stick to those healthy New Year’s resolutions. Happy 2021, dear green fingers, and please do remember that your Life is A Garden!

What to do in the January garden
  • There is still enough time to sow Eschsholzia, Lobelia, and Phlox for an abundance of summer and autumn colour.
  • Water regularly during dry spells.
  • Put out snail bait after rainfall or after watering in the evening.
  • If yellow patches appear on the lawn, this is an almost sure sign of lawn caterpillar, also known as armyworm.
January Check list
Snail Bait
Lawn Caterpillar Army worm
January checklist

Tip: Use a thick, moist towel placed over a patch at night. If lawn caterpillars are the culprit, they will still be foraging on the lawn in the morning when you lift the towel. Consult your local GCA Garden Centre for a remedy.

  • Colourful Begonias are available in trays to liven up semi-shade and shady areas.
  • Deadhead hydrangeas and use the beautiful blooms in dry arrangements.
  • A light summer pruning of your roses will help to extend quality flowering into late autumn.
  • Gently prune lavender plants that have stopped flowering to encourage an autumn flush.
  • Mulch, mulch, mulch to beat the heat and save water.
January Checklist
January checklist
What to do in the January veggie garden
  • Most veggies need 60 to 90 days to harvest so if we are sowing in January, we need to think about what we will eat fresh from the garden in March and April. Never sow the whole seed packet at once as it literally contains from around 50 to several hundred seeds, so rather sow in 14-day intervals to achieve a continuous harvest.

January in the Garden – Back to Basics in the New Year. Back to Basics in the New Year

January in the garden life is a garden
January in the garden

Garden Nutrition

Like us, plants require food to keep them healthy and strong. Get your plants off to a good start with decedent, nutrient-rich soil. For plants to grow well and produce lots of leafy growth, flowers, and fruit, they need to be well-fed. We are spoilt to live in a country with a generally mild climate and mostly good soil, which allows us to grow a wide range of beautiful plants. However, this tends to make us forget that they do require a little feeding. The key to a flourishing garden is hugely affected by your soil health and fertility.

Tip: Good soil = good roots = a good, healthy plant

Food for thought: According to the Gallup Gardening Survey, less than half of the world’s home gardeners use any kind of fertiliser or plant food on their lawns or gardens. What's unfortunate about this statistic is that it means gardeners aren't getting as many flowers or as much produce as they should. And they're probably struggling with disease and insect problems that could be avoided. Well-fed plants are healthier, more productive and more beautiful.

Soil, often called the living skin of the Earth,  is arguably the most important and valuable resource we have. Soil is made from three main components, besides air and water – minerals from weathered rocks, organic matter, which is mainly decomposed plants, and living organisms like earthworms in the soil. There are many different types of soils depending on the composition of the above components. Here is s fun way to test the basic type of soil you have:

  • Take a heaped tablespoon of soil from your garden.
  • Wet the soil.
  • Now roll it into a “sausage” about a pencil-thin.
  • If it crumbles and won’t form a sausage – you have sandy soil.

January in the Garden Get your garden into shape

What better way to get your garden and health back on track and into shape then by sowing delicious leafy greens for those summer day salads. The following greens can be sown now:

  • Lettuce will always be a firm favourite.
  • Rocket is a trendy addition to salads and many other hot meals too. Its peppery taste is delicious and mild in the young leaves.
  • The baby leaves of both Spinach and Swiss Chard are increasingly being used in salads.
  • Baby beetroot leaves are a chic new addition to contemporary salads and cooking. They are just as yummy as they look on the plate.
  • Kale is a prized ingredient in many healthy smoothie recipes.

Leafy greens are very easy to grow and will reward you best if you pick the leaves regularly and pinch out flower buds later in the season. Be on the lookout for cutworm, snail & slug damage to plants. Aphids love the hot summer months as much as we do. While you are shopping for "table greens" grab a few "tiny leafy greens" like Mint, Basil and Parsley plants to complement the other leafy greens.

Tip: Last chance: Whilst, not a "green" you can still sow tomato seeds in the first two weeks of January – so rush out and sow.

Did you know that Basil and Tomatoes are great companion plants? This means that when planted next to one another, they both improve each other's flavour. We also know that they are great companions in food too.

What To Plant

January is always a good time to plant up areas with colourful seedling annuals. The "heat is on" so what better way to brighten up the garden and get it into shape than by planting these sun-worshippers. Some great choices to beat the heat will be:

  • Salvias will flower throughout the summer and autumn months.