Be a winter-winner, get your May maintenance in check, sow cool-season seeds, and grow with the flow as we enter our last month of autumn. We’re celebrating our adaptable green fingers by also highlighting Africa Month and all our glorious indigenous glory. The party doesn’t stop there – say hello to Phlebodium, the perfect indoor plant baby to gift to the woman you adore this Mother’s day!
Crispy blooms to plant
Bulb up: Honour our African heritage with a jive of colour from Sparaxis (Harlequin Flower), ixia, and Tritonia. Try also these perennial bulbous plants: Sweet garlic (Tulbaghia fragrans), Weeping anthericum (Chlorophytum saundersiae), Red-hot poker (Kniphofia praecox).
Bush out: Pork bush (Portulacaria afra) is a lekker local hero hedge. Good as a barrier plant, tolerates frequent pruning, extremely drought-resistant, and fast-growing.
Succ in: Aloes are in full swing, oh yeah Try Peri-Peri, Sea Urchin, and Porcupine.
The 4 P’s: Get down to your local GCA Garden Centre and start planting with the 4 P’s - poppies, pansies, petunias and primulas.
Rose bed revival: Long-stemmed roses can be picked now. If the plants are in full leaf, continue with your spraying programme but reduce watering. Plant winter-flowering annuals like pansies, poppies, or compact snapdragons, around rose bed edges to give them a revived burst of colour (and hide bare branches).
Split & divide: If the following perennials have stopped flowering, they’re ready for the operating table: Japanese Anemones (Anemone japonica) and Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana).
Be wise, fertilise: Annual stocks and larkspurs benefit from extra nitrogen to promote good growth and flowering throughout winter. Consult your GCA Garden Centre expert for advice on liquid fertilisers and other plant food.
Eye candy: Add rows of ornamental (and inedible) kale between other winter vegetables. Companion plants include beetroot, violas and pansies (both have edible flowers), onions, nasturtiums, and spinach. Ornamental kale makes an unusual but stunning winter option for colour.
Mixed masala: Interplant leafy winter veggies and root crops with herbs like lavender, thyme, oregano, parsley, yarrow, and comfrey.
Cuppa’ your own Joe: The coffee plant (Coffea arabica), which is actually a TREE, will earn you kudos from coffee snobs if you can manage to grow it successfully in a high-light indoor area. Imagine grinding home-grown beans? Count us in!
Un-gogga your cabbage: Pull up old sweet basil plants, chop them up, and then use them as a natural insect repellent mulch around your cabbages – fancy, na?
If it’s yellow, it ain’t mellow: Prevent disease by removing all yellow leaves from brassicas such as Brussel sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, and broccoli.
Fruitful advice: Feed avocado trees with 3:1:5 and mulch ‘em up. Plant litchis and citrus, while also keeping mango trees dry before their flowering starts. In coastal and lowveld areas, feed granadillas with a nitrogen and potassium combination fertiliser. Seek advice from your local GCA Garden Centre.
Prevent pests: Prevention is better than cure! Remember that good soil + good drainage + mulch + fertilising/feeding = a healthy plant with more flowers, more fruits, and more veg!
Spray away: Keep spraying those conifers with insecticide.
Rake it, baby: Rake fallen leaves off the lawn to prevent them from blocking out sunlight, and then pop them on the compost heap. Coastal gardeners can still apply one more dose of fertiliser before winter sets in.
Freeze alert: Make sure that you don't water too early or too late – wet plants will freeze, haai shame!
Welcome, novice farmers! We are delighted to see your green fingers in bloom, exploring the world of homegrown goodness. Experience for yourself what all the hype is about by starting your own little veggie garden or edible pot. There is something truly special about fresh greens from the Earth – their incredible flavour loaded with nutrients, the direct connection with Mother Nature, and the unbeatable sense of pride from harvesting the fruits of your labour. Find out how to start your own edible journey below.
For your first growing quest, we recommend starting small. Think about whether you would like to use containers, plant straight into the ground, or if you would like to make raised beds. Consider your space and available time to guide your growing style. Sowing a couple of seeds in an empty space in your flower bed is as good a beginning as any.
With the idea of starting small in mind, where you choose to grow is an equally important factor to consider. Veggies love the sun and will flourish in open areas that receive as much sunlight as possible with no big trees throwing shade on your new babies. Examine your space through eco-eyes: take note of the sun’s movement, surrounding foliage, and expansion space needed as your greens grow.
Your first go-to is Google where you can access all the LIAG articles on what to sow and when. Seasonal veggies (meaning the ones to plant for that season) are your best bets for success as these greens are naturally adapted to the climate of the given time. Also, consider how the plant grows – some grow like ground covers (pumpkin) and need plenty of space, while others like to climb (beans) requiring support structures, some veggies also need deeper soil (potatoes) and appear more bush-like on the top.
There’s always time and space, even for a single vegetable to be sown. Pick your favourite and plant it, it’s that simple, and the reward is marvellous! Gain a deeper appreciation for the food you eat by watching it grow and observing all the different phases of the life of a veggie – now that’s nature’s magic at its best!
If you love Christmas, gardening, upcycling, and keeping the kids busy - you’ll be popping over this project! December is about abundance, but sadly a lot of this is waste too. So, dear gardeners, let’s play our part in reducing, recycling and remembering that we can incorporate a little green in everything. Instead of the usual cracker filled with plastic nonsense, which ends up in the bin, imagine an upcycled cracker filled with veggie, herb, and flower seeds to plant for summer! Hooray! Get the kids on board and let’s make eco seed crackers for Christmas.
For this DIY project, you will need:
After the cracker has been cracked, you will need:
Give your guests something meaningful to take home after Christmas lunch with a stunning selection of summer seeds for you to choose from:
Green fingers at the ready! It’s time to assemble our crackers:
There’s always an opportunity to go green and get kids in on the action too. Having everyone around the Christmas table applauding their hard work and discussing their creation is a fantastic way to reward their growing green fingers. Give your guests something meaningful to take home and let’s ditch the plastic this festive season.
Bring your gifts to life this Valentine’s Day with a personal and unique gift for your loved one. Don’t just send a card, send a card that keeps on giving in the form of herbs, vegetables or flowers. Stand out from the ordinary with this step by step DIY Valentines’ activity by making biodegradable plantable gift cards with embedded seeds in them.
This DIY activity is fairly easy to make as it does not require any use of special equipment. Seed paper is paper that has small seeds embedded into it. When the paper is placed on soil and watered, the paper decomposes whilst the seeds germinate and sprout seedlings which will grow into mature plants.
Let your Valentine know how much they have grown on you by making them something special.
You will need
Collect your assorted paper scraps, cut or tear them into small pieces and place them in a covered bowl/dish with hot water. Ensure the level of water does not allow the paper to dry out, and soak for at least 8 hours.
After your paper has soaked, blend it with some of its soaking water until its completely pulp. Should you decide to work with a lot of paper, make sure to blend the paper in batches.
Clean your old frame by removing any excess material like glass, staples or any nails carefully. Take your pantyhose and stretch 1 leg over the frame. Stretch and adjust it until it's tightly and evenly pulled across the frame. Tie a knot to keep it in place.
Place a towel underneath your screen and firmly press down on the back of the pantyhose to further remove excess water.
Step 6: Allow the paper to dry
Now leave these to dry completely! This takes different lengths of time, depending on how hot and humid it is where you live. Once your paper is dry, peel it off the screen. You may need a knife or other thin object to help get the edges started.
Step 7: Make your card
Using a ruler to help crease these makes it a lot easier to fold, since they're thick and sometimes have seeds in the way of the crease. Trim the edges as desired using a scissor or ruler. Decorate the card as desired and share the wonder of seed paper & reduced paper waste.
Growing your card
To grow the card: Dig a hole large enough for the card to be flat. You can tear the card into pieces to fit smaller areas such as a pot. Water the card thoroughly, cover with soil, and then water again. The paper will compost into the soil and help hold moisture until the seeds start to grow.
Depending on your what seeds you used, you should start seeing sprouts within 7- 14 days and flowers after 8- 12 weeks.
Seed-embedded paper has both social and environmental benefits.
Socially, seed paper plays a pivotal role in creatively changing the way people think of trash. Plantable paper is a sustainable means of reducing waste and repurposing used products.
Environmentally, seed paper is made from recycled materials, making it biodegradable with zero waste. It also encourages people to start planting home gardens and improves soil quality be it in the garden or in a small pot.
Visit your nearest GCA Garden Centre for advice on what seeds would work best for this DIY activity, for more gardening trends and inspiration visit the Life is a Garden website www.lifeisagarden.co.za
After a year of “busyness” and hard work, there is nothing better than relaxing with friends and family over the holidays. Let your guests appreciate your garden with you as you soak up the sun and enjoy a braai or two. Many of your seeds that you sowed in August will be ready to harvest, including watermelon which is fantastic to incorporate in your festive entertainment menu. Get creative with the flowers that are blooming in your garden by making your own table arrangements – make an extra one to give your guest as a gift to take home. Visit your nearest GCA Garden Centre for some great ideas and supplies.
What to Sow:
Carrots are a great option to sow during December. They are fairly easy to grow and do best in deep sandy loam or loamy soils with a loose structure.
What to Plant
Barberton Daisies (Gerbera jamesonii) originate in South Africa and are found in many different bright colours from hot pink to orange to white.
Eggplant (Solanum melongena), also known as aubergine or brinjal, come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colours.
What to Feed:
Lawn fertilisation is essential in December due to it being a very hot month. Use a nitrogen-rich fertiliser which will encourage leaf development. Remember to water your lawn fairly after fertilising.
What to Spray:
What to Pick:
You can now enjoy the watermelons and sweet melons that you sowed in August. A large watermelon is ripe if it feels a little bumpy when you stroke it. When sweet melons are ripe, a small crack appears at the point where the fruit attaches to the vine.
Gazanias (Gazania species) are fantastic for low maintenance gardens. They produce cheerful blooms with bursts of colour which are complimented by their dark green glossy foliage. There are also gazanias with silvery foliage, which is always a nice contrast to have in the garden.
Marigolds (Tagetes) are a favourite, no-fuss annual that can bring the colour of sunshine to your garden, as well as butterflies, bees, ladybugs, and other beneficial insects.
Pop into your nearest Garden Centre GCA and pick up some marigold seedlings.
Watering: Continue to water 3 times a week, or more depending on rain fall. During dry, hot spells daily watering may be required.
Fertilising: If you are going away – only fertilise on your return.
Pest and disease control: Continue with fortnightly spraying for black spot, mildew, aphids, beetles and bollworm. Keep a look out for brown, night-active chafer beetles which chew away on leaves. Ask your local Garden Centre GCA for the correct insecticide to use.
Other tasks: Remove spent flowers and disbud hybrid teas by removing the side buds so the main bloom develops into a good quality flower. When picking roses for your home, only remove 50 percent of the blooms; this ensures a good balance of leaves on the bush and does not put too much pressure on the roots.
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