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.
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.
Tantrums about: could be anything but especially overwatering.
Bribe it with: patience, loose bark potting mix, indirect sunlight, humidity, scheduled watering.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Regardless of what you are planning to grow, here are our top tips for successfully raising your bundles of joy indoors.
Indoor gardening is a fabulous hobby! You could start an Instagram page to promote your plant-parenthood journey and let the world celebrate those special growth milestones with you. In addition, gardening of all kinds promotes a connection with nature, increases happiness, improves air quality, and is really fun (and slightly addictive).
From conversation starters to filling an empty nest, there’s always a reason to get a new plant or five! Remember to check the growing instructions of your new addition and make sure you can provide the perfect place for optimal growth. Life is a Garden, and plant moms are awesome!
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!
Bring in biodiversity by
Happy soil = happy plants: Make sure you’ve got good drainage, use compost, mulch up, and fertilise.
Remember to visit your favourite GCA Garden Centre where you can purchase all sorts of wildlife accessories and gorgeous gogga-attracting plants. You’ll find all the compost and fertiliser you need too, as well as some very stylish birdbaths and cute garden décor.
As the sun sets to welcome the evening sky in all its colourful glory, sit back and relax on the balcony with some potted poppies and petunias for company. These lovelies are the perfect choice for all-year-round charm and vibrance. Here is Life is a Garden’s guide on how to successfully grow and care for your new patio and balcony besties.
Petunias are available in a range of colours, each as bright as the next. Position them in a mostly sunny spot and ensure they are never completely dry. Perform the finger test to see when to water petunias as you would rather want to underwater than overwater these babes.
Petunias require well-draining, aerated and slightly acidic soil. Potting soil mix works well, especially if you combine it with a little peat moss to lower pH levels.
These ladies love lots of food. Most potting mixes have the right amount of nutrients but to be sure, use a slow-release fertiliser after planting. Alternatively, compost will give Petunias the feeding they need, just remember to make sure it doesn’t interfere with the soil’s drainage abilities.
This encourages plants to direct their energy into creating more flowers, rather than wasting it on already fading blooms. Deadheading also keeps your plant looking neat and tidy. Simply remove flowers that are beyond their prime by pinching them off from just below their base.
Poppies are a timeless classic. They might not be the easiest flower to grow but their vibrant colour and sweetness is certainly worth the extra care. Poppy varieties that grow well in pots include oriental poppies, Iceland poppies, California poppies, and Shirley poppies. Iceland poppies (Papaver nudicaule) provide an incredible, colourful show during winter.
Poppies dislike being transplanted. As such, we recommend purchasing poppy seedling trays along with a little booster food to help with the transplant shock. You can get all these from your GCA Garden Centre. Place containers in a full sun position and be sure to water the seedlings gently as they have very delicate roots. Once in flower, poppies need to be deadheaded to increase the number of blooms.
Poppies enjoy a neutral to slightly acidic pH. They require excellent drainage but rich soil. A loamy, well-draining potting mix will be perfect.
Poppies enjoy minimal water during and before their flowering season. They can be watered every day but ensure not to overwater each time you do. When they’re about to flower, and throughout their flowering period, water moderately, maintaining excellent drainage.
Fertiliser should only be applied during the growing season. It is best to apply a slow-release fertiliser when you first plant them. If you didn’t, a balanced liquid feed, every two weeks will provide potted Poppies with the nutrients they need.
Be on the lookout for aphids and water regularly to avoid red spider mite damage. Ensure you choose a good-quality potting mix to avoid root rot.
If you’re looking to enjoy sunsets in the city, you simply can’t go wrong with these balcony besties. A wide selection of pots and hanging baskets will further help to highlight your new additions, so be sure to consider the style of your chosen containers when planning your new living décor.
The Pantone colour of the year is Very Peri – a courageous, statement-making violet-blue that generates creativity and inspiration in the garden. Cultivate some confidence and curiosity this autumn by incorporating planting a striking variety of purple Veri Peri stunners. Here is Life is a Garden’s grow guide for 2022.
According to the trend-setters at Pantone, “17-3938 Very Peri is a dynamic periwinkle blue hue with a vivifying violet-red undertone that blends the faithfulness and constancy of blue with the energy and excitement of red”. In addition, this colour represents:
With such passionate connotations connected to this colour, there really is only one thing left to do – GCA Garden Centre here we come!
Did you know? The health benefits of purple food include anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Anthocyanidins are responsible for the purple pigment in our edibles and also helps to boost the immune system.
Did you know? Having shades of purple plants around the house helps to invoke peace and happiness. There’s a lot going on in the world, so if you’re looking to reap a little more optimism for the new year, grow these:
Top tip: Remember to check the sowing and growing season chart on all seed packets, seedling trays, and pots for the best time to introduce your new purple splendours to the garden.
Did you know? When looking at these Veri Peri inspired bulbs, the warmer red-purples are seen as more energetic to the human eye, while the subdued blue-purples are seen as peaceful and contemplative.
Did you know? Pairing these Veri Peri annuals with hues directly across the colour wheel, such as lime greens and yellow, will create a dynamic contrast in the garden that brings out the best of both extraordinary colours.
Did you know? You can create an analogous hue bed by grouping your red-purple and blue-purple perennials together. Experiment with hot and cool-coloured pallets around the garden for a popping landscape this season.
Perennial plants regrow every spring while annuals only live for one growing season. The advantage of perennials is that they don’t often need replacing (if well looked after), while annuals reward the garden with unique seasonal charm.
Did you know? Of all the colours, purple is most associated with rarity, royalty, magic, and mystery. Back in the day, some Roman emperors even forbid their citizens from wearing purple or they would face the death penalty!
Begin your Veri Peri adventure this month by planting these chilled out, charismatic lovelies in beds and pots for a little upliftment as we head into shorter days and longer nights. You can purchase these plants along with fertilisers, compost, and other gardening accessories from your favourite GCA Garden Centre.
Become part of the trendy gardening vibe-tribe and have fun playing with the Pantone colour of the year. Bring in excitement, courage, and joy by growing some of these truly gorgeous plants. Life is a Garden, and it’s a purple party!
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.
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.
If you’re new to the world of topiary, you could always practice your shaping skills on fast-growing and affordable rosemary bushes in containers. If you love the look but have a busy lifestyle, why not go for life-like, maintenance-free, faux topiaries as patio and indoor décor. Have fun styling your plants and experimenting with different shapes!
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.
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.
Awesome plants to sow
Top tip: Guard against leaving containers on windowsills overnight as cold glass may harm plants.
Top tip: Watch out for ant movement - the main culprits for transferring disease around the garden. Sprinkle Ant Dust around their holes and along their trails.
If you’re unsure about which fertilisers or sprays to use, remember to ask your knowledgeable garden centre advisors for help. Any other plants that need transplanting can also be done now, giving them a chance to adjust so that come springtime, they are blooming with life.
The heat is on this Feb and that means three things for the summer gardener:
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. Try bush varieties sown in pots and hanging baskets for extra specialness around the stoep and patio. Soak sweet pea seeds in water overnight before sowing for better germination.
A pretty tip: Although petunias are a firm favourite, they should not be planted twice in the same spot to prevent soil-borne diseases.
The hottest of the lot: Orange hermannia (Hermannia pinnata), marigolds, wild rosemary (Eriocephalus africanus), and Honeybells (Freylinia lanceolata) are heat-lovin’ plants that will thrive in Feb.
Sassy seedling trays: Sow cinerarias, gazanias, Iceland poppies, primulas, violas, pansies, larkspurs, Canterbury bells, columbines, sweet Williams and aquilegias now.
Top water-wise tip: Check the weather report gardeners! You can very easily save time and water by planning your weekly watering in accordance with your areas natural rainfall.
Be the BEST: Remember to get the buckets and collection containers out during the rain. All the water we have is already on Earth! Conserving as much as we can is essential in playing our part as conscious gardeners. Use your collected rain water instead of the hose pipe to give your pots and beds a drink during this scorcher of a month.
Before planting, soak your terracotta pot overnight to saturate the clay and prevent it from stealing moisture from new plants. Place a paper coffee filter inside to avoid losing soil during watering. Heavier pots with thicker walls will last longer and handle frost better too.
Did you know? Wasps are pollinators too, although not as efficient as our fuzzy-legged bees that are able to collect more of the good stuff. However, one particular miniature wasp, the braconid, is the tomato gardener’s best friend. This bad boy loves feasting on the tomato hornworm, a well-known destructive pest.
The braconid wasp very cleverly lays its eggs in a living host, such as the hornworm, thereby ensuring a lifecycle of nutrition. The braconid will entirely consume its host as it progresses through the pupa, cocoon, and adult phases of its life.
Let them breed: If you see a hornworm covered in eggs or pupae, leave it alone. This nursery is producing an army of eco-warriors!
Enjoy your handsome February garden and never let the weather be too hot for your plants to handle. Remember to mulch up to the max and get water-wise savvy. Life is a Garden, and meant to be enjoyed in the summer!
Clivias are one of South Africa’s indigenous super stunners and have become quite the collector’s dream. Luckily, you don’t have to be a horticulturist to grow these distinguished plants, just some garden mastery know-how from Life is a Garden. Learn how to correctly harvest clivia seeds, how to grow them, and how to provide long term care for your elite lovelies.
What’s so special about these plants anyway? For starters, they produce simply exquisite trumpet-like, fragrant flowers with dramatic blooms in sunset shades, both as solid colours and as delightful bi-colour varieties. Owing to their lengthy germinating time (one year from seed to pot) they’ve rightfully earned their place in the professional landscapers garden. Up for the challenge? These beauts can be grown as hero houseplants in a well-lit area, in shaded beds, or in pots on the patio with no direct sunlight. They thrive in rich potting mix with good drainage. Clivias are most active from autumn to spring, but they’ll retain their dainty evergreen foliage all year round.
Top tip: Garden centres are stocked with a truly splendid variety of potted clivias to choose from. Ask the friendly nursery attendants for guidance on what soil mixes to use in beds and pots. They’ll also be able to give you recommendations on fertilisers to give your prized clivias that extra boost.
There are two ways to get your green fingers on some clivia seeds:
When clivia flowers are pollinated they produce large red berries. Pick your berries as they begin colouring then pop them onto the operating table and follow these steps:
After all that dedication, you want to make sure you give your clivias the best care possible. Here are some handy tips for how to care for established clivias in the garden:
Pest alert: Look out for the lily borer! Regularly check your bulbs and especially your clivias for signs of this pesky critter. You’ll notice clusters of tiny eggs underneath leaves, which are laid by a white moth with a 4cm wingspan. Visit your garden centre for the best pest control solution.
High in ornamental value, long-lasting flowering intervals, excellent cut-flowers, and evergreen – clivias are definitely worth it. Go from novice to pro with these sought after bad girls by following the above tips for success. Clivias also make for exquisite gifts so next time you’re on a split and divide mission, pot a few for friends and family.
Not only does pruning promote new growth, but it also increases fruiting powerand capacity, ensuring the health of your plant. Throughout the season, taking your pruning in stages.
Prune grapes beforetheir sap starts to move in.In warmer areas, this may be your last chance to prune (like coastal Durban) but in warmer areas (inland or mountain regions), it can be done as the weather warms.
Top Tip* Avoid pruning peaches, plums and almonds while winter is still lingering because it can spread the silver leaf virus.
Prune back your citrus to open up the framework of the plant. By removing old growth, you are allowing more light into your plant or tree and also remove any diseased or dead wood.
As for your flowers prune back camellias as soon as they finished flowering. For extra assistance for a thorough clip and cut, refer to our pruning guide and arm yourself with Efekto Sterisel.This fungicidal pruning wound paste is designed to assist your pruning projects on all your roses, grapevines, shrubs and fruit trees.
For this season, in particular, protect your stone fruit treesby spraying with Efekto Virikop to protect them from leaf curl disease, with a once-off application after pruning.
Once you’ve clipped back your old growth, it’s time to eliminate any residual pests and stop new ones from moving in. Spray your deciduous fruit trees with a winter clean-up spray, like Efekto Kumulus WG and Efekto Oleum, to remove any overwintering pests and diseases.
In warm areas, aphids may begin to appear on fresh new shoots. They can be identified by their small, pearshaped soft bodies, usually green to black in colour.You will notice them in small groups called colonies on leaves and new growth. They are sap feeds, so this means they will cause your leaves to curl and stunt growth. To avoid further damage, control their invasions with Efekto Aphicide. As soon as your pests appear, spray crops with Efketo Cypermethrin 200EC and for the home and garden, use Efekto Malasol.
If your rose blooms are struggling with aphids or cases of black spot or midew, spray them with Efekto Rosecare 3 or Efekto Rosecase Plus.
You will notice black spots with yellow borders on older leaves. The leaves will trn yellow and fall off. To get rid of this fungus, continue spraying weekly until the fungus is controlled. Black spot should be treated preventatively after heavy rain and heat conditions.
A greyish-white powdery growth will show on the younger parts of your plants. This fungus causes shunting and shrivelling of leaves.
Like humans and animals, plants require regular feeding throughout the year – at least once a season. Happy, healthy, well-nourished plants are more resistant to pests, diseases, heat stress and frost.
Spring and autumn are the more recognised times to fertilise the garden, however summer and winter are just as important. Even though there’s no dramatic plant growth in winter, there is still plenty going on below the ground. Applying an organic fertiliser such as All Purpose or Bio Ocean introduces beneficial bacteria which stimulates activity within the soil, breaks down organic matter, unlocks nutrients and enhances root growth, providing your plants with a head start for spring.
With inorganic, or synthetic, garden fertilisers so plentiful, it might make a gardener wonder if it’s really all that important to use organic products instead. After all, it’s all about what works right now and makes the garden beautiful, right? Well…this is not the case. In organic gardening, the overall health of the soil and plants is the main concern, so while synthetic chemical fertilisers may do a job today, organic fertilisers ensure the health of the garden tomorrow.
Organic fertilisers work slowly. For organic fertilisers to work, the soil has to first break them down. This means that both the soil and the plants in it get the nutrition they need when they need it. Chemical fertilisers, although speedy, often overfeed the plant, do nothing for the soil, and can damage plants by burning them.
Organic fertilisers improve the soil. Organic materials and fertilisers improve the soil texture, allowing it to hold water longer, and increase the microbial activity in the soil. So, they not only assist your plants, they help the soil. Chemical fertilisers, on the other hand, deplete the soil of its nutrients, making it unproductive.
Organic fertilisers are safe. Although you won’t want to eat or drink them, you can rest assured that organic fertilisers are safe for the environment, your family, and your pets. Chemical fertilisers require a significant amount of fossil fuels to produce and process and often runoff into nearby water sources like streams and lakes.
Organic fertilisers are easy to apply. Organics are just as easy to apply as their synthetic, non-organic counterparts however organic fertiliser will not burn your lawn or plants if you don’t water after application.
For decades, South African gardeners have looked to MayFord Seed to bring them the newest releases and the best quality seed at affordable prices. This spring we are in for a treat.
MayFord Seed are releasing a Mega Pack range of SA’s 12 favourite flower seeds. 7 spring and summer planting varieties are on the shelves now, with 5 arriving in time for the autumn planting season. This means that gardeners will be able fill their flower beds and patio pots with gorgeous colour without punishing their wallets.
Summer - Meadow Mix, Alyssum 'Carpet of Snow', Marigold 'Sunset Giants', Portulaca grandiflora 'Double Mix', Zinnia 'Sunbow', Eschscholtsia 'Californian Poppy' and Nasturtium.
Winter - Sweet Pea 'Early Multiflora Mixed', Dimorhptheca 'African Daisy Mixed', Dimorphotheca 'Glistening White', Mesembryanthemum 'Livingstone Daisy Mixed', Dimorphotheca 'Pastel Shades'.
To help to make sure that you are getting exactly what you are looking for or, if you are not sure exactly what it is you should be planting, MayFord have added insets to the packaging. Icons like ‘Throw & Sow’ indicates easy to grow, ‘Waterwise’ & ‘Indigenous’ means its a low water user, ‘Bee Friendly’ is pollinator friendly, ‘Cut Flower’ lets you know they’re good for the vase and a button showing you just how much space the seed will cover, e.g. ‘Enough for’ 5m².
While most gardeners find growing their flowers from seed both economical and easy to do, for those who are just starting on their green, flower filled journey, the instructions on the back of the pack have also been revamped. Borrowing from the highly successful sowing pictograms on their lawn seed packets, you are now shown how to measure out the square metres of the sowing area. Take Alyssum for example. One packet will cover 5 m² and since it’s easy enough to spread seed over one square metre at a time, you are shown you how to decant the seed packet into 5 equal piles (1 pile for each 1m²) onto white paper. This allows you to physically see the seed and then sow one pile onto one square metre at a time.
Working from home, for many of us, could well be here to stay and the pros are numerous – increased productivity, less time wasted commuting, lower stress levels and a greater balance between office and family life. On the flipside, there’s the danger of the workday which never ends because your office is right there, in the heart of your home – always beckoning you to check for emails, complete one last document.
The solution: escape to your garden! But, don’t just sit there, get your hands dirty; sow seeds, plant seedlings, feed flowers, fruit trees and lawns and you’ll soon be taking regular healthy breaks from your desk to check on the progress – it’s addictive in the best possible way. Now that autumn has arrived, you’ve got an ideal opportunity to sow and plant in time to take advantage of the winter rains and bask in the glory of your garden’s springtime show.
Harvesting tip: Remove tops after harvesting to prolong shelf life.
Autumn is the ideal time to eliminate muddy areas. Sow Starke Ayres “Cool Season” lawn grass seed – it germinates easily, helped by winter rainfall, and provides a lush surface for those sunny winter days. Starke Ayres Garden Centre, Rosebank has a wide range to suit sunny or shady areas and staff will be happy to assist you.
Gardener’s tip: 1 x 30dm bag of lawn dressing usually covers 6 – 8m2.
Starke Ayres Namaqualand daisies and Bokbaai vygies are indigenous and ideal for water-wise gardens. Improve your germination rate by using Palm peat to help retain moisture in the sowing beds. April and May are the months in which to sow sweetpeas. You can also sow: Violas, poppies, Lobelias, snapdragons, pansies, Delphiniums, African daisies, Cinerarias, Salvias, Scabiosa and Nemesias. Alyssum and Dianthus are always good bets too.
This is the time to sow winter veggies such as broad beans, potatoes, turnips, carrots, onions, peas and cauliflower. If you’ve grown chive and garlic chives, divide them and replant in pots using freshly composted or potting soil – place these on your kitchen windowsill for easy access when cooking.
“We may think we are nurturing our garden, but of course it is our garden that is nurturing us.” Jenny Uglow
These words are so true. Gardening is a relationship – a constant exchange of give and take - and like all relationships, it takes a little work to maintain. One of the most important things to provide for your plants each season is nutrients. Strategic use of fertilizers is a simple way to boost your garden and potted plants, and in turn be rewarded with lush greens, delicious edibles and a showier display of flowers each season.
There are so many different types and forms of fertilizer that it can be overwhelming when faced with all the options at your local garden centre. But taking the time to understand the products, their applications and your garden’s specific needs is a worthwhile process!
Inorganic Fertilizers are synthetic or artificial forms of plant nutrients and minerals. Simply put, they are man-made. Inorganics are usually faster acting than organics and include fertilizers such as Superphosphate and LAN (limestone ammonium nitrate.)
Organic Fertilizers come from natural plant or animal sources and are slightly slower acting than inorganic fertilizers. They consist of large molecules that need to be broken down by soil organisms before their nutrients become available. Examples include Culterra’s Bone Meal, Organic Lawn Booster, Organic Seedling Food and Chicken Manure pellets.
Liquid fertilizers are your plants’ quick fix. They come either in a liquid-soluble powder or a liquid concentrate.Both require mixing with water before application to your plants using either a watering can or spray bottle. These nutrients last only one to two weeks, so you will need to apply it often. The major advantage, however, is that the nutrients are absorbed quickly and thus the positive results are almost instantaneous.
Use liquid fertilizer when your plants’ energy demands are at their highest. This is typically during flowering, fruiting and active growing. Liquid solutions are popular for pot plants and hanging baskets where nutrients are quickly leached out of the soil. Liquid fertilizers are also a great supplement to granular fertilizers as the slow and rapid release elements complement each other by providing a more continuous supply of nutrients.
Liquid fertilizer in the liquid concentrate form is usually organic. Culterra’s Multikelp is manufactured from natural kelp products and is a must for foliar feeding your fast-growing, leafy green vegetables. It’s also great for orchids and germinated seedlings as it is a soft fertilizer that does not burn. It promotes microbial activity and although organic, is still super-fast acting.
Granular Fertilizers consist of solid granules that are sprinkled around plants and then worked into the soil. For new gardens, dig them into your beds before you start planting. Because the granules need to break down this isn’t a fast-acting option, but with good watering and a few days’ patience you will start to see amazing results. Standard granular fertilizers are your most common form of fertilizer and may be applied every six weeks during the growing season.
Slow-release Granular Fertilizers (SRFs) are specifically designed to release nutrients gradually over a prolonged period of time. Culterra’s SRF is a urea formaldehyde product, which relies on microbes for decomposition and release. The microbial activity of soil is dependent on several environmental factors including soil temperature, moisture, pH and oxygen. Although slightly more expensive than standard granular fertilizers, the long duration of action of SRFs makes them more economical.
To conclude, remember that gardening is a relationship and every plant in your garden is an individual. Just as each of your relationships with friends, family and colleagues requires different amounts of time and energy, so do your green companions. So when next it’s time to boost your garden’s nutrients, take an extra minute to select the best fertilizer for the job!
We’re obsessed with birds – watching them frolic in the garden, discovering new species in the area, looking forward to returning friends, and enjoying the feeling of fulfilment from helping to care for our wildlife. This DIY is an easy, economical solution to a fancy birdbath, allowing you to go as sophisticated or simple as your budget allows. In addition, Life is a Garden’s pot-posh birdbath gives the DIY enthusiast a real time to shine as there are so many ways to play, design, and decorate. Before we begin, let’s talk about the fabulous featured elephant in the room – birds!
Your selection of pots and saucers are the first items on the list. These need to be varied in size, depending on the look you are going for. You can either:
Superglue, a glue gun, or cement to secure the bases/openings of the pots together. This will add structural integrity to your design and prevent the pots from sliding off one another.
Sand or pebbles to fill your pots where possible. Add some weight to your birdbath and half fill right side up pots with your chosen filler. This will also help protect against strong winds.
Paint and decorations! The kids will enjoy painting pots and having a little creative time outdoors. You may also want to go super pot-posh and use mosaic tiles, glass pebbles, cute stencils for painting, other pot plants, or incorporate rustic elements like driftwood.
Top tip: Visit your GCA Garden Centre and let your creative juices flow. The selection of pots will inspire fun ideas of how you could go about stacking the containers to create unique shapes and eye-catching architecture. Experiment with different pot styles and think ahead of what patterns or pictures you could paint on later that would suit the theme of your chosen structure. Are you a vine-guy or flower girl? A kids’ art exhibitioner or a modern, sophisticated Sally?
Enjoy bringing the birds to your backyard and have some fun with this Pot-posh DIY. Your GCA Garden Centre also has a selection of bird feeders to add to your flyer’s pit stop. Increase birdlife even more by ensuring your garden is pesticide-free. Nurseries are stocked with eco-friendly solutions that won’t deter or harm your friendly garden visitors. Life is a Garden after all, so take the balance into your own hands and watch as your space come to life!
Besides adding beauty and colour to the garden, flowers play an essential role in our ecosystem; they feed our pollinators who in turn feed us. In fact, our bees help produce one-third of all the food on Earth! It’s safe to say that behind every successful crop is a good flower, so let’s get the kids up and close and personal with Mother Nature’s gems. Check out this DIY flower dissection experiment that teaches kids about plant anatomy, the importance of flowers, and gives them a blossoming good reason to enjoy the September sun.
Flowers are so much more than just pretty faces. They help maintain your garden’s delicate biome balance and bring in all sorts of benefits that enrich other plants, while also sustaining the friendly creatures that live there.
Did you know? The Archaefructus Sinensis, known also as the Mother of All Flowers, is believed to be the world’s oldest flower. Discovered by archaeologists in a fossil back in 2002, it was believed to bloom more than 125 million years ago in China.
Here are some epic pollinator attractors that you can plant to help feed the bees and improve your own garden’s ecosystem, pest control, and gorgeousness!
Top tip: All friendly critters will appreciate a drink of freshwater after a hard day’s work. Help them out by providing a water source nearby with a way in and out for your friends. While you’re at it, why not upcycle a 2l bottle into a hanging bird feeder.
Send the kids outdoors with a container and a pair of scissors. They need to collect at least 3 large flowers for maximum learning and supercharged fun.
You will need
- Any 3 large flowers in bloom now
- A magnifying glass
- Some paper plates
- A marker
- A phone or tablet with internet connectivity
Begin the division
Certain flowers have special markings on their petals to guide the right pollinators to the good stuff.
Bees can also sense a flowers’ electric field. Bees build up a positive charge buzzing through the air, whereas flowers have a slightly negative charge, helping pollen transfer from the flower to the bee and helping them to sense which flowers have already been visited.
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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