Posts Tagged ‘ soil ’

Throwing shade at the sun Shade gardening

Posted on: March 10th, 2021 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
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. In other words, choose plants that flower during the leafless stages of surrounding trees.

Plant picks: Spring flowering bulbs like daffodils (Narcissus), Lachenalia bulbifera, and freesias.

 

*Seasonal tip: Visit your local GCA Garden Centre to discover gorgeous shady babies for cool-season planting and sowing. Checkout what seed trays are available to jumpstart your growing adventure. Keep some new arrivals in their pots to assess how they fair in your chosen area before transplanting.

 

Semi-shade

This refers to an area that receives some sun and some shade throughout the day, as shadows are cast on different parts of the garden. Semi-shade plants tend to do better with morning sun, rather than harsh midday or afternoon sun that may scorch leaves. Keep these areas healthy with good compost and generous mulching to retain soil moisture.

Plant picks: Fuchsia, evergreen azalea (Rhododendron indicum), rhubarb, chives, celery, and even carrots.

Daffodils (Narcissus)
Lachenalia bulbifera
evergreen azalea (Rhododendron indicum)
Rhubarb

There is a plant for every shady part of the garden and even some veggies and herbs that can tolerate semi-shade. Remember to visit your GCA Garden Centre to inquire about different shrubs, ferns, and flowers to best suit the area you would like to see flourish. Garden Centre experts are also able to advise which edibles will work well in your desired space. Life is a Garden, even in the shade, so let’s get every bed and pot shining in the absence of sunlight. A gardener maak ‘n plan, or something like that!

Why your veggies need friends Companion Plants

Posted on: February 16th, 2021 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
Sweet Pea, companion plants

Companion planting means growing certain plants close together for their mutually beneficial effects, such as pest protection or growth enhancement. Bedding besties allow you to have your cake AND eat it – your desired harvest flourishing gogo-free and eco-friendly with little other effort required from you. Mother Nature is clever like that – she knows what’s up. Here’s what to plant and reasons why your veggie needs a bestie. Life is a Garden, let’s optimise yours!

 

Reinventing the veggie patch

We often think of a veggie garden as produce sown in neat rows, exposed soil, and clear of any other plants not on the menu. Well, it might just be the time to revise this idea. There is so much to benefit from including other herbs and flowers to the veggie garden, which take care of pest control, weeds, water evaporation, poor soil conditions, composting, barren spaces and of course, pollination. Consider the idea of a starting a “mixed masala patch”, if you will, and let’s venture beyond the concept of a “vegetables-only” party.

 

Friends with benefits

Although we’re going for a “mixed masala patch”, it should be mentioned that not all plants like each other, and some can be pretty picky about who they bunk with. Your GCA Garden Centre guy will be able to advise you on the best buddy for your baby, but for now, here are some general friends of the veg with no-strings-attached benefits:

  • Natural pest controllers: Plants such as lavender (for fleas), basil (for flies), citronella grass and rosemary (for mozzies), as well as chrysanthemum (for spider mites), repel a variety of insects owing to their essential oil compounds and deterring scent. You can sporadically plant these in and around the veggie garden as long as they are in close range of the greens.
  • Essential pollinators: Your harvest needs the bees and they need us. Create a flower border around your veggie garden and bring in the friendly flyers to pollinate and spread seeds. Try marigolds, alyssum and cool-season vygies, as well as allowing all herbs to come to flower. Remember to include a freshwater source for our helpers with a way to get in and out too.
Lavender
Basil
Citronella Grass
Chrysanthemum
Marigold
Alyssum
  • Soil structure activists: Champion companion plants also help improve poor soil conditions by adding lacking nutrients. Comfrey (Symphytum) roots break up heavy clay and create channels for aeration and better water absorption, while also releasing nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium into the soil. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a valuable compost heap activator, while also stimulating the soil’s nutrient value as leaves fall off and decompose in the veggie patch (it also has pretty white flowers, yay!).
  • Beauty filters: Veggies on-the-grow are already such a lovely sight, as is each one of the above-mentioned budding besties. For super-charged gorgeousness + pollination benefits + insect repellent power, try cosmos, nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus), sunflowers, and sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus). Make space for these beauties in preparation for spring/summer planting.
Comfrey
Yarrow
Cosmos
Nasturtium
Sunflowers
Sweet pea
Autumn flings

As mentioned earlier, some plants are incompatible while others are the perfect match. We’re helping gardeners avoid any regrettable flings this autumn by equipping you with a swipe-right (good), swipe-left (bad) companion planting guide. Here is a list of greens to sow now to get you started on your bedding romances. Cool-season vegetable seedlings are also available at your GCA Garden Centre.

  • Carrots

Swipe right: Basil, chives, lettuce, onions, and peas.

Swipe left: Broccoli, cabbage, dill, fennel, and potatoes.

  • Swiss chard 

Swipe right: Beetroot, beans, cabbage, celery, and green peppers.

Swipe left: Grapes, potatoes, and sage.

  • Beans

Swipe right: Beetroot, carrot, cauliflower, cucumber, and maize.

Swipe left: Dill, fennel, and all members of the onion family.

  • Celery

Swipe right: Beans, broccoli, cabbage, leeks, and tomatoes.

Swipe left: Nothing, this one’s easy.

  • Cabbage

Swipe right: Beetroot, celery, chives, dill, and onions.

Swipe left: Mustard plants, strawberries, tomatoes, and grapes.

 

With Mother Nature in your corner, a couple of flowers in your hair, and fragrant herbs by your side, companion planting is made simple and super effective.  Avoid harsh chemicals and keep your garden’s eco-system flourishing and beneficial to the entire food chain. Reinventing the veggie patch is easy when you choose the best friends for your farming-fam goals. Remember, dear green fingers, Life is a Garden, so create yours with consideration.

Companion Plants
Companion Plants
Companion Plants
Companion Plants

Growing a Veggie Garden for Beginners Fundamentals of Gardening - Back to Basics

Posted on: January 11th, 2021 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
Growing a veggie garden for beginners

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.

Humble beginnings

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.

Top tip: Be careful not to overpopulate your space. Your veggies will increase in size and need room to grow and climb. Planting too close together will also cause veggies to shade one another. Refer to your seed packet or handy GCA Garden Centre guy for advice.
Planting in containers
Planting in the ground
Planting in raised beds
Bean growth
Location, location, location

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.

Top tip: Location is also important in terms of watering. Make sure your veggies are in reach of the hosepipe or irrigation system, and remain uncovered to receive as much rainfall as possible. If you’re planning to grow on the stoep, make sure your containers have good drainage and expect to have some water flowing out from under the pots, which is something to consider when placing them.

 

Choosing the best veg 

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.

Did you know? Your GCA Garden Centre is fully loaded with seeds and seedlings for herbs, fruit, and veg.Enjoy a day trip out with the family and find your perfect edible with the help of friendly garden centre staff.
Ground covers - pumpkin
Climbers - beans
Soil growers - potatoes
Feb/March sowing suggestions:
  • Gauteng: spinach, lettuce, beetroot, and carrots.
  • Kwa-Zulu Natal: cabbage, broad beans, turnips, and radish.
  • Eastern Cape: spinach, beans, beetroot, and carrots.
  • Western Cape: cauliflower, celery, peas, and onions.

 

Top tip: Remember that compost maketh the crop! Visit your GCA Garden Centre for a variety of nutritious and organic fertilisers to keep your veggies growing for gold.

 

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!

Carrots
Radish
Beetroot

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

Posted on: December 21st, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
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.
  • If it holds a sausage shape but breaks when held at one end – you most likely have loam soil.
  • If it easily forms a sausage and does not break when held at one end – you have clay soil.

Loam soils are the most preferable since sandy soils dry out very quickly and clay soils can stay wet for too long. Luckily, both sandy and clay soils can become loam when you add compost to them.

Need to know: It generally takes about 200 to 400 years to form 1cm of soil and several thousand years to naturally make it fertile!

 

January in the Garden. Life is a Garden
Life is a garden January in the Garden soil

Fertilisers contain nutrients that plants need. They can mostly be split up into macro-nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium and sulphur, as well as micronutrients such as zinc, iron, manganese, copper, boron, molybdenum and chlorine. Macro-nutrients are needed in larger amounts than micro-nutrients, which are equally important if they are lacking in the soil. Most of the organic fertilisers contain a good mix of both and they also add organic matter to the soil, which makes it more workable and fertile.

Fertilisers are available as granules, pellets, liquid drenches and liquid foliar feeds. For information on what fertiliser to use, visit your local GCA Garden Centre.

Adding both fertiliser and compost is the best combination as fertiliser adds nutrients while the compost holds the fertiliser in the soil for longer.

Compost is made from decomposing plants and is the most important addition to your trolley when you buy plants. It can also be added to garden beds in bulk at least once a year. A famous horticulturist once said that the three most important elements in gardening are 1. compost, 2. compost and you can probably guess that number 3 was - also compost. This makes one realise how important compost is in successful gardening as a soil amendment.

To recap: Compost will loosen and add air into clay soils while also improving water andnutrient retention in sandy soil. Compost also attracts micro-organisms, beneficial fungi, earthworms and other beneficial soil-borne organisms that improve the health of your plants.

Bonemeal & superphosphate are organic and chemical (or inorganic) fertilisers respectively, which are essentially phosphates. Phosphorus is a macro-nutrient and responsible for many plant-growth functions, but it specifically initiates root growth. Because phosphates do not “travel” well in the soil, meaning they don’t move down in soil quickly, they are usually placed in the soil or planting hole.

Need to know: Be aware that some dogs may want to dig up the bonemeal fertiliser.

Mulch: Mulching material can be bark, compost, dump rock, wood chips, and a few others. Mulching is essentially spreading a layer on top of the soil to retain moisture underneath. Mulching  keeps the soil cooler in summer and warmer in winter. It aso prevents weeds from growing and if organic, will decompose and improve the soil. Mulching will benefit the whole garden and especially cooler season plants like lilies and more thirsty plants like hydrangeas and roses.

Need to know: Mulching is great as you don’t need to water your garden as regularly.

Think of your soil as a bank account - the more you invest in it, the better the soil and the more gorgeous your plants and garden will be. Season after season the plants will be making “withdrawals” of nutrients from the soil and you will need to keep the soil bank topped up on a regular basis. Don’t forget to mulch much!

 

Life is a garden , January in the garden fertiliser
Life is a garden , Janauary in the garden
Life is a garden january in the garden
Like is a Garden , January in the garden

Pots of flavour in small spaces Container Gardening

Posted on: December 31st, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

You don't need acres of garden to grow fresh salads and veggies. All you need is a balcony, patio or a postage-stamp of a garden, some good-quality terracotta pots, the right growing medium and a watering can, and you're A for away.  Life is a Garden offers these tips to assist you in creating the perfect container garden.

Why terracotta?

Whenever we're asked what containers to use on a patio, we tend to recommend a nice big terracotta pot or a matching set of terracotta pots. Why terracotta and not plastic? Terracotta pots are made of clay, and natural materials like clay tend to work better with plants. Terracotta pots can breathe, allowing air and even moisture to move through the walls, keeping plants healthier and helping to prevent fungal root disease.

Plants don't like sudden changes in temperature, and terracotta pots act as insulation, slowing down variations in temperature.

Weight is also an advantage – terracotta pots are heavier than plastic or wood, which is great when you've got a cat that keeps rubbing itself against your veggie pots and knocking them over!  Finally, terracotta pots get better and better with age, weathering and developing a beautiful patina that cannot be replicated.

What to plant?

Choosing what to plant can be overwhelming when you're starting out. Our first rule of thumb is to plant what you eat! There's not much point in growing coriander if the flavour offends your very being. But if you love cooking with other herbs, start by planting things like rosemary, thyme, mint and origanum.

Another thing we suggest is to mix things up a bit – don't be boring and grow only edibles. Beautiful ornamentals can do well in containers alongside their edible bedfellows, and some have the added benefit of being edible too. Viola flowers can be tossed in a salad, while the flowers of lavender and calendula have a range of uses.

A good base

The key to potting success is a growing medium that can fulfil a plant's nutritional needs.

Whenever we're getting ready to plant up containers, we start by mixing up a big batch of potting medium. To do this, we mix four parts good-quality potting soil, 1 part palm peat (soaked in water beforehand) and a big handful of pelletised organic plant food. Prepare the medium in a big bucket so that you've got enough for all the pots you'll be planting up.

When planting, place a handful of gravel or stones in the bottom of the pot, to ensure proper drainage and prevent the drainage holes from becoming blocked. Then fill the pot with potting medium to about 2/3 full, place the plants in the pots and fill up the pots to a few centimetres below the rim.

Keep them hydrated!

Plants will put up with a lot, but you can't expect them to survive without water. Containers have a limited water-holding capacity, which is why we add water-retentive materials such as palm peat to our mix.

Check if the soil is dry by pushing a finger into the first inch or so – if it is dry, add water. In hot weather, you'll need to water your containers daily, in the morning before it gets too hot. Check again in the afternoon and water again if necessary. In cooler weather, especially in seasons when plants aren't growing as fast, you can get away with watering pots about 2 – 3 times a week.

Remember that overwatering can be as bad as underwatering, so always do the finger test before watering.

Care

Container-grown plants need regular care, including feeding, as the nutrients in the limited quantity of soil get depleted.

You will find a great selection of pots and all the other supplies you need to get your container garden started at your nearest GCA Garden Centre.

Click here for more gardening tips and trends or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Why soil matters!

Posted on: December 9th, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

A fertile and healthy soil is the basis for healthy plants, animals, and humans. Soil organic matter is the very foundation for healthy and productive soils.

Why is soil and soil health so important? Simply put, soil sustains life by helping plants to grow. It is also home to worms, beetles, bacteria and fungi, providing them with the nutrients they need to live.

Without soil, there would be nowhere to grow food that is the sustenance of life.  Soil contains food, water and air that is needed by plants to grow. The healthier the soil, the more nutrients a plant can take up. The healthier the plant, the better it is for humans and animals to eat. The quality of the soil ultimately affects the health of all people and animals.

What Is Soil?

Soil is made up of minerals, living organisms and organic matter. Minerals consist of rocks and bedrock that has broken down over time. Living organisms include a number of beneficial animals, such as beetles, worms and moles. Together with essential bacteria they help break down the organic matter making it accessible to plants. Organic matter is decaying material such as rotting leaves, animal waste and dead animals.

Maintaining Healthy Soil

It is essential to maintain healthy living soils, by caring for our soil properly, we can ensure the longevity of both animals and people. Life is a Garden encourage you to the following to maintain healthy soil: Avoiding the use of chemicals that create an imbalance in the soil. The long-term effects of some chemicals may kill off unwanted pests, but they may ultimately destroy living organisms that are essential to the creation of healthy soil.

  • Using compost in your own garden can help to replace nutrients necessary for healthy soil. Compost is easy to make from leaves, dead plants and vegetable waste from the kitchen. Garden plants and living organisms in the soil will benefit from compost. You can include most decomposed organic matter (e.g. compost, worm castings, leaf litter, aged animal manure, grass clippings etc.)
  • Apply a mulch to your soil, preferably organic mulch such as wood chips, straw etc. Mulch is used to retain moisture in the soil, suppress weeds, keep the soil cool and make the garden bed look more attractive. Organic mulches also help improve the soil's fertility, as they decompose.

Adding organic matter to your soil works to improve both soil structure and nutrient content. In light, sandy soils it works as glue, binding particles together to improve its ability to retain moisture and nutrients. Conversely, it opens up heavy clay soils so they can drain more easily. But no matter what your soil type, it will truly benefit from regular applications of organic matter to feed and sustain the plants grown in it.

Organic matter in soil can absorb and store much more water than can inorganic fractions. It acts like a sponge, taking up water and releasing it as required by plants. In our water scarce country this is a benefit which should be taken very seriously.

So next time you think of  adding something to your soil, think about the long-term effect and creating a balance in your soil. Creating a climate for your plants and edibles to thrive. Soil Matters!

Click here for more gardening tips and trends or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Preparing Your Garden Soil for Planting

Posted on: December 9th, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

A healthy garden soil is essential for healthy plants. If your soil is rich and nutritious there will be little need for fertilisers, and even pesticides.

We have all heard that compost is beneficial for our gardens, although most of us don’t know just how truly remarkable it is. Compost is decomposed organic matter, such as leaves, twigs and grass clippings. When you mix all these items together in a compost heap, they break down into organic matter that can nourish your garden. Good organic garden soil is loose and fluffy and retains air, nutrients and moisture well. If your soil is heavily clayed or over sandy, work compost into your beds to improve the soil structure and neutralise the pH. This will also increase the variety of beneficial soil organisms in the soil such as earthworms.

Topsoil is the upper-most layer of soil and is usually between 5-15cm deep. If your topsoil is high quality, it will be dark in colour and rich in organic matter.  Some topsoils are very poor quality and lack nutrients. Should this be the case in your garden you will need to purchase a good quality topsoil, either in bulk or bags and work it into your beds together with the compost.  You are also able to buy premixed topsoil and compost from your local GCA Garden Centre. In addition, topsoil is extremely useful for building berms, raising beds and fixing poorly levelled lawns, as it does not break down the way compost does.

Soil pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity in soils. The correct soil pH is vital for plant growth as it influences the availability of essential nutrients and affects the activity of soil microorganisms (the bacteria that decomposes organic matter will decline in acidic soil). When planting your new garden, it is beneficial to check the soil pH to see whether it is suitable or needs to be adjusted. To measure your soil pH use a soil pH meter or ask your local Garden Centre GCA, if they can assist you. If the pH of your soil is less than 5.6, it may be too acidic for most plants to grow in. To raise the pH you can add compost and dolomitic lime. If your soil pH is higher than 6.4 you will need to acidify your soil. This may be done by adding ammonium sulphate or acid compost.

When getting down to the dirty work of planting, make sure you have mixed your compost and natural garden soil using a 50/50 ratio. The compost in your hole is going to attract microbes to the roots which is essential for releasing plant nutrients to this area. Superphosphate and bone meal are two external sources of phosphate which is essential for good root growth and ensures that new plants get off to a good start. Bone meal is also an extra source of calcium for plant growth, so don’t forget to add the recommended amount to your planting hole for optimal results.

Moving onto your vegetable garden. Here the soil preparation is extremely important for producing a healthy crop. Adding a generous amount of organic matter in the form of compost, manure and mulch to your good quality topsoil is the best way to prepare the soil. Dig this in deeply (800mm) for best results. For raised vegetable beds a good quality potting mix can be used although a 1-part compost to 1-part topsoil ratio will work better for larger beds. For your herb garden and containers, a premixed herb or potting mix is ideal. Should you wish to improve your soil structure and water holding capacity even further you can add coco peat or sphagnum peat to your mix. These are natural, organic soil conditioners that save water, aerate heavy clay soil, bind sandy soils and reduce leaching (loss of nutrients).

So, if you suspect your current garden soil is not doing the best it can for your plants, bring in some new soil or start composting your own and reap the benefits of a ‘grass roots’ approach!

Click here for more gardening tips and trends or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Basic Seed Sowing

Posted on: December 3rd, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

Although starting flowers, vegetables, herbs and lawn from seed seems like an easy task the Life is a Garden team are often asked questions around the very basics of how to sow seeds.

There are many different things to consider, depending on what seed you are sowing and where, but here are just a few tips and guidelines:

  1. Think about what you are going to plant, how much, and where. This involves a bit of arithmetic. Work out your planting area in square meters and decide how much seed is required. All the detail required is on the back of the seed packet. Plant what you enjoy eating! If you don’t like Brussels sprouts, just don’t plant them!
  2. Before sowing, think about which flower, veggie or lawn you want, and design it on a rough plan. Then research correct soil preparation. Most important, also check whether the seed should be sown in seedling trays or direct into the soil, and watch for correct sowing depth, which is a classic reason for failure. If you are sowing in trays use seedling mix or coir mix, and not potting soil which is too coarse.
  3. Once started, there are three main reasons why things go wrong and if you avoid these three common errors, you are pretty much guaranteed success. They are sowing time, position, and water. Get one, two or three of these wrong and it is unlikely you will succeed. There are three sowing times; Summer, Winter, and “all seasons” (throughout the year), so check the seed packet before sowing.
  4. There are also three possible positions; full-sun, semi-shade, and shade, and again, check the seed packet before sowing. Of the three common errors, water is the most important. It is vital that you always follow the sowing instructions and keep the sowing area moist. During the first six weeks, do not let the sowing area dry out, it must remain moist at all times. Once the garden is established, we recommend regular deep watering rather than frequent watering, and at an approximate rate of 18mm twice a week.

To learn more, come to one of our upcoming talks on Basic Seed Sowing

Click here for more gardening tips and trends or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Mulching Against Climate Change

Posted on: November 19th, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

With the rather aggressive onset of our 2019 summer, it is increasingly obvious that “climate change” is not just an inconsequential topic of debate between politicians and environmental activists. Here at ground level we are experiencing the classic signs of increased temperatures and lower rainfall more regularly and more persistently.

Unfortunately for our much-loved gardens, these harsh conditions can be stressful for plants and we need to act before the weather takes its toll on our urban flora. But what to do about it?

Mulch! Mulching is currently one of the best ways to save water and create a happier, healthier environment for plants. Here’s why mulch is so much more than just a pretty covering for your flower beds.

Benefits of mulch

Mulch acts as a shield and protects soil from intense heat. It prevents soil water from evaporating, and coarser types of mulch also allow for air flow above the soil surface. In this way it moderates the temperature of the soil, which is important for all the micro- and macro-organisms (such as earthworms) required to promote good soil health. Mulch has the added benefits of reducing garden maintenance by suppressing weeds, insulating the roots of plants during frosty periods, preventing soil erosion during heavy rainfall and reducing the salt accumulation in the soil.

Organic mulching materials are available in several different types from your local Garden Centre with popular choices including:

  • bark chips
  • macadamia nut shells
  • peach pips
  • shredded bark
  • wood chip and
  • compost.

Inorganic mulches can also be used to similar effect and although they do not break down and provide nutrients to garden beds, they have the advantage of being durable and longer lasting. Examples of inorganic mulches include:

  • Pebbles
  • gravel chips and
  • dump rock.

With a wide variety of colours and sizes available you are sure to create a beautiful yet practical space. Just remember to purchase a landscape fabric, such as weed shield, which will not only help to keep the moisture in your soil but also help reduce weed growth and prevent erosion.

So don’t just sit and watch your garden wilt this season - go ahead and mulch against climate change!

Click here for more gardening tips and trends or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

October in the Garden Celebrating Gardening

Posted on: October 1st, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

With the 20th of October being ‘Garden Day’ and October being ‘Rose month’ – what an opportune month to celebrate gardening!

Rose month

Your roses should be producing their first flush of perfect blooms and the sun is still not too scorching – allowing the blooms to last longer. Spring is also the ideal time to select and plant new rose bushes in your garden. These are some of our favourites:

  • Ingrid Bergman POULman unfading red
  • Memoire KORfuri   unspoilt white, fragrant
  • Zulu Royal DORient mauve, fragrant
  • King David TANmarsal bronze
  • South Africa KORberbeni golden

Pop in to your nearest GCA Garden Centre for more inspiration and supplies.

 

What to Sow

As soon as the soil warms up in mid spring, you can start to sow all your summer veggies, including beans, sweetcorn and tomatoes. Two of your main “must haves” for your summer salads are cucumber and celery.

  • Cucumber seeds should be sown in composed enriched soil in a sunny site. When flowers start forming, feed with potassium-rich organic fertiliser. Support plants well so they can climb upwards, even when the cucumbers get large. This also protects the cucumbers from slugs. Harvest /cut the cucumbers off the plant when they are still quite young, avoiding the skin becoming hard. Regular harvesting encourages a more continuous production of
  • Celery needs rich, moisture-retentive soil which is achieved by digging in plenty of compost. Sow in shade or semi-shade. Feed weekly liquid feed in mid to late summer. Plants should be spaced 20cm apart and kept moist. You can cut stems frequently as required.
What to Plant

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) - one of the easiest and most rewarding bulbs to grow, amaryllis produce showy, trumpet-shaped blooms that add a flamboyant touch to your garden or home. Often referred to as the Christmas flower because they typically bloom around five weeks after being planted (during the warmer months). For this reason, amaryllis make a wonderful gift at Christmas time and can also make gorgeous centre-pieces for the Christmas dinner table.

Amaryllis do well in most soil types, provided they get sufficient drainage. Plant in a sunny or semi-shade position and for the best results, give your amaryllis some bulb food every two weeks. These beauties are perfect for pots, and can be planted in groups in your garden.

As they retreat into dormancy at the end of the warmer months, you can decrease watering and leave them in the soil throughout the various seasons. Do not stop water them until all of their foliage has receded.

Star Flower or Egyptian star cluster (Pentas lanceolata) - a fast-growing, small to medium-sized herbaceous shrub with light green foliage. Pentas comes in a variety of colours, including pink, red, mauve and white. The beautiful flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds and make great cut flowers. The shrub grows quickly in full sun or semi-shade and vary in height but the modern hybrids are lovely compact bushes, growing +-100cm tall and +-30cm wide.  Plant them into rich, well-drained soil. Cut off the dead flowers regularly to encourage re-flowering or continuous blooms.

What to Spray

There are many types of broadleaf weeds that can get their roots into your lawn. Clear out and control weeds in lawns, by using a selective broadleaf weed killer that is safe for use on established lawns.

  • Aphids are rife on new growth, they feed on the sap of most garden plants and are usually found in large colonies on the new growth tips, flower buds or on succulent foliage. They are particularly prevalent during early spring and into the summer season, sucking the sap from plants and causing malformed flowers and foliage. They can be controlled with one of the numerous different insecticides registered for use on these pests.

Chat to a specialist at your nearest GCA Garden Centre for advice on the various products available and what would work best for your needs.

What to pick

Growing your own veggie garden is both fun and rewarding. Ready for harvest in October are: asparagus, broad beans, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, lettuces, rocket, spinach (Swiss chard) and spring onions. The perfect ingredients for some very tasty and creative summer salads and veggie dishes. If you don’t have your own edible garden established yet – it is never too late to start.

Rose Care

It’s not hard to see why October is “Rose month” as you enjoy your roses in all their glory.

Water deeply at least once a week - for roses to flourish it’s best to water them twice weekly giving them 15mm of water each time.  Roses that were fertilised in mid-September should be fertilised again in mid-October or early in October if September was skipped. This encourages root activity and new leaves and flowering stems to sprout. Only use the recommended amount of granular rose fertiliser.

To prevent aphids, bollworm, thrips, powdery mildew and black spot, spray fortnightly with the correct organic spray.

For quality blooms, disbud hybrid teas by removing side buds out of the leaf axles beneath the terminal bud. Remove spent blooms; not only will your rose bed look tidier; this also encourages the production of new quality stems. If you’d like long stemmed blooms for the house, don’t cut more than half of them on a bush.

Visit your local GCA for advice on the best products to use to meet your needs.

Garden Day

On Sunday, 20 October 2019 we will celebrate Garden Day. Instead of working in your gardens – this is a day to put down your garden tools, invite family and friends around, relax and celebrate your garden with them. Flower crowns are a beautiful way to celebrate your garden.  Making and wearing the fun and colourful accessory is a great way to show off your garden blooms. Pick a few flowers from the garden and make your own flower crown.

Inland Gardening

(Gauteng, Free State, North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo)

  • Before you know it, December will be here – start preparing your garden now for all your holiday and festive season needs.
  • Clean out water fountains and ponds and ensure you unclog the impeller on your water feature pumps.
  • Check that your irrigation system is working effectively. Unclog nozzles and filterers, and replace any pipes or heads that need replacing. You don’t want to be rushing around last minute before you go away in December to ensure your watering system is working!
  • Plant additional veggies (like beans, sweetcorn, tomatoes, celery and cucumber) so that you have a good selection and enough to feed your family and any visitors over December. Sow more parsley, chives, basil and coriander seeds in your herb garden.
  • Look out for insects such as aphids, mealy bugs and whitefly on soft new growth and control with the correct insecticide.
  • Tidy up garden containers by pruning shrubs and specimen plants to maintain a round shape. Plant some bright red bedding begonias around the stems and these will give you a great splash of festive colour in December
Coastal Gardening

(Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal)

  • Snails and slugs are more than likely sneaking out of their hiding places at night and eating seedlings and young shoots in your gardens. There are a number of ways, including traps to keep these guys from destroying your plants. Chat to the experts at your local GCA Garden Centre to find a solution that best meets your needs.
  • Inspect all members of the lily family such as agapanthus, crinum, clivia, nerine, amaryllis and haemanthus for lily borer. They are most active at night and can be treated with insecticides.
  • Clean up container plants and top dress with mulch, crushed peach or apricot pips or pebbles to keep the soil moist between watering.
  • Plant tropical fruits such as lychees, mangos and bananas.

Celebrate your garden this summer. For more gardening tips and information, visit Gardening trends or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Bring health and life to your garden Garden paradise

Posted on: September 30th, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

Contribute your own little piece of Eden to the Earth and invite the buzz, whir and tweet of some colourful little guests that will appreciate it as much as you do. The beautiful colours and scents that attract these special creatures are also a treat for your own senses.

Edibles in your Garden

Cape Gooseberries (Physalis edulis) is a quick-growing annual or perennial fruit plant that originates in South America. It has been grown extensively in many parts of South Africa for the little golden berries that are produced in abundance, on bushes that can reach a height of about 1m.

Gooseberries are a worthwhile fruit to grow in your garden as they are excellent for making jams, jellies, desserts, chutneys and wine.

Grow them from seed, in almost any, well-drained soil – they even cope with poor or impoverished soils. Position them in full sun in an open, exposed area where the plants can literally grow wild. You can grow them all year round in frost-free climates.

 

Bedding Besties

For summer colour in abundance, Nemesia (Nemesia strumosa) and Twinspurs (Diascia integerrima) make the best of indigenous friends.

Nemesia (Nemesia fruticans) - The flowers resemble little snapdragon flowers and are dusty-pink or mauve or even whiter in colour - decorated with bright yellow. Used mostly as a flowering bedding plant and as an ornamental pot plant. Various colour forms are available from specialist nurseries.

Plant in well-drained soil, enriched with compost in a sunny position.

Twinspurs (Diascia barberae)- a dainty little perennial plant originating from the Drakensberg mountain range. It produces numerous upright stems growing to 30cm tall. The tubular flowers are rich salmon pink in colour. They grow best in full sun and look spectacular in rock gardens, especially tucked into joints and cracks between large rocks.

Birds and insects

Encouraging birds, bees and butterflies in your garden is a great way to nurture an environment that supports biodiversity. These creatures are crucial pollinators in our eco-system and every small haven created for them ensures a better future for our green and wild life.

The way to attract these pretty creatures is to make sure your garden has a ready supply of what they love and need. And think variety: the bigger the variety in your garden, the more varied your inhabitants will be.  This includes plants, rocks, nesting logs, water features and even rich soil.  Boost your soil with nutrients (Chat to the professionals at your local GCA Garden Centre for advice on the best products to use). Happy soil + happy plants = happy garden visitors.

Celebrate your garden this summer. For more gardening tips and information, check out whats trending in the garden or join the conversation on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/lifeisagardensa.