Life is a Garden has some essential information to share this month. The shot hole borer beetle, known also as Euwallacea fornicates, is a huge threat to South African biodiversity and our gardens are certainly no exception. From the 80 species of trees under attack, 20 of these are reproductive hosts for this most gagga gogga, and with so many trees in SA and in private gardens, the threat is closer to home than we may think. Here’s some must-know info to help save our trees!
This invasive bugger from Asia is black in colour and smaller than a sesame seed (about 2mm long). Shot hole beetles dig tunnels in the trunks and branches of host trees where they then lay their eggs. The female beetle carries a fungus (Fusarium euwallaceae), which she spreads through these tunnels, which then becomes food for both larvae and adults.
The fungus spread inside tunnels completely disrupts the flow of water and nutrients of trees. Simply put, infected trees begin to die from the inside as the larvae hatch, digging through what’s left of the tree, and spreading more deadly fungus that causes trees to basically die from malnutrition. These beetles move a kilometre per week, rapidly infesting and reproducing.
Look out for signs of possible infestations by inspecting the trunks and branches of your trees and those in the surrounding area. Symptoms may vary across tree species, but here are the tell-tale indicators to take note of:
Sadly, there is no known insecticide that is effective against the Shot Hole as they drill so deeply into the wood. We can only be proactive by preventing the spread of the beetle and removing the environment that allows them to reproduce. In other words,
Our country is one of the world’s largest biodiversity capitals and host to 299+ species of mammals and 858+ species of birds. These animals depend on our trees as a source of food and shelter. Check if you have any of the six targeted tree species in your garden and keep monitoring them closely.
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!
Nothing says proudly South African quite like a braai in the bushveld, a couple of cold ones between friends, and a silhouetted Acacia tree at twilight. This May, bring the bush to your own backyard and make every weekend a reason to get out and enjoy the aromatic, African air. Fall in love with a wonderful variety of indigenous plants, which are low maintenance, naturally water saving, and easily accessible for your next gardening project.
Before cutting down that old tree or removing those rocks, why not use the existing landscape and architecture to your advantage? Leafy ferns and trees with bulging roots add a lovely variety of texture to your garden. Indigenous thorn trees may not be the best picnic spot, but a simple pallet pathway leading to a cosy hammock or bench, may just bring out your garden’s natural beauty. Building a fire pit from collected rocks is cost efficient and effortlessly evokes that rustic, unrefined, bushveld feeling. Make the most of uneven areas by surrounding your boma with a sandpit and wood stumps for stools. Using different sands or pebbles bring even more texture into the space, making decorating easy by showcasing bold, dead tree features and a couple of ambient lanterns.
The thing about indigenous plants is that they love space, depth, and lots of ferny friends! Planting “bulking” shrubs, ferns, and creepers together create excellent and easy space fillers, impressive barriers, and even pretty cloaking devices to disguise those dull walls and fences. Including some striking Crane Flowers (Strelitzia reginae), a fragrant Gardenia bush (Gardenia augusta), and a few evergreen Kei-apple shrubs (Dovyalis caffra), will not only fill gaps in your garden, but may well surprise you with their easy to maintain, effortless beauty. A variety of local grasses are also great for adding diversity to your proudly South African garden. Try planting some dreamy Snowflake Grass (Andropogon eucomis) along pathways, surrounding empty tree beds, and even to those areas where nothing else seems to grow.
Conserving and planting endemic flora is not only a win for the environment, but also a sure victory for our little garden visitors. Bees play a vital role in human existence and crop pollination, so help the little guys out by adding some sweetly scented, Honey Daisy (Euryops virgineus) to your bushveld. And while you’re at it, inviting a kaleidoscope of butterflies is easy too, especially when planting brightly coloured butterfly bushes such as Geraniums (Geranium incanum). Cork Bush (Mundulea sericea) is an excellent choice for Highveld naturescaping with purple flowers providing food to multiple insects and birds, who in turn are sure to bring that all too familiar, bushveld choir to your patio. Hollowed out tree stumps or large rocks with natural indents, make for great bird baths and a welcoming refreshment for all your little bushveld guests.
With a little TLC, a scrap piece of wood can have many uses: a serving slab for bits of biltong, a tray to display your Acacia seeds, or a simple bush inspired centre piece. Take your creativity a step further and add some handmade carvings to your wood, or use red soil to naturally stain lighter, raw wood. Attention to detail can help add that extra veld flavour to your garden. Decorate your old tree stumps, tables, and low walls with Aloe plants in earthy pots. Aloes are avid sun lovers, water wise, hardy, and come in a vibrant variety of sunset hues.
With the beautiful African bushveld as your muse you can create your own bush paradise. Visit your nearest GCA Garden Centre for indigenous plants and the best advice on growing mzanzi magic. When it comes to capturing the essence of a bushveld garden, simple, earthy accents can make all the difference and ensure that your inspiration sings through every part of your garden – from the plants to the pots, and even to that old tree stump!
The rustling sound of leaves blowing in the wind and birds singing from branches are a gentle reminder of the magnificence of trees. Trees provide shade, shelter and food for several creatures while purifying the air around us.
This spring you can help to improve our environment and add value to your property by planting a tree. Two trees to consider are the Marula (Sclerocarya birrea) and the Apple-leaf (Philenoptera violacea) which have been named the common and uncommon trees of the year respectively.
The Marula Maroela, also known as the Marula tree, is a medium-sized to large tree that has a rich history in South Africa and is known for its nutritional benefits and tasty fruits.
The Apple-leaf, or Appelblaar in Afrikaans, is a medium-sized to large tree that produces a beautiful show of sweetly-scented flowers in colours ranging from white and pink to bluish-pink, mauve or deep violet from September to December.
For more information about caring for these trees, visit your nearest GCA Garden Centre.
September is here – the sun is getting warmer, and our gardens are showing new signs of life. Spring is the perfect time to look at your garden with fresh eyes, make some changes and plan for the summer months ahead.
The 1st to the 7th of September is national Arbor week in South Africa - a time when South Africans of all ages are encouraged to celebrate the beauty and importance of trees.
The trees of the year for 2019 are Common Tree of The Year: Sclerocarya birrea Marula Maroela. Rare (Uncommon) Tree of The Year: Philenoptera violacea Apple-leaf, Appelblaar.
The month of September is the perfect time to plant an indigenous tree in your gardens - at home, office parks, and schools – especially as we are currently losing many of our trees to the invasive Shothole Borer.
What to Sow
During summer months, having fresh salad supplies ready to pick from your garden is a win! September is the time to sow lettuce, spring onion and tomato seeds, ready for your summer salads.
What to Plant
A perfect plant to fill your shaded gardens with bright, long-lasting colour in summer is Impatients. The new Beacon Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) offers high resistance to downy mildew and won’t collapse due to this destructive disease. For lasting colour plant your Impatients in fertile, well-drained soil in shade or partial sun. Beacon Impatiens are also great for baskets, window boxes, and containers, but will need a steady supply of water.
What to Spray
You know that spring has arrived when you smell the Jasmine and see the orange blaze as the indigenous Clivia’s start to emerge from their buds. Watch out for the lily borer in your Clivia’s. The caterpillar and their larvae damage the stems and leaves and if left untreated will cause a lot of damage. If you see any traces of larvae or damage to the plant, apply contact insecticide every two weeks to control.
Rejuvenate your lawn in September by applying a lawn dressing - a mixture of well-balanced organic matter and weed-free soil. A thin layer should be spread on established lawns to level an uneven surface or help a lawn recover after an icy winter. It would help if you also replenished nutrients by adding a nitrogen-rich fertiliser. Chat to the friendly experts at your nearest GCA Garden Centre for the best products to use.
Maintenance is the heart of gardening, and September is an excellent time to get in there with some pinching, deadheading, and pruning. Your flower garden will be healthier and lusher and will stay in bloom throughout the season. Most flowers benefit from having their spent flowers removed. This is called deadheading. Flowers that repeat-bloom will often do so only if the old, dying flowers are removed. If the dead flowers remain on the plant, they will go to seed, and the plant will stop producing flowers.
Some plants have very crisp, thin stems and can be deadheaded using your fingers. This type of deadheading is called pinching. Some plants that can be pinched include daylilies, salvia, and coleus. Coleus are grown for their foliage, not their flowers. Pinching off the flowers encourages the plants to become bushier and fuller.
From the middle of September, you should pinch prune your Hybrid Tea roses. This encourages new basal growth, green leaves and root development. It spreads out the flowering cycle so that there is an almost continual supply of roses instead of one or two main flushes. Pinch –prune about a third of the shoots. Increase watering to at least twice a week and fertilise fortnightly.
Watch out for aphids, thrips, bollworm and powdery mildew. To be effective, the spraying of roses for the control of pests and diseases needs to be carried out properly and with the correct understanding of both the pest and the applicable pesticides. One does get a canola oil, based pesticide combined with a systemic action fungicide which is a certified organic option. Visit your local GCA Garden Centre for advice on the best products to use to meet your needs.
(Gauteng, Free State, Northern Cape, North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo)
With the rainy season upon us, ensure that your rainwater harvesting systems are set up and connected correctly. Clean out your gutters to ensure proper water run-off and to make sure your collected rainwater is as clean as possible.
Get your summer herb garden planted with these easy to grow summer herbs:
Thyme, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, basil, rocket, parsley and mint. Buy your seedlings from a Garden Centre GCA renowned for quality plants and frequent deliveries of fresh stock.
Weed regularly before it gets out of hand. Treat weeds on paving, pathways and in gravelled areas with a non-selective herbicide. Visit a GCA Garden Centre for advice on the best products to use.
Arum Lilies and Calla Lilies (Coloured Zantedeschia hybrids)- plant your Zantedeschia bulbs at the beginning of spring, around 4 - 5cm’s deep. Space bulbs 30 to 40 cm apart, because Zantedeschia has wide-reaching leaves and needs space. Choose a location that is in full sun but stays cool. Don’t plant in very dry soil.
Dahlias (Dahlia pinnata). 2019 is the Year of the Dahlia! These colourful, spiky, daisy-like flowers bloom from midsummer right through the first frost. Select a planting site with full sun as they will blooms more with 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight. They love the morning sunlight best. Choose a location with a bit of protection from the wind. Dahlias thrive in rich, well-drained slightly acidic soil.
(Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal)
September is a great time to refresh, top-up or replace pebbles and gravel around the garden - especially between paving stones where dust and mud have accumulated.
Check for algae and moss on paving. Scrub down with a solution of copper sulphate or use a moss killer.
Create a pretty spring border with the following indigenous flowering plants: Gazanias, Arctotis, Blue Felicias, Scabiosas and Cape daisies.
Buy your seedlings from your local GCA Garden Centre.
Now is an excellent time to prune your Hibiscus, Poinsettia and other winter-flowering shrubs. Pruning your Hibiscus will help stimulate budding on new shoots. It also rejuvenates the plant after their long winter nap while encouraging them to maintain an attractive appearance and healthy, vigorous growth. The flowers of the Poinsettia have actually modified leaf structures called bracts. Once these have wilted and begun to die off, the Poinsettia requires a thorough pruning. Poinsettias may also require some trimming throughout the growing season to remain full and healthy.
Gerbera daisies (Gerbera jamesonii) are commonly grown for their bright and cheerful daisy-like flowers. They are indigenous to South Africa and come in various sizes and colours including pink, yellow, salmon, orange and white. Gerberas are best planted as seedlings, rather than seeds. This is because the flower resulting from seed may not reflect the colour expected and take far longer to flower. They prefer full sun with relatively sandy soils that are well-drained. None of the stems should be planted under the soil as it will rot, and the plant will die. Do not water them too often, as the soil should not become saturated. They can be grown in pots or containers too. They do well in the heat but do not handle the cold well.
Gladioli bulbs (Gladiolus species) come in a fantastic range of sizes, forms and colours, even lilacs and blues. It is a classic perennial known for its tall flower spikes. A great cutting flower, gladioli look beautiful in midsummer bouquets. Plant Gladioli bulbs in the spring once the danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed. Most Gladioli thrive in well-composted, well-drained loose, sandy to light loamy soils. A sunny position is best. The taller varieties, which should be staked, are often placed in the back of a garden to complement shorter plants nicely.