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!
Like the calm before the cool, winter preparations are smooth sailing this month with Life is a Garden’s crisp April checklist. Gardening during the cooler months definitely has its own challenges, but also so many exciting flowers and veggies to look forward to. Did someone say spring bulbs already? Head over to your GCA Garden Centre and let’s plant right in!
Enjoy your time chilling out and ticking off your April checklist. Ride the wave of cool-season thrills and all that’s up for grabs in the garden. Whether you’re maintaining, sowing, planting, or pruning, there’s always something to do in the backyard. Life is a Garden – welcome the refreshing autumn breeze into yours.
The holiday season is a gardener’s time to shine, an opportunity to show off the goods, and the perfect occasion to “uithaal en wys”, as they say in Afrikaans. This month, you’ve got full bragging rights, so make sure you’re ready to be the gardening host with the most! It’s time to let those home-grown veggies and herbs take the spotlight.
With the family on their way and the charcoal ready – it’s braai time with some buddies from the garden to bring out the flavour of your food. Highlight your hard work by making veggies and herbs the hero of your dish. Here are some tantalising ideas to please every pallet:
*Match your meat: Pair the flavour profile of your veggie dishes with your chosen meat for a well-balanced, complimentary dish.
Time to ditch store-bought lettuce heads and go for leaves that say “festive and fabulous”.
Your garden centre has ready-to-go packs of mixed gourmet lettuce with gorgeous leaves to make the fanciest of salads.
Personalised salad jars are a grand gesture and a sophisticated way to hero your harvest. Find out which greens your fussy eaters enjoy, then layer a medium-sized glass jar with the chosen ingredients. Your guests will not only be impressed by your effort and presentation but will also enjoy tuning over their special salad onto their plate.
*Tip: Make your own salad dressing by blending up mixed herbs, olive oil, lemon juice and love!
Cocktails and mocktails
*Tip: Bruise your herbs to release their full flavour!
Gardening has never been more important than now. Indulge and nourish your mental and physical well-being with the re-opening of your beloved GCA Garden Centres. In a post-pandemic world, discover the many health benefits of gardening, which reduces stress and depression, offers comfort and joy, connects us with Nature and helps to give us purpose, to name just a few. Let’s take what we can from this lockdown – a time to re-set – and let’s get positively green.
The mental, physical, and emotional health benefits of gardening are for everyone. Anyone is capable of reaping the nourishing rewards that abundant Mother Nature has to offer – we need just take some time to get a little dirty with Her. Visit your local GCA Garden Centre once they open and let’s be like sunflowers that turn towards the golden potential of each new beginning.
Often referred to as the king of vegetables, eggplants are a hearty vegetable that does not only boast a delicious taste but are packed with health benefits from providing antioxidants to promoting blood sugar control. Here is an eggplant recipe to add to your snack platter.
…okay so it’s not truly raw
For 100% raw:
We prefer buying a skinnier, purple eggplant type of variety – like the Long Purple eggplant. But if you have a regular old fat dude (Diamond or Black Beauty), don’t worry, slice him in half, and then slice the half into long thin bacon-like slices.
Remove and discard the green top. Then very thinly and evenly slice into bacon-like strips. A mandoline slicer would be great if you have one!
Mix up your marinade in a large bowl and toss the eggplant in, to coat.
Let it soak for around 30 minutes.
Layout the slices on your dehydrator sheets, making sure the slices don’t touch or overlap.
Dehydrate overnight, or around 12-20 hours. The longer you dehydrate it, the crispier, it gets.
* store in sealed container in fridge *
Every gardener is brought loads of joy from seeing their precious plants flourish! Vibrant and colourful pot plants, lush green lawns, healthy vegetables and strong, disease resistant trees and shrubs laden with flowers and fruits.
Although compost is the number one source of food for your plants, there are times when they will need that extra boost. When flowering, fighting pests or dealing with inclement weather, a little more nutrition can go a long way. Bedding and container plants are also always grateful for that extra bit. Knowing when and how and with what to fertilise your garden and container plants is fairly simple.
Life is a Garden have these great tips for you:
Plants require three main elements known are macro-nutrients, for good health: Nitrogen (N) for green leafy growth; Phosphorous (P) for healthy roots and shoots; and Potassium (K) for fruits, flowers and hardiness. These three elements are required in greater quantities than any others, but smaller amounts of secondary elements and trace minerals also contribute towards optimal growth.
What to feed? Firstly, you need to decide whether you prefer to fertilise with a chemical or organic fertiliser. Once you have established this, you will find a variety of fertilisers pre-made with the correct balance of nutrients for your plant’s specific needs e.g. roses, vegetables, fruit and flowers (shrubs and trees), general and lawn. Chemical fertilisers are available in a slow release form which means that you only need to reapply every 3 months in the growing season. Normal chemical fertilisers will last for a 6-week period.
Organic fertilisers have the added benefit in that they help to build the soil structure, which in turn assists with retaining soil water and nutrients. They stimulate microbial activity and are environmentally friendly, minimising toxic build up in the soil (which is detrimental to plants). They are naturally slow release and, for your convenience, are available in both a pellet and a powder form.
Water soluble fertilisers are faster acting than granular fertilisers and although they need to be applied more frequently, they are easy to use. These are also available in both organic and non-organic forms. Because plants are able to absorb essential nutrients through their leaves, we can fertilise them using a technique called foliar feeding. The easiest method for foliar feeding is to add or dissolve the fertiliser in water using a pressure sprayer or watering can, and then to simply wet the leaves until the mixture is dripping off. It is best to do this early morning or late afternoon and repeat every two to three weeks. This method of fertilising will rapidly reward you with spectacular container plants, hanging baskets, vegetables, herbs or annuals.
When to fertilise?
Most vegetables, lawns, annuals and perennials give the best results when fertilised at the beginning of the growing season or early spring.
With this season’s late rainfall, and the fact that we are officially still in spring, it’s not too late to fertilise! So, get feeding and enjoy your flourishing rewards over the coming festive season. Remember to always read the fertilising instructions carefully and follow the correct application rate for the best outcome.
It’s December and gift giving and celebrations are the highlight of the month. This often requires spending time searching for parking spots at busy shopping centres and wandering endlessly through crowded stores in search of the perfect gift to show appreciation to those you love.
This year, why not give a heartfelt and special gift that you’ve spent months growing in your own garden? And while you’re enjoying the outdoors, invite your friends and family over to soak up the sun and enjoy the season in your festive garden.
Gifts from your garden
Our gardens flourish in December, often producing more than we need. This is impeccable timing to give gifts from your garden. These gifts are not only kinder on your wallet, they are also more personal and are greatly appreciated for their thoughtfulness.
Herb jars with herbs grown from seed are an ideal gift for those who love to cook. Herbs are a great addition to any meal, particularly fresh herbs that are bursting with flavour. If you have someone special in the family who loves to spend time creating delicious dishes, give the gift of fresh herbs.
Use fresh vegetables that you are growing in your vegetable garden to make some fresh pasta sauces, pickled vegetables or relishes. Place in glass bottles with personalised gift labels and include them in a gift hamper. These will be enjoyed for weeks after they’ve been received. Homemade pamper products are a real treat and often suitable for even the most sensitive skin. Make a body scrub from sea salt or raw sugar, mix it with an oil of your choice, add some lavender, mint or rose petals picked from your garden and place into a jar for hours of pampering and grateful, glowing skin.
Flowers are always a welcome gift for every occasion. Pick an array of flowers from your garden and arrange them in a beautiful bouquet before placing them into a vase as a gift for friends and family to brighten up their day and their home.
Festive gardens for great festivities
Summer is in full swing and the garden is a wonderful escape from the indoors. With flowers in full bloom, the combination of bright colours and delightful, delicate aromas is an invitation to spend more time outdoors.
Add some festive cheer to your garden with red and white flowers that can be grown in pots and flower beds around the garden. Decorate trees with festive coloured fairy lights which will not only look dreamy in the evenings it will also add some ambience while entertaining. Complete your festive garden look by placing red, white and green floating candles and flowers to water features and pools and dotted around the garden for a beautiful, tranquil setting.
Let the festivities begin
‘Tis the season to be festive and we are blessed with wonderful hot summer days and warm evenings. Invite your friends and family over, put a table under the trees and decorate it with red and white flowers from your garden to add some festive cheer. Be sure to use some of the flowers to create a Christmas wreath for the door and delight your guests when they arrive. As long lazy afternoons roll into the evening almost unnoticed, scatter some red and white cushions onto seats around the garden to keep your guests lingering for longer and enjoy hours of each other’s company.
September is the month to shed the cold frosts of winter and welcome spring. Did you know September is sometimes referred to as tomato month! This is because tomatoes are mostly harvested around this time.
There is something very satisfying about being able to go into your garden and pick something homegrown to use as ingredients in your cooking. The tomato is an almost indispensable part of meal preparation in many South African homes, and it even has its own week…YUP, the 24th to the 30th of September is tomato week.
Low in calories and rich in vitamins A and C, potassium and iron, it deserves to be celebrated.
Don’t worry if you have limited space, as many types of tomato will grow happily in window boxes and containers. Soil preparation is the key – include generous amounts of compost and, because tomatoes flourish in conditions with low nitrogen, high phosphorous and moderate potassium, incorporate a complete fertiliser. It takes about six to eight weeks for a fertilised flower to develop into mature fruit. Depending on the type, the ripe tomato could be yellow, orange or any one of many shades of red. The flavour and nutrient content of tomatoes are best if they are allowed to ripen on the plant.
Now is the perfect time to get out your recipe book and try out those summer-inspired tomato recipes. Nothing welcomes spring like a basil tomato salad, and we have the perfect recipe for you! Bone petit!
Cut your freshly picked tomatoes into small cube dices. Try to ensure that all tomato pieces are relatively the same size, this makes it easy to get all the salad content in one bite. Then cut the cocktail tomatoes in halves. Place all the cut ingredients into your salad bowl and give it a good shake.
Chop the basil leaves and onions into small pieces and places in the bowl. Then mix all the ingredients by giving them a satisfying shake!
Scatter mozzarella cheese on top of the salad. Add the olive oil and balsamic vinegar to the salad and salt and finish off with black pepper to taste. Voila - simple and delicious.
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