April is the time to plant winter - and spring- flowering bedding plants to brighten up your garden in the months ahead.
If you haven't already done so, April is the time to plant annuals for a splash of winter colour. Winter- and spring-flowering seedlings are available in garden centres now and, if planted this as soon as possible, will be in flower during the winter months when the life of your garden is calling out for some much-needed colour. Gardeners in coastal KwaZulu-Natal can also choose crotons and acalyphas, whose brightly coloured foliage will add to the winter show.
Plant winter-flowering seedlings in large groups for best effect or between your spring-flowering bulbs to give the border added impact. Remember to place tall-growing plants at the back of a bed, and low-growing ones at the front. Containers planted up with these beautiful annuals will also brighten patios and entertainment areas.
Follow these tips for seedling success:
- Before planting the annuals, prepare the soil well. Add liberal quantities of compost to poor sandy soils (two 30dm bags of compost to 4 square metres). To improve loam add 1 bag (30dm) to 4 square metres.
- Before digging over the flowerbed, sprinkle one handful of planting fertiliser over each square metre.
- Remove all grass, weeds, stone and debris. Level the bed with a rake.
- Seedlings should be planted out on cloudy days, or in the late afternoon, to give them a chance to recover.
- Before transplanting, water the soil well, as well as the seedlings in their trays.
- Remove the seedling carefully so as not to damage the root. Avoid pulling it up by the stem; rather push it gently from below.
- Make a hole in the bed and pop the seedling in. Use a fine sprinkler to water the plants after transplanting.
- During the long, dry winter months, it is important to keep winter annuals moist, but not wet. Deep, infrequent watering encourages deep root growth and is generally better than frequent, light applications. Add lots of compost to provide nutrients and mulch well for the drier winter months.
- Foliar fertilising dramatically improves the performance of bedding plants. Foliar feed with a half-strength of Multifeed or Nitrosol mixed with water. This is especially necessary in areas where root competition from trees or shrubs is a problem. Large gardens can be foliar fed quickly and easily with the aid of a modern mix-nozzle that can be clipped onto the end of a hosepipe (stocked by large garden centres).
- Throughout flowering time, remove spent blooms to encourage more flowers.
What to plant
Alyssum, antirrhinum, begonia, calendula, celosia, delphinium, dianthus, godetia, lobelia, marigold, nicotiana, pansy, petunia, phlox, portulaca, rudbeckia, salvia, torenias and zinnias.