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May is your last month to plan and prepare your garden and beautiful landscape for the potentially cold and harsh winter months coming up. The more preparation and work you put in, the more successful your garden will be at not only surviving, but flourishing in the winter months. This means it will be well prepared for new spring growth when winter passes.
Our may post covers pertinent topics like general garden maintenance, May garden woes, propagation tasks, planting bulbs, what to plant in May for colour and plants which feed birds in winter as well as what to do and plant in your food garden.
This blog is orientated around Western Cape gardening and landscaping but can also be used to a certain extent for other regions.
General maintenance in your garden
Being autumn there are going to be many leaves falling from trees and shrubs. Collect these and either add them to your compost heap now or keep them in black bags and then add them to your compost heap in spring when the weather warms again. In our February blog we spoke about mulching in order to keep the soil cooler and prevent water evaporating too quickly. Now at this time of the year we recommend mulching for the opposite reason. To keep the soil and roots of plants warm during cooler months. Please revisit our blog on February gardening to get more ideas on mulching. If you have not pruned your hedges yet then now is good time to do that before we go into the cooler months. Only prune evergreens and those shrubs which finished flowering in summer. Always prune your shrub narrower at top than at the bottom in order for sunlight to reach all parts of the plant to aid photosynthesis.
This will result in dense new growth right from the top to the bottom. Read our February blog for more advice on pruning. Prepare trees and shrubs you intend on moving in winter by cutting through the roots on two sides. Cut through the remaining two sides next month. Feed your bedding plants once every two weeks with a liquid feed or once monthly with a granular food like 3:1:5. If you planted sweet peas in March as recommended then feed these as well. If you have recently planted annuals, pinch out the first flowers to promote a generally better plant as well as improved blooming.
As the rainy weather starts weeds will become more prolific in gardens and grass areas. Be on top of weeding and remember to use flowers, leaves and roots as per our recommendations in our previous Facebook War on weeds and eat your weeds posts. In our winter rainfall gardens the height for lawnmower blades should be lowered slightly as our grass should spike in growth (N.B Kikuyu). If you haven’t already fed your lawn recently, then do so now before winter is upon us. 3:1:5 can have great results on lawn. The reason we have recommended a fertiliser not too high in Nitrogen is to encourage grass to have a strong root system to survive winter. If your lawn is very compacted then spike it with a garden fork or a spiker and sprinkle superphosphate, watering it into the holes afterwards.
Autumn foliage to collect for composting
May garden woes
In our March blog we spoke about identifying and treating Italian cypress aphid. These pests are particularly active during cooler months so we would definitely recommend continuing spraying for this aphid if your conifers have been affected by this problem. Please read our garden woes section of our March blog for more info on this.
At this time of the year breeding of rose beetles and fruit flies can be quite prevalent. Clear away fallen leaves and rotten fruit under fruit trees to prevent breeding and overwintering of the above mentioned bugs. Also if you have your own compost heap turn it once in a while to check for larvae and pupae of fruit flies and beetles. Do not overturn the compost as you will lose much needed heat required to break down organic matter into compost. Please see our Facebook post on how to control beetles. Fruit flies can be controlled by using fruit fly bait.
Snails will be looking for places to over winter at this time of the year. Clean up under containers and clumps of perennials and also clean evergreen shrubs at the base to prevent them from becoming hiding places for snails and other creatures and critters. Mulches made from rooibos work well to prevent snails, as well as adding crushed eggshells to beds is also affective. Please also see our Facebook post on how to control snails in your garden.
Also keep a look out for and treat roses for funguses like downy mildew, powdery mildew and black spot which can be prevalent during moister months of the year. Choose a fungicide which is listed for the particular fungus you are experiencing. Please also see our Facebook post on natural fungicides.
Fruit flies on citrus
Propagation tasks for May:
This is a very important time of the year when it comes to certain propagating in the garden. Hardwood cuttings, semi-hardwood cuttings of sub shrubs, splitting of overcrowded groundcovers and division of herbaceous perennials and bulbous plants are all forms of propagation which should take place at this time of the year.
This is a great time of the year to take hardwood cuttings of shrubs, climbers and trees. Some examples of shrubs to take hardwood cuttings of are hibiscus, abelia, hydrangeas as well as deciduous plants and tree cuttings. Hardwood cuttings are taken from mature, firm woody stems at about 10-15cm lengths. They are taken in late autumn through to early winter. They are the slowest to root taking up to a year (they first need to form a callus), but worth the wait as the result is strong, more mature plants. When taking the cuttings, make sure that the top of the cutting is slanted so that you can identify top from bottom as planting upside down will obviously lead to failure of propagation. The cuts must be clean, precise and not ripped otherwise rooting will occur rather than propagation. The cuttings mix should consist of two thirds coarse sand and one third fine compost or loam. Take cuttings that are close to pencil-thickness from current season’s growth. It will be mature and woody, not soft and green. Cut off any unripened green growth at the tips. Try to take cuttings where the current season’s wood (1 year old wood) joins the two year old wood. The base of the stem at this junction has the greatest potential for root development; it contains a large number of dormant buds that supply hormones required for developing roots. The base of the cutting should be just below a bud and the tip of the cutting should be done just above a bud and sloped (to identify and for water to run off).
This a good time of the year to take semi-hard wood cuttings of sub-shrubs that might degenerate during winter months as well as older specimens that may be coming to the end of their lifespans. These should root readily before winter but if not mini hothouse situations can be created with coke and other bottles. These cuttings can overwinter and will be ready for planting in spring and summer. Rooting usually takes about 3-6 weeks but this may vary. Most sub shrubs tend to have a short lifespan and need to be replaced. Again like hardwood cuttings when taking the cuttings the cuts must be clean, precise and not ripped otherwise rooting will occur rather than propagation. Choose to take cuttings from healthy plants and cut pieces with healthy foliage. The cutting should be about 80-120mm long. It should be taken 2-5mm below a healthy node or bud. The top of the cutting must have 2-5 leaves which must be cut in half. The rest of the leaves below these can be nipped off at the stem neatly and tidily. The mix used to plant these cuttings in can be the same as the hardwood mix but the fine compost can be replaced with cocopeat or other peat in order for it to retain a little more moisture. Cuttings in general (hardwood and semi-hardwood) must be dipped in rooting hormone to encourage good rooting, rooting hormone number 3 should be used for hardwood cuttings and number 2 should be used for semi-hardwoods. Natural alternatives are cinnamon powder and a honey and water solution. Some plants which we would recommend taking semi-hardwood cuttings of are angelonia, Felicia, gaura, lavandula, osteospermum, pelargonium, rosemary, plectranthus etc.
Many perennial plants complete their blooming season in autumn or early winter and have to be cut down to almost ground level. This is when you can take some cuttings from these offcuts. These plants will then emerge with new growth in spring.
This is a great time of the year to still divide clumps of rhizomatous and bulbous clump forming plants for example watsonia’s, agapanthus, wild garlic and dietes. For advise on this, please reference our previous blog on March gardening.
Remember to continue harvesting seeds from herbs, veggies, flowers etc for propagating next season. Please see our Facebook post which gives you advice on how to collect seeds etc.
Semi – Harwood cuttings
Planting bulbs & general maintenance of bulbous plants:
In our March blog we discussed getting your garden beds etc ready for bulb planting done in cooler weather. Well our weather has officially cooled down so now is the time to do your bulb planting for winter and spring flowering as well as some summer bloomers which take a little longer to grow. If you haven’t already prepared your soil prepare adding compost, bone meal or other fertilisers of your liking.
Below are some tips for planting bulbs:
*Commonly not all plant’s labelled bulbs are actually bulbs, but some are rather corms and rhizomes for example.
*To get the bests results out of bulbs we would usually recommend planting them in bold groups of the same type.
*Before choosing a place to plant your bulbs remember that spring bulbs need to be cool, so don’t plant them next to hard landscaping, like driveways or paved pathways. Avoid north-facing walls, and if planted in containers keep them in in morning sun and afternoon shade.
*Plant all spring flowering bulbs with the pointed side facing up, except for anemones. Bulbs which have finger or claws like ranunculus should be planted with fingers pointed downwards. The planting depth of a bulb is dependent on the size of the bulb. Smaller bulbs like leucojums, lachenalia’s and tritonia’s should be planted 5cm deep and larger bulbs like freesia’s and irises should be planted about 10cm deep.
*When planting use a dibber or bulb planter to make the appropriate holes for the bulbs.
*The most important thing to remember when plating bulbs is that they must not dry out at root level. Soak the soil to a depth of about 15cm every 4-5 days. Remember that potted bulbs may need more watering.
Planting of bulbs
What to do and plant in your veggie & food garden in May:
If you have grown pumpkins and other squash then mature fruits should be picked. The fruit should sound hollow when knocked. If you have experienced problems with fruit fly then next season try covering fruit with paper or fabric bags tide on gently to prevent fruit flies from stinging fruit. Remove all flowers and undeveloped fruit from summer vegetables to speed up the ripening process of almost-ripe fruit and to also encourage plants to maybe pop out a little more fruits for you. You need to water well to encourage this but please note that this must be done in mornings as plants do not want to go to bed with wet feet. Tomatoes may need to be sprayed with fungicide to treat and prevent blight. Please also see our Facebook post on using aspirins to prevent blight and other tomato problems. Feed all veggies to strengthen them before winter comes. This is important particularly for brassicas like cabbages, broccoli’s and cauliflower. Baby greens and microgreens are especially fashionable and a way to grow these that will not cost you much money is to use your vegetable tops instead of throwing them away. Vegetables like turnips, beetroot, radishes and carrots can all be grown in shallow trays filled with water on a windowsill. You can harvest the small leaves for a while as baby greens and then this can later be planted into the ground as root crop again. If you have sweet potatoes growing, then now is the time to harvest them. This is the time of the year to divide chives and garden chives. If your veggie garden is currently in quite a lot of shade a lot of veggies can be grown in other parts of your garden between other plants as long as they are not being sprayed with poisons.
In regards to fruiting plants, ripening citrus should be picked, as well as the last apples and pears. Citrus trees actually require regular feeding and should be fertilised four times a year so if you have not already fed them then give them one good feeding before winter. Mid-autumn is a great time of the year to plant fruit trees as well as repot fruit trees in containers to ensure that they are settled for new spring growth. In our March blog we spoke about preparing your garden for strawberry planting. If your patch is not prepared yet, then prepare with ample compost and bone meal. Plant runners from mother plants or plant new young plants. Strawberries also do extremely well planted in hanging baskets and retaining blocks. In June and July deciduous fruit trees need to be pruned if you are planning on doing this. Start planning for this, as there is a science to pruning fruiting trees and if you do it incorrectly it can effect fruiting of the trees as well as lead to crop failures.
Examples of vegetables which can be sown and planted in May are broad beans, beetroot, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, leeks, lettuce, onions, parsnip, garden peas, radish, swiss chard, oriental veggies, mustard, kale, kohlrabi. This also the last month we would recommend for carrot sowing before spring planting again.
General winter veg (Garden peas, onions etc)
What to plant in your garden in May:
May is the time of the year where you start planting for winter. We will discuss annuals to plant in May, indigenous perennials for colour, plants for autumn colour and what to plant for feeding the birds in your garden in winter.
For annual colour continue planting Bellis perennis, bokbaaivygies, Namaqualand daisies, nemesias, calendulas, dianthus and snapdragons. You can start planting violas, pansies and phlox in sun and semi shade and start planting Primula malacoides and vulgaris as well as Cineraria cruentus in shadier spots for annual colour. All of the above mentioned annuals and biannuals come in many different colours.
Pentas lanceolata, Barleria obtusa and other Barlerias, Euryops pectinatus and Osteospermums will provide you with sub shrub colour. Arctotis and Diascias will provide you with groundcover colour. Pentas lanceolata has masses of star shaped small flowers in clusters in a range of different colours. It is an indigenous hybrid and is actually very hardy. The flowers attract butterflies.
Euryops pectinatus is small shrub with bright yellow daisy flowers in mass. Again this plant is indigenous and extremely hardy.
Osteospermums sport masses of large brightly coloured daisies in many colours.
Barleria’s are another indigenous stunner with masses of either light blue, pink, salmon or purple flowers depending on variety. They are also very hardy, water wise and are versatile in the way that they can be grown in semi shaded conditions as well as sunny.
Today’s post is on our top 3 climbers for covering wire and wooden fences. We will also be writing a post on our top climbers for growing on pergolas, trellises and growing supported against walls etc.
Senecio tamoides – Canary creeper
This indigenous plant is a fast-growing climber with semi-succulent stems and leaves. It can grow up to between 3-4m depending, and usually has a spread of about 2m. It is usually evergreen but in very cold areas can behave in a semi-deciduous manner by dying back slightly in winter but coming back in spring beautifully. The leaves are ivy like and masses of bright yellow daisy-like flowers are borne during late summer and autumn, creating a jaw-dropping show. These flowers are also aromatic and attract butterflies. In nature, it is usually found growing in full sun or semi-shade is water-wise and is not too particular as to what type of soil it grows in.
Podranea ricassiliana – Port St. Johns creeper /pink trumpet vine
This is a vigorous, woody rambling evergreen with glossy green foliage. The average height is 3-5m but can grow bigger if not controlled and grows about 2m wide. Large bunches of lilac-pink, trumpet-shaped, foxglove-like flowers are produced throughout summer, which is fragrant and attracts different bees (Please do not let this discourage you). This fast-growing climber does best in full sun and requires moderate watering and well-drained soil. It does benefit from some pruning to keep it in shape and in check, and pruning can actually encourage blooming. This plant also does well planted on wire fences, arbours, pergola’s and carports. It is very vigorous and heavy so I wouldn’t recommend planting it where there is not a strong support. Podranea brycea or Zimbabwe creeper is another type of Podranea which is extremely similar, the only difference being that the leaves are hairy.
Pyrostegia venusta – Golden shower/ orange trumpet vine
This extremely fast growing exotic climber is breathtaking when it cascades with what looks like a waterfall of orange trumpet-like flowers. It flowers for many months of the year, from just after Christmas until winter. This climber can grow as tall as you let it or what it is supported by and about 2-2,5m wide usually. It prefers full sun but can also be grown in semi-shade, is quite water-wise and enjoys a well-drained soil of any PH. Golden shower climbers are very vigorous like the Podranea’s and need very good strong supports.
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EAT YOUR LAWN: Edible and Medicinal Weeds in Your Lawn.
This post we are going to split into three weeks as they are surprisingly many plants/weeds which can be discussed.
A lot of the weeds that we find in our lawns are edible and or have medicinal value. So instead of viewing your lawn weeds as just a problem see them as plants which should be removed and controlled manually and not thrown away but rather be used for their nutritional and medicinal value.
DANDELION – TARAXACUM OFFICINALE
This broad-leafed perennial weed which we have discussed before is probably your most common lawn weed which I am sure we have all experienced at some stage. The reason this weed can be difficult to control is that they have a very deep taproot. Please note that all parts of this plant are edible, but please first do some research as to how to use them in an edible manner. The flowers are tastiest when young and have a sweet, honey-like flavour. Please see our previous post on Dandelions.
WOOD SORREL/ OXALIS – OXALIS ACETOSELLA
This broadleaf perennial has light green clover-like leaves and cup-shaped yellow flowers in summer and autumn. Wood sorrel is an incredible thirst quencher and is refreshing to eat. The leaves, flowers, and immature green seed pods are all edible having a mild sour flavour that some say resemble lemons. Wood sorrel can be added to salads, used in soups, sauces and it can also be used as a seasoning. Please remember to only eat this plant in moderation (once in a while) as it contains oxalic acid and this if ingested in bulk or to regularly can be slightly toxic.
WHITE CLOVER – TRIFOLIUM REPENS
This broadleaf perennial has distinctive three lobe leaves and white cluster flowers. This weedy plant is actually quite beneficial to the health of soil as it is part of the legume family and therefore is a nitrogen-fixing plant, increasing the nitrogen in your soil by converting it into an available and accessible form. The flowers have a sweet, anise, liquorice like flavour and were used in folk medicine for gout and rheumatism. Native Americans used whole clover plants in salads and made a white clover leaf tea for coughs and colds. Please note when choosing flowers to eat, that flowers which are not fresh and turning brown are very bitter, and also eat flowers in moderation as they can be difficult to digest if over consumed raw. Cooking them can help with this. Leaves are also edible but eat in moderation.
EAT YOUR LAWN: Part 2.
Stelleria media – Chickweed
This annual weed which pops up everywhere is usually short-lived but will come up time and time again. This plant is commonly also called ‘snow in summer’ because of its small white star-shaped flowers that usually bloom in the spring and last until autumn. This plant can serve as a vegetable crop for both human consumption and is also a very important poultry crop. Leaves, stems and flowers of this plant are edible. All parts can be added to salads. It can also be used as a cooked green like you would spinach, in for example soups and stews. Chickweed can also be used as a medicinal plant and is used for its cooling properties. It is also very rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Please note though that this plant should not be overconsumed as it can cause a bit of a runny stomach if overused.
Portulaca oleracea – Purslane
The reason this succulent annual trailing plant is so weedy and invasive is because it thrives in poor soils and conditions and is just so hardy. This has fleshy stems and leaves and forms a thick ground-hugging mat. It can be eaten as a cooked vegetable and is great to use in salads, soups, stews or any dish you wish to sprinkle it over. Purslane can be used as a spinach substitute and many people prepare it by sautéing in butter with salt and pepper. This tasty weed has many culinary uses as described above but is also extremely medicinal. It is high in vitamins, specifically A, B and C vitamins but is also extremely high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids prevent heart attacks and strengthen your immune system. This weed is also Purslane is antibacterial, antiscorbutic, depurative, diuretic and febrifuge. Please note the weedy invasive purslane is the variety with yellow flowers. One also gets cultivated varieties in different colours which are not as invasive.
Plantago major – Broadleaf Plantain
This broadleaf perennial weed can be commonly found in grassy areas and other parts of the garden.
Leaves taste best when they’re young and offer high levels of calcium and vitamins A and C. The leaves are quite tough and should be treated like other hard leaf veg like kale and spinach. This is also why using young leaves is very important. Eat young leaves raw in salads, or boil like cooked greens. The leaves are also steamed and eaten. Leaves can also be blanched and then sautéed with some garlic and butter. Plantago is extremely medicinal and has been used for centuries as medicine by many cultures including the Persians. Plantain has been used for stomach problems, coughs and wounds. If a person chomps on some fresh leaves, these can be applied to the skin to treat minor burns, insect bites or open wounds.
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Top 3: Coastal toughies
Rhaphiolepis indica – Indian Hawthorn:
This is one of our ultimate favourite exotic shrubs or sometimes small tree’s. It is extremely tough and you have little chance of something going wrong when you plant this. It will grow between 1,5 – 2m high sometimes taller and about 1m wide or so. One can also purchase this plant in a lollipop form, and it lends itself to pruning into a hedge and shaped plants. Indian hawthorn has dark green leathery leaves and produces masses of white, light pink or dark pink flowers in profusion, creating quite a spectacular sight. The flowers are followed by black berries which are edible when cooked, and a jam can be made from them. The berries are also very popular with birds. Rhaphiolepis can be grown in sun / semi-shade, is drought hardy, can tolerate heavy winds, including those of coastal/saline gardens and grows in almost all soils. Is it any wonder that we are in love with this spectacular plant? The only negative thing that I can say about this plant is that they are slow growing, so you either have to be patient or purchase more mature plants.
Osteospermum (previously Chrysanthemoides) moniflora – Bush Tick Berry:
Tick berry is a fast growing semi-succulent indigenous shrub which is classified as a pioneer plant and is found naturally growing all over South Africa in many different biomes. It actually usually appears after fires have taken place. This shrub grows between 1,5 – 2m high and about 1 – 1,5m wide, but it can be cut to keep it controlled and is also often hedged. Tick berries produce bunches of bright yellow daisies throughout the year, but their main flowering seasons are actually autumn and winter. These flowers are visited by many insects, including being very popular with bees. The purplish, black berries which follow are loved by masses of birds as well as humans. Tick berries are extremely drought tolerant (succulent like), enjoy a well-drained sandy soil, hot sun/ half day sun and are usually pest free plants. This shrub makes an excellent hedge, wind breaker or ornamental shrub and is bound to take off like a lightning bolt in your garden. Osteospermum incanum is another variety of tick berry, with greyer leaves. This variety is a smaller more compact variety.
Pelargonium capitatum – Rose scented/ Coastal Pelargonium
Rose scented pelargoniums are shrubby, low growing plants that will usually grow to a height of between 0-3m to an absolute max 1m, but usually stay on the smaller side (More of a groundcover). The fuzzy stems and leaves are sweetly scented, with a rose scent and because of this are cultivated to make rose scented oils. It has many culinary and medicinal purposes and a calming tea is made from the leaves, which also aids stomach problems. From September to October rose scented geraniums form masses of bright pink attractive flowers. This species can be grown in most gardens but is actually more at home in coastal gardens, as it prefers full sun, sandy very well-drained soil and is drought tolerant, actually preferring not to be over watered. It can be planted among smaller herbaceous border plants, be planted in retaining block walls and be planted in herbal/medicinal gardens.
Every week we will bring you a round up of our latest Facebook posts, all in one, easy to read, location.
MONDAY’S GARDEN WOES:
How to get rid of troublesome beetles in your garden:
Here are some methods on how to control detrimental beetles in your garden:
Allow a tin of fruit cocktail to ferment in the sun before standing it inside a bucket. Pour water up to the rim of the inside of the bucket. The sweetness of the cocktail will attract beetles and they will drown in the water.
Another method is to half fill a yellow bucket with water, add two tbsp. oil, for example, sunflower and put it in the middle of the garden. The yellow of the bucket attracts the beetles and they will fall into the water. The oil will close up the breathing holes of the beetle and they will perish. Please note that the bucket can also be painted yellow.
Beetles are also attracted to plants with fragrance so lavender, thyme and garlic, for example, can be planted in between your roses etc to confuse the beetles.
When marigolds are in flower they can also be planted in between vegetables like green beans, pumpkins, and tomatoes to keep astylus beetles away from these vegetables.
Brown chafer beetles are active at night. Half fill a bucket with water, add 2tbsp of oil like sunflower oil and add some floating candles which you light as the sun goes down. The light will attract the beetles and they will drown.
Here is a weevil solution. Weevils have a habit of playing dead and are active at night. Gentle slip a sheet of newspaper underneath the affected plant, at night. Shake the plant gently and all beetles should fall off. Bundle up the newspaper or plastic and discard it.
If you have a problem with beetles on your fruit trees, create a trap. Cut small holes near the top of a coke bottle and stick a strip of duct tape or you can paint it with a little yellow paint. Pour a mixture of 200ml of water and 2 tbsp sugar. One can even add a slice of pineapple or banana to this. The beetles will again drown in this mix. Change this mix regularly.
REUSE & RECYCLE TUESDAY.
Reusing old hanging baskets: Do not throw away your old wire hanging baskets that are not attractive anymore or are little broken. Rather use them for keeping moles away from your prized bulbs in your garden beds. Make a hole large enough in the ground for the hanging basket to fit into. Place your soil mix or organics into the hanging basket and then plant your bulbs in this. This way the moles will not be able to reach your juicy bulbs.
Old socks & pantyhose: Old socks and pantyhose can be cut up or used as is, as plant and tree ties. These ties will expand and stretch as the plant grows therefore not cutting or harming the plants or trees. Pantyhose are also very popular for planting orchids onto trees and planting other epiphytic plants like Tillandia’s etc. Slip pantyhose “caps” over unpicked produce on fruit trees and plants to thwart birds, squirrels and insects. Cover a watering can spout with pantyhose when watering delicate flowers or plants (For example when you have just planted seeds). Bulbs can also be stored when they are out of season in pantyhose.
Ice cream lids and containers: Ice cream container lids can be cut up and used as plant labels. Recycle by using a permanent marker and Methylated spirits to remove the marker. The actual container can be used for planting seedlings and smaller plants, but make sure to make enough holes at the bottom of the container for drainage. Ice cream tubs can also be used for fertiliser storage.
Egg cartons: Old egg cartons can be used for starting off seedlings, as they contain the plant well but are permeable (Allow for drainage). When the seedling is ready to be planted out, just break the segment or cut it off the egg carton and plant directly into the ground, as it will biodegrade and roots will find their way out and into the surrounding soil.
Security Boundary shrubs
We are introducing a new Thursday topic. “Thursday’s top 3”. Every week we will create a post on our favourite 3 plants of a particular topic. This week we have chosen Security Boundary shrubs.
Carissa marcocarpa (Amatangulu/Natal Plum):
This large shrub or small tree grows to between 2-4m depending on its environmental conditions. It is extremely hardy, drought tolerant and prefers sun but can also grow in some shade. It is covered in forked thorns making it an excellent security plant. It produces masses of white, orange scented, star-like flowers. The flowers are followed by red edible berries which are attractive to wildlife and are eaten by humans too. The only drawback is that they can be slow growing, so you either need to be very patient or purchase more established plants. Plant about 1m apart, to create an impenetrable hedge. A dwarf version is also available, Carissa ‘Green Carpet’ as well as other varieties.
This large shrub or sometimes small tree can grow to various heights depending on variety. Bougainvillea’s are extremely fast-growing, and love growing in hot sunny areas and well-drained soils (Careful with Clay). They are considered to be water-wise, but do require some watering when young (Make sure soil is dry before re-watering). Bougainvillea’s are serious show stoppers when covered in masses of colourful bracts, which continue for quite a while through the year. After each flush of bracts and flowers, the plants should be fed with a fertiliser high in potassium like 3:1:5. Plants grow very densely and are covered in thorns, making them impenetrable. Plants can easily be pruned to shape but please make sure not to over prune regularly as this will prevent flowering and colourful bracts.
Doyvalis caffra (Kei apple):
This is a large, evergreen, fruiting shrub or small tree if you allow it to be. Your average height is between 3-5 metres. This shrub has large, yellowish apple-like fruit which is actually sold in certain parts of South Africa by the local communities. They are said to be very high in vitamin C and nutrients. Doyvalis is a moderate grower (speed) and is extremely hardy and drought resistant (Well-drained soil preferable). They prefer full sun or light shade. Very long and strong thorns cover this shrub. If planted closely enough and pruned regularly enough to maintain a good hedge, Doyvalis can become impenetrable.
USING HERBS TO CLEAN YOUR HOME:
This post is focused around using herbs to make cleaning products for your home which are environmentally friendly as well safer to humans and animals.
Here are some recipes on how to make cleaning agents and products for your home use.
Examples of good herbs for cleaning are all mints, lavender, rosemary, thyme, tea tree, lemongrass, lemon verbena, rose-scented geraniums, chamomile, oregano and even clove oil.
Herbal all-purpose surface cleaner:
1 cup dishwashing liquid, 6 cups water, ¼ cup lemon juice, ¼ cup strong infusion of herb of your own choice. Thyme, lavender, tea tree, mint/peppermint or lemon verbena will work well here. Mix the ingredients together in a cleaning bucket and use as you would like, to mop or to clean surfaces.
Herbal carpet freshener:
¾ cup baking soda, ¼ cup cornflour, ¼ cup lavender flowers or rosemary leaves (stripped of leaves) dependant on what you have available. The way to use this carpet cleaner is to mix all ingredients, apply on the carpet and leave overnight. By the next morning, all odours and dirt should be absorbed and at this time the mix can be vacuumed off.
Herbal window cleaner:
2 cups lemongrass tea, ½ cup vinegar. Combine all ingredients and add to a spray bottle. Spray onto windows and even mirrors, clean and then wipe dry.
Herbal room spray:
Make a strong infusion of your favourite herb and add to a spray bottle to use as a room spray. Some good herbs to use here are mint (peppermint or other), chamomile and lavender.
Clove mould cleaner:
Mix 1/2 teaspoon of 100 percent clove oil in a litre of water, and put it in a spray bottle. Spray the solution on tile grout and let it sit for a few hours, then wipe away, scrubbing any stubborn spots with a brush.
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You’ve been staring at it for months, your partner has asked you to get it sorted and you have been putting it off because you don’t know what the right thing is to do anymore. You are perplexed, confused and to be honest, a little annoyed. That’s right, it’s the tree branch from your neighbour’s garden that leaves a huge mess when dropping leaves every year and you’ve made up your mind to just cut it off. But before you do, let’s educate you on a few tips and the legislation you’ll need to consider first.
Sure the tree branch has been a problem and it’s caused you some laborious days cleaning up after it, but rule one of being a law abiding and courteous neighbour is:
Rule no 1 – If it’s not yours, don’t cut it.
Why not? Simply put it’s illegal to hack off a neighbours tree branch, roots, or even remove fruit from their tree! The City of Cape Town’s by law states that the tree subsides to the land, which means whoever owns the land, owns the tree and all of its byproducts. Simply put, your neighbours have ownership over said tree and therefore may be found liable for any damages caused, but damages caused do not give you legal access to cause damages to your neighbours property. If the tree is causing structural damage there are a few options available; first you can reach out to discuss the situation. They may not even be aware that the tree is causing damage to begin with. If you manage to reach an agreement stick to what was agreed upon. If all else fails, we’re sure a braai can settle the debate. As for trees on council land (public open spaces and sidewalks) including the 1.5m strip in front of your home, may not be cut by you or a tree feller you have employed. You must request the city’s parks department come and have a look at the tree and fell the problem branches for you.
Yes, but the oak next door is blocking my view and I bought this property for its view. That leads us to rule two;
Rule no2 – You don’t have the right to a view.
Sounds like that can’t be true? I mean people buy houses all over the country for the views, but alas, our constitution does not have it as a basic right when it comes to property, Provincial law has never thought about your view and municipal law is too busy cleaning the roads of tree leaves to be concerned.
We simply do not have the right to a view, and if you want one, it’ll cost you a pretty penny. So unless you buy the servitude to the property in front of or next to what is blocking that is your view, you will have to be lekker with your neighbours and ask them to consider clearing or topping the offending tree.
The servitude mentioned above refers to the limit of building height or an extension over a certain building height.
Your great uncle in one of the leafy suburbs asked you to come and help him take down an old tree that’s been there longer than him, because he wants to extend his veranda.
Rule no3 – If it’s older than your uncle, it’s probably protected.
The National Heritage Act (NHA) will block you quicker than you think. Trees older than 60 years and certain indigenous species are protected by national law, which makes it a criminal offence to damage or remove them. If you are concerned that the old tree might cause damage or fall over, have a professional tree feller investigate, then apply to the department of forestry and fisheries for a permit. After the application is processed a representative with great arboricole knowledge will investigate your problem tree and proceed with either a safe or unsafe judgment. This also applies to the transplanting or propagating of protected trees on the SANBI list.
For interest, this includes ALL yellow woods in South Africa, due to their over milling in our forests that decimated the population.
If you notice that a tree might have a shot borer beetle problem or termites have attacked it, it’s time for you to contact the council.
Last, but not least Rule 4 – Be lekker!
Yes, trees can become cumbersome and cause a lot of grief, blocked drains, fill gutters and become the occasional social spot for dogs, but they serve a greater purpose then keeping you occupied with cleaning up after them.
They are part of a larger ecology at work around you; some trees are home to entire civilizations of insects, fungi, and other critters. One of our indigenous trees the Kiggelaria africana “Wild Peach” has a specific symbiotic relationship with the indigenous caterpillar of the Acraea horta butterfly. The caterpillars strip the tree of its leaves and then the tree shoots out a new set of foliage, like nothing ever happened, a free pruning service if you will.
Trees have been around since before our legislation, they provide us with ecological and physical benefits, are essential in creating leaf litter that becomes beautiful compost and various fruits for us and other animals to feast on.
Let’s take a leaf from their book and remember the following: don’t damage what isn’t yours; look into the tree, not over it; respect the elderly and just be lekker.
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REUSE AND RECYCLE
*A few weeks ago we created a post on recycling banana peels and eggshells. Here is a method for making fertiliser from kitchen ‘throwaways’. This fertiliser has an added ingredient, namely coffee grounds. We recommend washing the coffee grounds through a sieve, with a coffee filter before using them in order to get rid of excess acidity. Remember the bananas are high in potassium, the eggshells in calcium and the coffee grounds are high in minerals.
How to make this fertiliser:
Add some banana peels, crushed eggshells, and coffee grounds and add enough water to blend until liquid enough to pour around plants and be able to sink into the soil to feed plant roots.
*Do not throw away the veggies in your garden which has finished fruiting and are bitter or old. Rather remove the plants and add them to the compost heap, to add nutrition to your compost. Bean plants are some of the best to introduce to the compost heap as they are Nitrogen fixers. Remember not to add any flowers, seeds or fruits as plants can reproduce and become problematic.
*Dig last season’s mulch that has started breaking down into the soil as organic matter and then re-apply new mulch on top of the soil if necessary.
Heavy bloomers like tomato’s benefit from Epsom salts.
REUSE & RECYCLE:
Winter growing in recycled tyres:
A great way to recycle is to use old tyres as tyre ‘hotboxes’ which can be used to start seeds and seedlings in winter and cooler months. Raised beds are much warmer than the ground soil usually, and tyres can fill the role of raised beds. Tyres are also black, which also adds to their potential for containing warmer soil as the black colour absorbs heat from the sun. Please make sure to place these tyre planters in a sunny position but not in too much sun where burning can take place. A good idea is to place the tyres near a north-facing wall, where the reflected warmth will stimulate growth.
Here is how to make these Tyre ‘Hotboxes:
Lay the tyre on its side and carefully cut off the top to create a bigger planting area. After this, you need to turn the tyre inside out, but this requires strong hands. The tyre needs to be filled with a mix of good fertile compost and soil (You could also purchase a readymade topsoil mix).
Once the tyre is prepared, you are ready for planting.
• Scatter your seeds over the surface.
• Cover them with more soil and compost mixed (Heavier on compost, so stays moist longer), to a thickness dependant on the size of seed (Check the back of your seed package for directions).
• Press or rather, lightly compact seeds into the ground and water carefully with a fine spray.
• Shade clothing with a stick in the middle can be used to create a shelter to protect plants from cold temperatures and heavy rains.
With regards to the concerns regarding planting into tyres: Tyre gardening is a gardening concept which has been practised for many many years and has been published by multiple gardening websites, magazines etc. There is no research or evidence to say that tyre growing can definitely be harmful. After researching this topic further we have identified the fact that yes, tyres do have some chemicals etc bonded into them, but what needs to be focused on here is that they are bonded. Intact tyres are distressingly inert, which basically means they do not biodegrade. This is why we see them racking up in rubbish dumps and why in recent times they are being ground up for road bases and are being burnt up as fuels etc which actually releases more hydrocarbons, causing more harm to our health and the environment. Also, the chemicals used to make the tyres are likely to have off-gassed during the tyres usable time and have been made inert during manufacturing. Basically, tyres in their whole form are not likely to cause a problem or be harmful but some suggestions I can make is that if you are worried only use them for one winter and afterwards discard. If tyres were to release harmful chemicals then it would only be after a very long time (probably many years). You could also scrub the tyres thoroughly before use, to make sure there are no harmful external oils etc. If you are still worried about using tyres to grow edible plants then practice your own discretion and don’t use them, or only use them to grow non-edible plants. Regards The Contours Team
Three useful organic garden problem solutions:
Tomato leaf insecticide: This insecticide is effective for caterpillars and soft-bodied insects like aphids and other insects.
Recipe: Bunch of tomato leaves. 2 ltrs water. Pour water onto leaves and allow boiling for 10 minutes. Cool, strain and spray.
Aphid solution: Put a bright yellow plastic pan or dish in the garden. You could even take a plastic Tupperware etc and paint it yellow. Fill your container with water. Aphids are attracted to yellow and will drown in the dish.
Compost plant booster: This tonic can be used to aid struggling or weak plants. It will also promote fungal disease resistance.
Recipe: ½ spade well-watered compost, 10L cold water. Mix two together and allow standing for 5-7 days. Strain and spray.
War on weeds Wednesday
Tropaeolum majus – Nasturtium
Even though Nasturtiums are not classified as alien invaders, they can have the tendency to be very weedy and become garden escapes, which will spread and cover big areas. This is so because of the fact that they creep and climb rapidly over and through other plants, often suffocating them. They also grow very well in poor soils where other plants will not do as well.
Considering all that it is still very worthwhile keeping some specimens in your garden for the following reasons:
*Bright, bold, colourful large flowers in shades of orange, red, yellow and other colours in between. These flowers are edible with a peppery sharp taste and can be used in salads, dips and for decorating foods etc. Nasturtiums have a similar taste to watercress. The flowers are also full of nectar which attracts pollinating bees.
*Beautiful, rounded leaves are also edible but have a very sharp taste used in moderation. Interesting variegated forms are also available at all retail nurseries.
*Nasturtium seeds can be pickled and are eaten as an alternative to capers. When pickling the seeds in cider vinegar add some thyme, bay leaf and cloves.
*Nasturtiums are extremely healthy to consume and are said to be a tonic plant and blood purifier, stimulate appetite and are also an antiseptic for the blood and digestive system. They are also extremely high in Vitamin C and therefore help fight off colds and flues.
Here is how to introduce this healthy and colourful edible plant to your garden and not cause a plant invasion.
*Plant in pots or containers of some sort to control growth. *Cut back plants occasionally to control growth.
History of Strawberries:
Strawberries throughout history have been used for many other uses, other than just a delicious fruit. They have been used as a symbol for Venus, the goddess of love, because of them having a heart-shaped fruit and a bright red colour. The ancient Romans used strawberries for their many medicinal uses. Medicinal stone masons carved strawberry designs onto altars and around tops of pillars in churches and cathedrals. This was believed to symbolise perfection and righteousness. A very strange fact is that Madame Talien who was a prominent figure at the court of Emperor Napoleon was famous for bathing in fresh strawberry juice.
Strawberries contain powerful antioxidants and work against free radicals, which cause cancers and tumours. They are also known to decrease inflammation. Due to their high potassium content, strawberries are useful in controlling high blood pressure. Strawberries can even be used to make facemasks, which help with acne, blackheads, oily skin, dry skin and general skin conditions.
Strawberries should be planted in March and April as they like to be planted into warm soil (Not in winter). This will ensure a good crop in early summer. The soil must be well-drained, slightly acidic and weed free. To prepare the planting beds to add compost and pelletized chicken manure and work it in using a garden fork. Plant them about 30cm apart, with 70cm between rows. The area should be mulched after planting to keep roots cool, keep weeds under control and keep fruits from rotting. Plants grow from runners and therefore do well elevated in strawberry pots and hanging baskets.
FOOD FRENZY FRIDAY:
Feeding your food garden:
Plants require different amounts of feeding, and under or overfeeding can be detrimental to health. Here is a general breakdown on the feeding of veggies and fruiting plants. Plants are grouped as heavy, medium (too heavy) and light feeders.
The heavy feeder food garden plants are usually slow growing veg and fruiting plants.
*Brassica family, which includes veggies like Asian greens, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflowers and kale.
These veggies should be planted with plenty of compost, bonemeal and a fertiliser high in Nitrogen and potassium like 5:1:5/6:3:4 (Talborne organics) should be used.
*Solanum family, which includes plants like tomatoes, eggfruits, potatoes, sweet peppers and chillies. Plant these veggies with compost and bonemeal as above and a fertiliser high in potassium like 3:1:5.
*Maize and berry plants need to have the same soil enrichment and fertilising as Solanums do.
MEDIUM (TO HEAVY FEEDERS)
*Squash family, which includes butternuts, pumpkins, zucchini, cucumbers, patty pans, melons and watermelons. Plant these veggies with compost and 6:3:4. For squashes that have a long growing season feed when flowering starts with a high potassium food like 3:1:5/5:1:5.
*Certain leafy greens and herbs, which include celery, swiss chard, leafy herbs like basil chives, dill mint, parsley and root vegetables like radishes and beetroot. Plant with compost, bonemeal and 6:3:4.
* Alliums, for example, onions, chives, leeks and garlic. Practice crop rotation by, rotating with legumes. Plant with a well-rotted compost and add 5:1:5 to supplement during the long growing season.
*Legume family, for example, peas, beans and broad beans. Use compost, bonemeal and 3:1:5 to enrich the soil.
*Root family veggies like carrots, parsnips, turnips and beetroot. Work compost into the ground and make sure that soil is very well drained. Also, add some 2:3:2, but do not add any other fertilisers as overfeeding, or feeding with high nitrogen can lead to plants over focusing on leafy growth and not focusing on their roots which are of most importance.
*Certain leafy greens and flowers, for example, lettuce, spinach, nasturtiums, calendula, marigolds and sweet peas. Enrich soil with compost and 6:3:4.
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There are two different ways to make a basil spray and these can be used as a general fungicide, plus basil also works as a natural insecticide.
Recipe 1: 200ml (1 cup) basil leaves and stems. 2 ltrs boiling water. Pour boiling water over basil. Cool and spray strained liquid.
Recipe 2: ¼ bucket crushed leaves and stems. Fill the bucket with cold water. Soak crushed leaves in water for 24 hours. Filter and spray.
Used to control and prevent mildew and damping off of seedlings.
Recipe: Combine 5ml of dried chamomile or ½ cup fresh chamomile (Blossoms if available, with 5ltrs boiling water. Pour boiling water over the chamomile and allow steeping for 20 minutes. Cool, strain and spray.
Onion and Garlic spray
There are two different ways to make onion and garlic sprays and these can be used as a general fungicide, but are specifically useful for mildew and black spot.
Recipe 1: Combine a mixture of 500g onion, garlic and chives with 10L water (Seal this). Allow to ferment for 7 days. Strain and dilute 1:10 with water and spray onto plants.
Recipe 2: Dice 5 large onions, Pour 5 ltrs cold water over this and steep overnight. Add 5 cloves crushed garlic. Strain and spray.
Baking soda spray
This is a general fungicide but is used as a preventative as the baking soda provides and alkaline surface on which germination and growth of fungal spores is inhibited.
Recipe: Combine 4L cold water with 3tbsps baking soda/Bicarbonate of soda and 1tbsp sunlight liquid. Mix all ingredients as use as a spray.
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Monday’s Garden woes:
How to use cinnamon in your garden:
Below is but a few ideas on how to use this powerful medicinal stem in your garden.
• The soil of seedlings can be dusted with cinnamon powder to prevent dampening off diseases of seedlings, which cause seedlings to rot and die.
• Cinnamon powder can also be used as a rooting hormone. Instead of dipping the tip of the cutting into water and then chemical rooting hormone rather dip into
• Cinnamon is a great ant deterrent. Sprinkle around area’s where you know you have problems. Ants do not like to walk where cinnamon has been spread.
• Cinnamon powder can be used on injured plants (stems) or on pruning wounds to prevent fungal infections.
REUSE & RECYCLE
• Newspaper is a great mulching material. It is biodegradable and earthworms are very fond of it. Put down a layer 10-15 sheets thick. Either cut holes for the seedlings or put down cut squares. When doing this make sure that the newspaper is not touching the stems of the plant, otherwise rotting can be caused. Mulch
seedlings once they are 10cm high. Remember mulching. helps retain moisture and suppress weeds.
• Remember when herbs need to be pruned and tidied that these clippings can be used as fantastic insect repelling mulch, by placing them back into the garden beds. This probably works better with woody herbs like rosemary, l lavender, lemon verbena, thyme and catmint.
• Wood ash, which is collected after making your fire (from wood ash and not charcoal or coal) can be very useful in your garden. It makes a great ‘fertiliser’ as it is full of potassium, which is great for flowering and fruiting crops. Sprinkle around plants, but sparingly as it can alter the PH of your soil to become alkaline. Most veggies like a neutral to acidic soil.
WEDNESDAY’S WAR ON WEEDS
Using sugar as a weed killer
Sugar can be used as a safe herbicide to control and deter unwanted weeds in your gardens and lawns!
All plants require Nitrogen in their soil and a lack of this macro-nutrient will lead to depleted growth if not fatalities. Nitrogen is the basis for green leaf growth as well as promoting uptake of nutrients. Nitrogen is provided by composting & organics matters.
Sugar is a carbon nutrient and doesn’t contain any Nitrogen. Sugar has the ability to limit plant growth, especially in those plants that are more dependent on it, weeds being a great example. This is why overfeeding weed infested lawn with high Nitrogen foods can be detrimental, as the will thrive under these conditions. This is why one should rather feed with a fertiliser designed to promote root growth, so that the grass spreads and out compete the weeds. The fact that the lawn will not have as much Nitrogen is not really a problem. Rather than focusing on green growth, the grass will focus on root development and spreading.
WEEDS IN GARDEN BEDS:
Take a cup full of sugar or handful and sprinkle it around the base of a weed. Be careful to avoid other plants and coat the soil thickly over the weeds root zone. Check the weed in two days’ time and if the plants are not looking like they are depleting, then reapply the sugar.
Use granular sugar and sprinkle over the lawn, or a molasses spray (mix 1 ¾ cups to 45 L water in sprayer backpacks). Evenly coat the lawn and make sure to water lightly afterwards to prevent attracting insects and animals.
Herbs for stings, bites and burns and other ailments:
Today’s topic is on plants which can be used for minor stings, bites, burns and other skin conditions.
Plantago major – Broadleaf plantain. This is a very common garden weed actually, which usually grows in your grass in other areas of the garden. This could be a useful remedy when on walks or hiking etc. as you may find it growing in wild areas. This medicinal plant will provide almost instant relief if applied to stings and bites. To use, roll up one big plantain leaf and rub it between your hands with a couple of drops of water until becomes slimy and resembles green gum. Apply this to the sting or bite. As this plant is a weed, it cannot be planted or propagated, but what we are encouraging is that if you already have it in your garden, use it.
Aloe Vera – Barbados Aloe. This plant is extremely rough and tough and can be used as an outdoor or even indoor plant. Remember to plant it in a very well-drained soil and do not over water. When Aloe Vera leaves are broken open and gel is used directly on burns you will experience instant relief from the pain. Aloe Vera also contains anti-inflammatory compounds to help relieve irritated skin, as well as containing antibacterial substance which helps prevent infections as well as help speed up the healing process. Burns treated with Aloe Vera are said to heal wounds nine days faster them conventional medicines. Aloe Vera can also be used on minor cuts and eczema, psoriasis etc. Some people have sensitivity to Aloe Vera so do a test patch first on skin to check.
Bulbine frutescens – Bulbinella. This plant is very succulent like and requires the same growing conditions as the Aloe Vera. It is used in the same way as Aloe Vera (Break leaf and apply gel to affected area). It is used to treat burns, scalds, minor stings and bites. It is used to supply relief to the symptoms of these ailments. This plant is also a very attractive bloomer, so it is a great addition to the garden.
Melissa officinalis – Lemon balm. This herb can be used for relief of stings and bites. To do this one must make a simple poultice. This means collecting some leaves and either bruising them and applying onto affected area and placing a hot water bottle on top, or blanching the leaves and applying when warm with a bandage rapped around area (Use as hot as possible without burning yourself). You can also make a tea for the affected person to consume at the same time with Lemon balm. This will have a calming effect, and also tastes amazing. This herb likes a rich soil, sun or semi shade and regular feeding. Keep watered, but let it dry out in between watering. Lemon balm should be cut back after winter, to get new healthy growth and must be divided every 2-3 years.
Remember that all the plants mentioned above are only designed for minor burns (seek help for all first to third degree burns), cuts, stings and bites. If you are stung by anything venomous, please seek professional help. Animal bites (dogs etc.), we would always recommend seeking professional help.
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March is a time of the year in the garden where you still have some hot days, but in general climate starts cooling down and in particular night temperatures go down. So this is the time of the year where you still practice summer maintenance but at the same time start planting and preparing for cooler climate gardening.
This is a great time of the year to divide rhizomatic and other perennial plants. This can be done because plants are mature and losing vigour or you simply just want to create more plants for your garden. It is only advisable to divide plants when they are more mature, for example, evergreen agapanthus is only divided once every four years. This is done by digging the plant out of the ground by making a large hole and removing plant and root ball. Try and do this in a manner where roots are not too disturbed and therefore damaged. Divide the roots with either a small or large garden fork or spade depending on the size of the plant. Garden secateurs can be used to assist you with this if roots are stubborn. Divide plants into clumps, being mindful of the fact that the larger the clump the quicker it will recuperate and also the quicker it will bloom again. It is wise to cut back 2/3 of leaves of certain plants, for example Dietes. Remember plants can sometimes skip a flowering season after being divided. Some examples of plants which can be divided are Agapanthus, Dietes, Summer flowering red hot pokers (Kniphofia), daylilies (Hemerocallis), hen and chickens (Chlorophytum commosum), Inca lilies (Alstroemaria’s), Arums (Zantedeschia’s) and evergreen Watsonias.
Example of dividing Agapanthus
Fertilizing your garden
Roses should be given good feeding to strengthen the stems and prepare them for winter. If you are in cold frost prone areas this will be the last feeding before winter. In general feed all your plants to give them that boost that they need to survive winter and do well. A fertiliser like 3:1:5 will work well here as it has low nitrogen but high potash or potassium, or a general fertiliser like 2:3:2 can also be used.
Trim hedges, shape and trim summer flowering shrubs which have finished flowering, and remove dead branches from trees and shrubs. Extend the lives of annuals and perennials by removing dead flowers so that they do not go to seed. Spread acid mulches like pine bark and needles, oak leaves, used tea bags, or a retail store bought mix around acid-loving plants like your Azaleas and Camelia’s, and make sure to keep them well watered unless good rains are experienced or expected.
If a thick thatch has formed in your lawn, gently rake to remove and lighten it. Gently spike your lawn with a garden fork and fertilise with a food high in potassium like 3:1:5 to strengthen going into winter. A general fertiliser like 2:3:2 can also be used. In winter rainfall when the rains start, lower the blades on your lawn mower. Poa annua (Winter grass) is particularly troublesome in damp areas in winter (N.B Western Cape). If you know you struggle with this problem then visit your local retail nursery and ask them for a seed inhibiting herbicide which is appropriate for controlling this problematic grass.
Raking lawn to remove thatch.
March garden woes
An Italian cypress aphid problem can rear its ugly head at this time of the year and must be dealt with adequately to prevent general browning and eventual fatality of conifers. If you notice dead looking foliage on your conifers, investigate by pulling back this foliage and checking the main stem and the branches. If you find an aphid problem make sure to treat with an adequate contact insecticide registered for aphid control. You may need to spray for the next three to four months to treat the problem, once monthly depending on product. Insecticide granules which are sprinkled around the base of the plants is a systemic poison which only needs to be applied every couple of months (3-4 months). A systemic liquid insecticide can also be used and will also only be watered in every three months. Some conifers are more susceptible to Italian cypress aphids than others, for example, the ‘Gold Crest’ conifer.
Other problems which you may experience in March in your garden are whitefly and rust. Whitefly is a small white flying insect which can be quite difficult to deal with, as they fly away when disturbed and may return to the plant. Use an insecticide listed for this pest but remember that these bugs become resistant to certain insecticides, so the product may need to be changed up once in a while. Rust is a fungus which forms on many plants, but in particular, is a bad rose problem. Rust looks like the name and is treated with a fungicide listed for this fungus. Also, spray plants with a milk solution to strengthen the immune system as well as treat plant.
Get a good start on your bulb planting
Start preparing your garden beds with compost and bonemeal, or other fertilisers in anticipation of planting your winter and spring bulbs.
Start also buying your winter and spring bulbs which you are planning on adding to your garden this year. The early bird catches the worm is the situation here, as bulbs sell out quickly and the variety is more diverse at the beginning of the selling season. Do not plant these bulbs though until the temperatures have dropped substantially. Some great indigenous examples are Ixia’s, Freesias. Watsonia’s, Chasmanthe, Dierema, Ornithogalum (Chincherinchee), Sparaxis and Lachenalia’s (Best grown in pots as they need good drainage). Daylilies and Leucojum’s (Snowdrops) are good examples of hardy exotic bulbs.
Hemerocallis – Day lilies.
What to do and plant in your veggie & Food garden in March
Sow and plant green manures like mustard, buckwheat, comfrey, borage, Lucerne etc in beds that you are not planting in during winter. When flowering they can then be dug into the soil. This green manure helps improve soil structure and prepare the soil for next season’s summer crops by adding fertility. These crops must be dug into the ground after winter. Bean plants must not be removed when they are finished fruiting, but rather be dug in the garden as they are natural nitrogen suppliers.
Prepare your strawberry planting area with compost and manure (Chicken etc) by preparing the top 30cm of the soil, adding some bonemeal into the ground as well.
Make sure to collect the seeds of your herbs which have completed flowering and are seeding, in order to have a good supply for the next season. Remember to always collect seeds when they are dry, so not just after a rain or being irrigated.
Examples of vegetables that can be planted at this time of the year by seed are Broad beans, beetroot (cooler), celery, leeks, lettuce, onions, spring onions, chives & garlic chives, peas, radishes (cooler), spinach, turnips and Asian greens (Mustard lettuce, mizuna, pak choi). March is usually the last month to sow seeds of broccoli and Brussel sprouts, but plantlets will still be available at retailers. Continue planting cabbages and cauliflower in your garden.
Plant herbs which flourish in cooler weather like coriander, rocket, chervil and winter savoury.
Radishes and other winter veg
What to plant in your garden now
Examples of plants which can be added to your garden now to add perennial colour in shady areas are Plectranthus for example ‘Mona Lavender’ and Hypoestes aristata – Ribbon bush which will also attract butterflies and butterfly larvae.
Examples of plants which can be added to your garden now for perennial colour in the sun are Selago ‘Purple Turtle’, Phygelius ‘Candy drops cream and cerise pink’ and Salvia Black and bloom.
Selago ‘Purple turtle’
Hypoestes aristata – Ribbon bush
Fynbos and Resto’s are best planted now (March and April) as the weather starts cooling down, and when winter rainfall starts. Examples of some of the fynbos are Erica’s, Protea’s, pincushions, conebushes and buchus.
Leucospermum ‘Tango’ – Pincushions
Annuals which can be planted now are sweet peas (best planted in March and April), Bellis perennis (Good addition for edible flowers), Dianthus, Lobelia, Lobularia (great for attracting beneficial predatory insects), Calendulas, bokbaaivygies, Namaqualand daisies, nemesia’ and snapdragons. Also, visit your local retailer to see what is available. Seedlings on the shelves will be appropriate for this time of the year. A great biannual and sometimes perennial groundcover is Cineraria saxifrage, displaying masses of small sunshine yellow flowers. Indigenous, hardy and water-wise, this is a great addition to the garden.
Calendula officinalis – Pot Marigold
Lathyrus odoratus – Sweet peas
Tips for planting your sweet peas
Prepare deep trenches for them by digging in well-rotted kraal manure or pelletized chicken manure, compost and a good quantity of bonemeal.
Soak the seeds overnight in tepid water before sowing directly into the ground.
In conclusion we hope all these hints, tip and suggestions will inspire you to experience a magical March in your garden.