Spring into action
Although spring only officially starts on the 1st of September, we don’t need a calendar to see that spring has sprung! For most of the country there is a delightful springiness in the air., For the Free State and Western Cape, your time is soon to come. Although August is warm to even hot in various parts of the country, always apply the following rules when planting or sowing plants that are sensitive to frost damage:
- In frost-free areas, start planting at the beginning of August.
- In areas of light to moderate frost that lasts until about the end of August, plant in early September.
- In areas with late frosts or winter rainfall, wait until late September.
With pruning behind us, there is so much to do in the garden, so push aside the winter chills and spring into action. Your spring bulbs and annuals should be a riot of colour by now, inviting you out onto the patio with family and friends during our balmy, warm August days. The beauty of spring may only be rivalled by the stunning women that surround us. The 9th of August is National Women’s Day and the perfect opportunity to celebrate both Mother Nature and all of womankind!
An African appetite
Have you considered growing an edible local fruit? The following shrubs, trees and ground covers can form an aesthetic part of your garden and become a valuable, unusual food source:
- The kei-apple (Dovyalis caffra) is an evergreen large shrub, or small tree, that creates an impenetrable hedge with its spiny thorns. The yellowish-orange fruits are delicious and mostly used for jam, jelly, and syrup-making. The flowers feed honey-bees and attract butterflies whilst the fruit is a delicacy for several birds.
- The shrub num-num (Carissa macrocarpa) and the ground cover num-num (Carissa macrocarpa ‘Green Carpet’) both have beautiful glossy leaves with compact, thorny growth. They have star-like white flowers which have an orange-blossom fragrance with elongated mini plum-like num-num fruit, which is red when ripe. They can be eaten raw or made into jams or jellies. The num-num shrub is also rather impenetrable as a hedge. Carissa’s love the coastal weather but grow in most areas with light to mild frost e.g. they grow in most Johannesburg gardens but are harmed by the heavier frost in the Vaal and Free State regions.
Tip: They attract birds and butterflies and their flowers feed honey bees.
- Have you ever had a bush milkshake? Well, now you can in the comfort of your own home. The cross-berry (Grewia occidentalis) is a fine, hardy landscaping shrub that produces little purple berries, which are relished by birds and man alike. The dried fruits can be boiled in milk to make your bushveld milkshake. If you’re feeling adventurous, they also make great tasting African beer.
- Arguably the best liqueur is made from the fruit of our own marula tree (Sclerocarya birrea). The sweet/sour fruit can be eaten fresh or made into jellies, beer and commercial liqueur. If your area is not prone to heavy frost in winter and has space for a fruit tree, dare to be different and plant a few marula beauties. You may need to plant more than one since trees are either male or female and only the female tree bears fruit.
- Need to know: The nut inside the marula fruit can also be eaten as is or added to vegetable dishes.
Play & plan with the COLOUR palette
Your spring and summer palette of plants can be a crazy cacophony of colours with a wonderful variety of colour combinations for your consideration. Have fun playing with these flowering plant colours now available in pots:
- Reds: Pelargonium or geraniums, Verbena, Petunia, Argyranthemum and Dianthus. Impatiens or Sunpatiens in frost-free areas.
- Pinks: Calibrachoa (or million bells), Verbena, Petunia, Dianthus, and Argyranthemum. Impatiens in frost-free areas.
- Yellow: Argyranthemum and Gazania.
- Purple: Lavender, Verbena, and Petunia.
- Blue: Salvia farinacea, Petunia and Lobelia.
- Orange: Gazania. Impatiens in frost-free areas.
No wonder, they say Life is a Garden – let’s enjoy it!
Top tip: Improving your SOIL is the priority at this time of year. Before or at the time of planting, add and mix into it plenty of organic matter to the soil such as compost, manure, autumn leaves or other suitable products offered by your local GCA Garden Centre. This will boost soil fertility and ensure healthy plant growth.
It’s a pet’s life
Dogs will often eat grass blades when they have a stomach ailment. Did you know that there is a plant aptly named dog grass (Elymus caninus) that your dog will simply love to chew on rather than your lawn? You have the ideal excuse to indulge your dog this month since 10 August is Spoil your Dog Day! Why stop there, cats are smitten over catnip (Nepeta cataria) and love to chew and roll all over the plant.
Got that green finger tingle? Let’s sow some seeds! Marigolds germinate within a week and will be frosted by 0C.
Even the lightest and laziest green finger will have success sowing the following seeds:
- Marigolds: A no-fuss annual that germinates quickly and blooms in no time. Sow marigolds after the threat of frost has passed. Marigolds are your first choice for an easy-go-lucky beauty in a sunny spot. There are many varieties to choose from, dwarf to tall and single to double flowers. Their colours range from sunshine yellow to cream, orange, gold, copper, brass and some with red highlights.
Claim to fame: Planted among veggies, marigolds are great companion plants since their scent repels many different pests including Nematodes.
- Cosmos: Like marigolds wait for frosts to pass before sowing. Cosmos is easy to grow and attracts birds, bees and butterflies. These pretty daisy flowers held up on delicate stems are mostly sold as a cheerful mix of colours and are fabulous to pick for the vase.
- Cornflower: It is always so beautiful to find true blue flowers in the garden. Cornflower is a great cut-flower and attracts birds to the garden. Enjoy their edible paintbrush looking flowers in your salads.
Tip: The cornflower has nectar-rich flowers, which attract many beneficial insects to the garden. These are nature’s helpers and keep unwanted insects away.
- Beans: Beans such as string beans are exceptionally easy to grow. They take up little space and are very productive. You can choose between growing bush beans or climbing beans. Bush beans grow to knee height and will benefit from something to hold on to or lean against, whereas a trellis or tall stake framework will be required for the climbing beans. Tip: beans can be blanched and frozen for later use, used in fresh salads, hearty stews and soups, or pickled as a tasty treat
Need to know: Bean flowers and leaves are also edible.
Tip: In areas that experience late frosts, hold off sowing beans for a few weeks until frosts are past.
Visit your local GCA Garden Centre to see what else you can sow now!
Plant: Love these locals
Many of the most popular plants in the world are our very own. Here are two local lovelies which you can buy as flowering plants in pots, ready to add colour to the patio or the garden:
Pelargoniums: Bush geraniums (Pelargonium x hortorum) and ivy, or cascading geraniums (Pelargonium peltatum), are some of the most sought after of our indigenous plants. Geraniums are incredibly rewarding as garden plants and do exceptionally well in containers too. They love a sunny to semi-shade position and well-drained soil that should be moist but not wet. Give them a weekly mild liquid feeding for excellent results.
Osteospermums: These are also known as the African daisy. Their masses of gorgeous daisy-like flowers with dark centres come in shades of white, yellow, pink, purple and blue. Their eye-catching, bold coloured flowers make them a fabulous choice for a sunny spot in the garden, tumbling over rocks or spilling down the sides of containers. Osteo’s are water-wise, flower for long periods, and are perennial in areas where frost is not heavy.
Coloured arum lilies: Although hybridised, they stem from our indigenous arums or Zantedeschia’s. Often referred to as Zant’s, they have the most beautiful, elegant vase-like flowers in gorgeous colours. You can buy them already in flower, in a pot, or as bulbs.
Tip: Zant’s are best planted in the sun.
Need to know: There is a whole range of summer bulbs at your local GCA Garden Centre. These include Amaryllis, Eucomis or pineapple lily, flame lilies and more. The flame lily is the most delicate, precious climbing plant with exquisite flowers that is best planted where it can easily be seen and shown off, whether on an arch or frame in a pot. Tip: Wait until next month to plant in very cold areas where late frosts are still expected and areas with winter rainfall.
WOW and water-wise! There are a few different perennial vygies and each is as stunning as the next, especially when in full spring bloom. Their rich, luminous jewel-like colours cover the plant and stand out as a jaw-dropping colour bomb. These sun-worshippers make stunning border plants, are great for rock and succulent gardens, spilling over low walls and pots or hanging baskets too. Your local GCA Garden Centre will be proud to show you their vygies. If you prefer to use vygies as seasonal colour then ask for the annual vygie or Livingstone daisies that are available in seedling trays.
Plant: Fruity fragrance
Lemon-scented verbena: Also known as Aloysia, this is a must-have if you enjoy drinking deliciously refreshing lemony tea. A delightful drink is easily made from the scented leaves or you could use them to add fragrance to the garden. If you locate the plant close to a path, the lemony scent will be released whenever a person brushes past the leaves. This rather wispy looking shrub can reach up to 2m in ideal conditions, but normally about 1m tall in areas of light to moderate frost as it can survive a little icy chill. Prune back every spring if you prefer a dense, bushy plant. It is easy to grow and the sprays of white flowers it bears are a bonus.
Claim to fame: The lemon-scented verbena leaves contain essential oils, which have many culinary and aromatherapy uses.
Choosing Verbena for your warm-season colour would be a wise choice. Their dazzling range of colours will add va-va-voom to the garden. They will cascade over hanging baskets, window boxes or containers. Treat yourself – go and have a look at the Verbenas on offer at your local GCA Garden Centre.
Tip: Verbenas like well-drained soil and prefer not to be watered in the evenings.
Feed and pick
Feed fruit trees and vegetables and reap the rewards of the last of the winter veggie harvest.
Did you know that blueberries should be pruned about every four years? When pruning them, try to prune them into a wine glass shape to encourage good air movement and light penetration.
If you want good quality fruit from your peach, nectarine, apricot and plum tree, it is best to prune them every year (this is also true for most berries). However, if you want your fruit trees to grow tall and provide shade, then only prune to shape it when necessary.
Tip: Pruning is easy if you know how. Call your local GCA Garden Centre or visit them for pruning advice.
If you forgot to prune your roses in July, August is a better time than never! Especially tend to the espaliering of climbing roses. With the rapid increase of new shoots, water at least once a week with a deep drenching.
Repot water lilies and add bone-meal into the soil – it is organic and safe for fish. Make holes in the soil, insert the bone-meal, and then cover it with soil on top so that the fish do not eat it. While you are busy with the pond, maintain and clean the pond and service the UV light if you have one. Clean out the algae and start with algal control.
Lawn: proud or pitiful – what makes the difference?
It’s time to give your Kikuyu lawn a boost with some spring treatment:
- Scarify: Use a steel rake to remove thatch- the dry matted grass at the base of the leaves. The vigorous use of a plastic rake or hard-bristled yard broom can also work.
- No 1 haircut: Mow the lawn with the mower blade set low.
- Spike: Use a garden fork or aerator to punch holes all over the lawn.
- Fertilise: Chose a fertiliser recommended by your local GCA Garden Centre.
- Water: The lawn gets thirsty too!
- Dress: Spread lawn dressing over the lawn and rake it evenly over the surface. A 30dm3 bag of lawn dressing covers 4 to 5 square metres.
Now just watch and wait for your stunning new grass to appear though the lawn dressing. Fertilise monthly for best results and water at least once a week until the rains start.
- A good, strong rake
- Sharp new lawnmower blades
- Garden fork or hollow tine aerator
- Lawn fertiliser
- Hosepipe and sprinkler
- Lawn dressing
Lowveld and in warm frost-free coastal regions:
Sow the following vegetables now: asparagus, Capsicum (peppers), carrots, cucumber, bush beans, aubergines (brinjals), all melons, all marrows, parsley, pumpkin, radish, runner beans, Swiss chard.
Western Cape – winter rainfall areas:
Sow the following vegetables now: asparagus, beetroot, broad beans, Capsicum (peppers), carrots, cucumber (under protection), aubergines (brinjals), leeks, lettuce (Cos), all melons, all marrows, onions, parsnip peas, radish, spinach, squash, Swiss chard, tomato, turnip.