Spring has officially sprung, and now is the time of the year to get stuck into your garden, particularly in adding new flora to your garden. This article will cover what you should be doing in your garden over the next two months as well as some suggestions of what to add to our garden. It’s starting to get warmer, yet it’s not hot yet. This means soil temperature is on the increase, which is great for new planting. There is still adequate rain to get plants settled in, yet we are almost over our heavy rainy season that can damage newly planted areas (This is obviously in regards to the Western Cape rainfall). So without further ado, let’s get cracking or rather gardening.
General maintenance & What to do in the garden
There are a lot of plants which benefit from being divided, especially if you have large, old overgrown clumps. This is the perfect time of the year to do this. Your plants will benefit from this and have a new lease on life. You will also save some money and be able to fill parts of your garden by only spending money on compost and fertiliser and not having plant costs for new plants. Plants which can be divided are ornamental grasses like Carex, Festuca, Miscanthus and other perennial plants like Dietes, daylilies, wild garlic, red hot pockers and agapanthus. This is a great time of the year to prune woody shrubs which are leggy and have lost their shape. Some examples of plants which require this are Plumbago, Cape Honeysuckles, Solanums and Heliotrope. Also, look for winter-damaged plants and prune these, and if your roses are not already pruned, do so.
Not many people know that whatever bulbs you planted in early winter are starting to fade now need good feeding to accumulate enough nutrition for next season’s growth. Allow leaves to die off naturally, as when they are completely withered; it indicates that the bulbs are ready to be lifted if you would like to or if necessary.
Winter-blooming plants should be fertilised with high Nitrogen food to strengthen them after flowering in winter. If you have roses and are pruning them remember to feed them after pruning with a high nitrogen and potassium fertiliser. If you have a pond with plants, now would be the best time to re-pot plants if required. Your spring plants will start blooming now, so take this opportunity to feed them with a high-potassium fertiliser to create a better blooming season. Spring and early summer are also great times to take cuttings of semi-hardwood and soft tip cuttings to create your own plants for your garden. Remember to use rooting hormone, which can either be store-bought, or you can use a natural option of cinnamon or honey. I know, amazing, right?
Garden woes: Pests & Diseases
At this time of the year, pests and diseases are prevalent. When about 80% of blossoms on fruit trees have dropped, you can start spraying for fruit flies if you have experienced this before. Also, thin out fruits a bit to prevent fruit flies. Here you must use a treatment specifically listed for fruit flies, or there are a lot of environmentally friendly methods of controlling them, which, if you research, you will find on the internet.
Because of the rain, snails will have a ball in your garden right now. Check out this blog to figure out environmentally friendly ways to control pesky snails. Remember, snails also make great bird food. I know this might seem a bit cruel, but it is part of the natural food cycle.
Citrus psylla can also be an issue now and what you need to remember here is that the damage caused is mainly aesthetical, so if you don’t mind that your tree or fruit doesn’t look perfect, then don’t worry. This problem is very difficult to treat and usually something that is just best accepted. If you want perfect rose blooms, then watch out for bollworm and thrips, which can seriously damage your blooms.
Lawn caterpillars because of rain can also be an issue, and these can seriously do some harm to your beautiful lawn. If you think you may have this issue, place a wet towel or black plastic bag on a patch of affected lawn overnight and check in the morning if any lawn caterpillar is found on it. Nowadays, one gets a natural insecticide made with bacteria, which effectively treats this problem.
Black Spots & Mildew
If you have had issues in the past with black spots and mildew on your roses, start spraying them now. They also say spraying plants with a milk and water solution strengthens their immune system, which helps boost their immune system.
September is the right time of the year to practice what we call ‘spring treatment’, which maintains the health of the lawn. This is done by cutting the lawn quite low and scarifying it with a firm garden rake. This is followed by levelling out your lawn by adding a thin layer of lawn dressing. Then one needs to fertilise the grass with food like 2:3:2.
Before feeding, make sure to tine the lawn by creating holes with a garden fork. Working our way up to summer, a great idea is to train your lawn to be more water-wise. Do this by only watering once a week if necessary, but well. Lawns must also never be cut too low as this keeps the roots near the surface, and then they are more likely to dry out. Remember that grass should not be mowed when it is wet. Not only does mowing wet lawn damage your lawnmower, but it also makes your lawn more prone to diseases.
Now if your lawn has just seen its days and needs replacing, then wait until the end of September to early October to lay instant lawn (due to availability) or plant plugs. I don’t really recommend planting lawn via seeds for many reasons. When selecting a lawn for your garden, take these facts into consideration:
- Remember that Kikuyu is the fastest growing and cheapest but can also be invasive.
- Buffalo looks good and is low maintenance but also does not appreciate much traffic like walking or playing, and these activities can cause a lot of damage. It is a slow-growing grass. Remember, it is also very pricey.
- Berea gives you a nice bright green lush look, but remember that it is thirsty grass. This grass is just as expensive as buffalo.
- Cynodon is a neat grass that requires regular mowing but should not be mown too low as this can cause damage. It is a moderately priced grass.
What to do and plant in your food garden
Here is our recommendation as to when to successfully plant veggies in September according to temperatures slowly warming up.
In early September, sow beetroot, carrots, cabbage, lettuce, peas, spinach and swiss chard. Mid-September is a good time to sow bush and runner beans as bush squashes.
Late September is a good time to sow tomatoes, brinjals, chillies, sweet peppers, mealies, pumpkins, melons and other trailing squash. An example of some herbs which can be sown and planted at this time of the year are rocket, chervil, coriander, dill, basil and borage. Many herbs can also be divided at this time of the year. Herbs which can be divided are chives, sorrel, tarragon, marjoram, oregano and mint. Just remember when planting your mint divisions that mint is extremely invasive, and plants should be contained. The newest trend is to plant and use unusual fruiting plants, so consider plants like pomegranates (rough and tough and extremely attractive with luminous orange flowers), Kei apples (also used as security plant due to massive thorns), custard apples and melon pears (I adore these). Feed fruit trees to ensure optimum spring growth.
Ornamental garden planting
Fynbos is best planted during the rainy season, so I suggest doing your last planting of flora like Pincushions, protease and cone bushes. If you don’t already have rock roses (Cistus) in your garden, then plant them as they are show stoppers and extremely water-wise. They are old-fashioned and may not always be readily available but are well worth the search.
Another plant named rock rose which is stunning, adds colour and is extremely water-wise, is Echevaria. So many different varieties exist now. Annuals to plant now are bedding dahlias, gazania, salvia and sunflowers (try planting these to hide ugly walls).
For some perennial colour plants, marguerite daisies, Ostespermums, daylilies, Arctotis, verbena, Diascia, Bacopa, Callibrachoe, Nemesia, Felecia, Gaura lindheimerii, Selago (love these and not enough people have them), pelargoniums and geraniums and the list goes on and on. Plant the Plectranthus family if you need some hardy colour for the shade. These plants can be deadheaded and create another flush of flowers. Some summer flowering bulbs are Gladiolus, Cannas, Watsonias, Crocosmia, Eucomis, and Dahlia.
For a more indoor plant that will create colour, plant Amaryllis bulbs. Plant some edible flower plants in preparation for adding to your spring and summer salad and food. Take a look at our blog on combining edibles with ornamentals.
Let’s get gardening this spring
I think I have now provided you with more than enough info and ideas to get gardening. Have fun and enjoy the weather that is starting to warm up. Spring has sprung, and it’s time for you to get stuck back into the garden.
Article was written by Jessica Ruger (Contours Landscapes & Contours Design Studio: Horticulturist and Procurement).