Gardens are a never-ending source of delight, and it’s one of life’s genuine pleasures to watch a garden grow and respond to the changing seasons, from buds to leaves to fruit to fall, and then the whole cycle beginning again. Not to mention the birds and butterflies that a well-tended garden attracts.
Summer time, and the gardening is easy! Well, it can be if you follow the tips in our latest blog. You’ll find loads of information on preparing for a spectacular display of blooms, controlling insects without harming the environment, and most importantly, how to be a waterwise gardener.
Be water-wise to save supplies
Regular readers of our gardening blogs will know that we are big on water-wise gardening. Late summer rains may have helped save Gauteng’s bacon, but the Western Cape is now experiencing its worst drought in living memory. Our gardens are one area where we can all potentially cut back on the amount of water we use, and it’s still true that every drop counts.
Exotic plants (and trees like the pretty but notoriously thirsty blue gum) are becoming less of an option, but with so many pretty and fascinating indigenous alternatives, there’s no reason why every South African garden can’t be Proudly South African (just like we all are!).
In Gauteng, we’ve now probably had all the rainfall we can expect until summer, and although our winter garden plants are slowing down, they still need watering. As July is a great month for transplanting, you might want to consider replacing any exotics in your garden with indigenous plants and shrubs.
More drastic measures could include reducing the area of your lawn – lush, green lawns watered by sprinklers glug lots of precious water. Day-to-day waterwise tips include using greywater for garden tasks – for example, moistening your compost heap (more on that later) to ensure that it remains hospitable to beneficial bacteria and bugs.
We haven’t had a really cold snap yet, but when we do, you can be sure that your plants will feel it even before you do, so it’s important to take steps to safeguard your treasured plants from the icy cold fingers of winter.
If it’s necessary to water your garden, aim to do this in the morning so that by the time temperatures start dropping overnight, the water will have been absorbed by the soil and roots and won’t be left on the surface to potentially freeze.
Plants in containers can be brought inside when a bright, clear night has been forecast. More delicate bulbs can be dug up and stored in a dark, dry place to be replanted once temperatures start to climb again.
For shrubs and other plants that will be spending the night outside, covering them with a blanket can help protect them from losing shoots or foliage when the mercury falls. If you can, use a frame to keep the material away from the leaves to avoid physical damage. We’d also recommend that you steer clear of plastic sheeting as this can be ‘suffocating’ for plants.
For smaller plants, you could even use an inverted bucket or plant pot, and then there’s our favourite solution of all – and one that’s close to our water-wise hearts – a layer of mulch!
We talked about pruning last month, and July is perhaps an even better time to get snipping than June. This month is also ideal for transplanting, especially when it comes to fruit trees and roses. Due to being in a dormant state, plants are generally more tolerant of being uprooted and moved during winter than at other times of the year.
Cycads can also be moved if required – just remember to wear gloves, and remove any cones before you dig them up. Any plant that you move will need lots of TLC before you relocate it, and be sure to read up on its requirements in terms of soil type, drainage, light and support.
You can get all the info you need for a smooth move by looking up the plant you’re transplanting by visiting our Plant Info website.
For plants that are staying in place, a trim might be in order. Sharpen your secateurs and loppers, and apply tree seal to any larger branches that you cut. If you haven’t already, you might want to invest in a shredder to turn all your trimmings into ideal composting material – it’s the perfect way to reduce, reuse and recycle your garden ‘waste’
South Africans are famous for finding solutions to problems, even if they have limited resources. As the saying goes, 'n Boer maak 'n plan and in today’s world, gardeners are the urban equivalent of farmers. Hopefully then we’ve inherited that ability to improvise!
But making a plan isn’t just about solving a crisis today – it can also involve the much more enjoyable process of taking the time to think and dream and sketch and save for our ideal garden. There are some wonderful garden design books on the market – and we have quite a selection at the Keith Kirsten Garden Centre at Waterfall Wilds for you to choose from.
If you’re wanting to make significant changes to your garden, why not spend a winter evening or two drawing up your plans (and budgets). Start with the ‘bones’ of your garden – boundaries, paths, and furniture such as benches, sheds or lapas.