It’s time for some last-minute tweaking to get your garden ready for festivities. Gardeners all over are in a romantic mood, planting up ‘moonlight gardens’ with white flowers. Others are leaving their beloved paradises behind, but thinking of ways to protect them while they’re loafing on a sunny beach.
- No summer garden is complete without scented plants, so add more roses, gardenias, heliotropes and lavenders.
- Clean out your garden pond and plant new water lilies while they are in flower.
- Stake tall perennials, like gladiolus, alstroemerias and dahlias. Lanky plants fall over and expose roots, which is fatal!
- Prune back spring-flowering shrubs such as azaleas, Cape mayflowers and deutzias. Pruning them later will affect next season’s flowering.
Veggie garden: Control caterpillars with biological caterpillar insecticide. Control fruit fly with the new organic fruit fly baits available in nurseries across the country.
- As summer takes hold plant favourites like celosias, cleomes, bedding dahlias, impatiens, lobelias, marigolds and vincas. Also fill dull corners with long-lasting summer colour — use gauras, day lilies, shasta daisies, salvias, cannas and alstroemerias.
- Border your flowers beds with Stachys byzantina (lamb’s ears) — its velvety, silver-grey leaves are so cooling in a summer garden and so soft to the touch.
- Hydrangeas will be at their best now. Pick the mature flowers (all the small blooms in the centre of the flower head must be open) for the vase. Remove the bark from the bottom of the stems and immerse overnight in a bucket of cold water to their necks before arranging them.
Going on holiday?
- Get a friend or neighbour to mow the pavement. An unkempt lawn is a sign of an empty house!
- Add water-retention granules to the soil of container plants. This will increase the water-holding capacity of the soil, so a good solid watering will last a long time.
The lawn is the first thing that guests will notice when visiting you. The Free State was blessed with ample rains in November, which is the perfect start for a lush green lawn, so fertilise in earnest.
- Never top dress with red soil, as it tends to harden and your lawn will struggle to spring to life next year.
- Add plenty of organic fertiliser, such as Accelerator, to get the root system going and to green your kikuyu.
- If you’re struggling with patchy lawn in shady areas, decide if you really want lawn there. Maybe a patio with built-in seating and a fire pit would be a better option, or perhaps a garden bed filled with shade-loving plants like aspidistras and plectranthus. If you want the area to remain lawn, quickly overseed the bare spots with wonder lawn, Evergreen or Shade Master.
- There might be a colour difference between your shade lawn and kikuyu, so sow a bit of the seed into the surrounding lawn as well — this will prevent harsh lines on your lawn.
Enchanted evenings: Invest in solar garden lights and plant white flowers close to the entertainment area. Also add fragrant plants like white roses, star jasmine and orange jasmine.
- To add vertical dimension to garden beds, add large containers filled with red and white impatiens, they will stand out between the surrounding plants.
- Put up trellises on bare walls and place containers planted with flowery creepers like star jasmine at their bases.
- Plant up shady spots with Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’, fuchsias, acoruses and violets. For sunny spots that need colour, try Salvia ‘Heatwave’ and colourful dwarf Inca lilies.
- Plant white flowers to cool the garden down and to enjoy at night, like white-flowering agapanthus, Erigeron karvinskianus (fleabane), white chrysanthemums, white begonias and the divine white New Guinea impatiens.
- Stick to a regular program for healthy roses by feeding with 8:1:5, spraying with Rose Care or Complete, and watering regularly.
In the veggie garden: Protect vegetables like cucumbers, marrows, pumpkins and fruit like melons and mangoes from fruit fly. Sow sweetcorn and Swiss chard and plant small batches of dwarf beans once a month.