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Hints of autumn in the garden

Around the country the cooler mornings and evenings herald the beginning of Autumn and an indication that it's time for some maintenance in the garden to prepare for winter.

 

The sun is still hot and sitting high in the sky with no great hurry to set at the end of the day and we should make the most of this beautiful weather by nurturing the garden. This is the time of year when we prepare the garden for winter- and spring-flowering bulbs.

Gardening in March

The weather is still be relatively warm in March, but as growth starts to slow down and temperatures start to drop it’s time to consider planting the first cooler weather plants and flowers. Now is the beginning of the all-important autumn planting season.

If you are starting a new garden, or revamping an existing garden, when choosing lawn and plants be water wise – choose plants that need minimum water.

Grab your wheelbarrow and starting preparing the soil for planting winter and spring annuals by digging in compost and superphosphate - or bone meal - at the recommended application rates.

Spring flowering bulbs are now on sale at your local garden centre or nursery and it's best to buy them early and store in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator and plant when the weather cools down - in about 4 to 6 weeks time.

As for garden maintenance: lift and divide perennials - raise the height of mower blades as winter approaches and growth slows down - rake fallen leaves from the grass with a soft plastic or rubber rake to prevent fungal diseases.

Add colour to the autumn garden

Available in an amazing array of colour combinations, Gazanias are brightly coloured to attract a host of insects to aid with pollination. The flowers open and close depending on the intensity of the light, which is why planting them in full sun is where they’ll be happiest! On a sunny day your garden will be bursting with colour and teaming with nature's very own aerobics if you’ve chosen to plant gazanias and best of all, these plants will flower for most of the year. You can’t ask for better value for money.

You can use Gazanias as ground covers because of their water wise nature and being able to grow practically anywhere, as long as there is sun of course. Their trailing nature also make them wonderful for hanging basket and can add a bold splash of colour to a small townhouse garden.

Whether you’ve got a flower bed that needs some bold colour or a sunny patio needing a bright container, Gazanias are just the thing and you can plant during March for beds or pots of glorious colour.

What to plant

This month it's time to plant winter and spring flowers. Prepare beds for winter annuals by working in generous amounts of compost and superphosphate. Sweet peas, African daisies, Bokbaaivygies, and Virginian stocks are some of the more significant. Poppies, Primula, Foxgloves, Hollyhock and Larkspur can also be sown. In colder areas, plant out early seedlings of stocks, calendulas and snapdragons. Use a good seedling mix when sowing your seeds.

A variety of vegetable seeds can also be planted now, including peas, broad beans, carrots, parsnips, turnips and radish. These vegetables grow exceptionally well during the cooler season. Sow nasturtium seeds between veggies to attract aphids away from them. Plant out seedlings of cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, spinach. Stagger plantings at 3 to 4 week intervals to ensure continuity of supply. If you have a herb garden you can sow seeds of parsley, mustard and rocket.

If you are growing a new lawn, sow seeds for grass, especially in colder areas where Shade Over and All Seasons Evergreen grow well. For established lawns feed with a balanced garden fertiliser like 2:3:2 to encourage root growth before winter.

Life is a Garden is the marketing arm of the South African Nursery Association. For more information, go to www.lifeisagarden.co.za.

 

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