Wow! It is already November!!!!!!
How can we slow the year down?
Well we have found the answer – sit down and watch a tortoise! We were asked to look after a friend’s tortoise and on just the first day we could not find it! An electric fence meant nothing to it and when we eventually found it we thought it had been electrocuted but fortunately it was alive and well. Very relieved, we sat for a long time just watching it munch cabbage leaves and this was very relaxing and fascinating. Tortoises don’t need much water so what can we learn from them in this time of drought?
There are many ways to keep your garden going in the event of water restrictions or just a lack of rainfall. Around this time every year the spectre of water restrictions looms. This year is no exception because the rains have yet to arrive.
The first step in conserving water is to mulch every bed. This prevents the evaporation of what little water is available and keeps the ground cool, taking further stress off the plant. Spread a 5cm layer around the plants, making sure that the mulch is not piled up against the stem of the plant. This allows water and fertilizer to penetrate more easily.
When it comes down to using a hand-held hose, it is important to know the water needs of individual plants, to dam up the edges to prevent run-off and to give a solid watering once a week instead of a daily dribble with the hose.
Another strategy to adopt in the event of water shortages is to plant up containers with bright coloured perennials or roses as a few colourful containers make a lot of impact and use less water. Water retaining materials can be added to the potting soil. These absorb the water and then release it slowly. You can also fill containers with cheerful annuals like petunias, impatiens (in the shade), nasturtiums, begonias, chrysanthemums, dianthus, marigolds, and salvia. Place them close to your living areas or at your front door and you will be surprised at how much joy they provide when the rest of the garden is drooping.
Fertilizing regularly to keep plants healthy and spraying for pests and diseases to prevent defoliation are also regular garden tasks that become even more important in a drought.
The obvious strategy is to opt for drought tolerant plants and to make these the majority in your garden. Many people are turning to indigenous plants because of the general belief that they are drought tolerant. But not all indigenous plants are water wise. Because South Africa is their natural habitat indigenous plants tend to grow better, but they can’t just be planted anywhere. It is still necessary to know their water requirements, frost hardiness, sun and shade requirements. There are also many exotic varieties, like petunias, vinca and portulaca that have proved their worth as water wise garden plants. Here is a guide to exotic and indigenous drought tolerant flowers:
- Felicia amelloides is an indigenous blue daisy with a sunny yellow centre. It’s grows in full sun or semi shade. Cut back straggly growth and dead flowers.
- Arctotis is an indigenous sun loving annual that flowers mainly in spring and summer.
- Gazanias again indigenous, also flower in spring and summer and are just as drought tolerant but with a much wider range of colours and variations such as yellow, orange, red and pink.
- Coreopsis grows in almost every kind of soil and thrives without much attention.
- Portulacas are sun loving low maintenance plants that have a low, spreading growth that makes it an excellent groundcover for sun beaten slopes or rocky outcrops.
- Pelargoniums (indigenous) are a mainstay for colourful containers and hot sunny beds.
- Petunias are in their element during drier periods and they are the most versatile of all the annuals.
- Verbena is an excellent garden performer. It is particularly heat and drought tolerant. The array of colours ranges from solid blue to burgundy, magenta, rose, scarlet and white.
- Vinca can survive intense heat. They thrive in virtually any soil condition and produce flowers that cover the plant from top to bottom in a luminous contrast to the dark, glossy foliage.
- Zinnia mix comes in a medley of coral red, orange, gold, pink and salmon shades. They are sun lovers and grow in almost any garden soil.
- This is the month that much activity happens in your garden so that during the holiday period it will look gorgeous and still look reasonable in the new year.
- Seedlings of annuals can still be planted during this month – they will flower from now until autumn.
- If you plan to go away during December, slow down your lawn growth by abstaining from applying fertilizer this month and by decreasing the amount of water applied in the last week.
- In areas where your grass struggles to grow due to it being too shady for Kikuyu, reseed the area with a grass mix specially blended for shade such as Shade Over or plant Elim plugs.
- Your early fruits should be ripening. Be careful when gathering the crop not to damage the trees. Fruit which is rotting and falling off has possibly been affected by fruit-fly larvae. Bury the rotting fruit about 30cm deep. This will prevent the larvae from breeding out, increasing and attacking the late fruit.
- November is really the last of the seed sowing months. I am a great believer in making a late November sowing of practically all the summer annuals. The plants they give you will come into bloom and provide some lovely young fresh material just about the time earlier sowings are beginning to look on the shabby side.
This is the time of year when climbing plants come into their own, with their decorative branches beautifying the environment. There are so many of these creepers but make your choice from Bougainvilleas, Wisteria, Petrea, Clematis, Pandorea, Gelsemium and don’t forget the climbing roses!
- Remove as many weeds as you can now to stop them flowering and thus being produced in abundance.
- Take care of your existing plants by applying fertilizer to the soil surface of all summer flowering plants
- Tie up the shoots of fast-growing climbers
- Remove the old flower heads from spring flowering shrubs and neaten by pruning out long shoots that spoil the shape of the plant.
- Control pests - try to take a picture of your problem and then bring it into one of our nurseries for quick identification and cure.
- Roses are nearing the end of their first flush, so you need to deadhead them.
- Mulch your hydrangeas with compost, feed with a general fertilizer and water with a solution of iron chelate. Give plants with yellowing leaves a handful of Epson Salts.
- Return your cymbidium orchids to a shady place in the garden
- Pot on or plant out azaleas which have finished flowering
- Anthuriums also need repotting every year and then they will flower and last for many years. These plants are ideal for your living room, dining room and bathroom
- Daylilies, flowering one day at a time, are reliable, rewarding and a must have in your garden. These low maintenance plants flower best if given 6 hours of sunshine a day. We have a new one in stock called “EVERYDAY LILY” and they can produce 400 blooms per plant!
- Feed your camellias with high nitrogen fertilizer and water well.