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We are already in August and spring is just a few days away. While Christmas may not be at the top of your mind, this is the perfect time to prepare your festive garden to impress your friends and family at Christmas. Red and white flowers dotted across the garden will set the scene for a beautiful, summer Christmas.

What to Plant for Christmas:

Affectionately known as Christmas flowers, Hydrangeas (h. macrophylla) are a firm favourite amongst South Africans and flourish in gardens across the country. While traditionally these flowers were available in shades of blue and white, they are now available in a variety of colours. The bright red Hydrangeas will add great festive colour to the garden when placed in alkaline soil, speak to your GCA to find out which plant feed would be best to use for these Hydrangeas. Place your hydrangeas in areas with good light but out of direct sunlight and water once a week, though once the weather starts warming up these thirsty plants will need to be watered daily in hot weather conditions.

Nothing says Christmas like the Poinsettia (euphorbia pulcherrima). These bright red leafy plants will add festive cheer to the garden, whether big or small. These sun-loving plants are best planted in full sun but will grow in part shade too. Plant in well-drained, compost-enriched soil. To ensure you do not overwater the plants, check the soil is moist and only water when dry to the touch. The plants will require more frequent watering in the summer months, particularly if placed in direct sunlight. The Poinsettia will need to be fertilised weekly from mid-spring to the end of summer. Ask your GCA which fertiliser will be the best to maximise growth for Christmas.

Don’t forget about the indoors, plant Poinsettias in sunny areas around the house to add some festivity and pops of bright colour to the house. The pots can be decorated and used as Christmas table centerpieces or could be used as Christmas gifts for friends and family to enjoy some Christmas foliage in their own homes.

Another plant that can be planted indoors or outdoors is the Amaryllis (hippeastrum). These showy trumpet-shaped blooms are available in a variety of colours to add bursts of flamboyant colour to the garden and home. They are easy to grow and require little more than to be planted in well-drained soil in a sunny area and water only when the soil is dry to the touch. Plant your Amaryllis bulb now, and you’ll start to enjoy the flowers from October. If planting them in pots, be sure to use heavy clay pots as these plants can be top heavy and fall over if placed in light-weight plastic pots.

The festive white bells of the evergreen Francis Mason (abelia grandiflora) will get you in the Christmas spirit and complete your festive garden. This easy-to-grow, hardy shrub grows best in full sun. Water it weekly in the cooler months and more frequently in the hot summer. For the best results use an organic fertiliser, such as Bio Ganic All Purpose or Bio Ocean and sit back and enjoy the delicate fragrant white ‘jingle’ bells.

What to Sow:

While it may be a little cold to image it, in a few months, you will be enjoying delicious summer fruits. One fruit that reminds us of Christmas and is enjoyed by families across the country throughout the summer is the juicy, healthy watermelon. The watermelon takes approximately 90 days to grow so if you want to enjoy slices of your own homegrown watermelon you need to plant your seeds at the end of the month.

Watermelon grows best in full sun, and the vine requires sufficient space to grow. To start, prepare the soil by adding pyrethroid and compost before planting the seeds, this will prevent possible worms from getting to the watermelon first and will provide the right nutrients for the best results. Water is key to growing juicy watermelons. Keep the soil moist by watering the vines in the morning, and as there may be a few cold days ahead before the summer, apply a mulch to keep the roots warm.

Flowering now:

It’s the last month of winter and while we await the burst of spring blossoms and blooms, the Cyclamen will delight the senses with its beautiful twisted petals that look like tiny butterfly wings. These stunning flowers thrive in cooler weather and will liven up any room around the house. They are also great additions to balconies and patios. The Cyclamen grow best when placed in indirect sunlight and watered directly in the tray so that its roots can suck up the water it needs. Speak to your CGA about the best fertiliser to use and enjoy its last flowering show of the season. We suggest you use our Bio Ocean fertiliser for maximum results.

What to Spray:

Check your bulbs now for possible insect egg clusters under the leaves which could lead to insect infestations and result in damage to both the plant and the bulb. If you see any traces of eggs or damage to the plant, visit your nearest GCA to find a suitable treatment to prevent further damage to the plant.

Snails and slugs are likely to come out in the spring when it is warmer and wetter outside. Be prepared to keep them out of your bedding plants and vegetable patches with some organic snail bait which should be applied to the soil as soon as you see any signs of these hungry critters.

What to Prune:

Shrubs and bushes will benefit from being pruned and shaped this month. Pruning has several benefits for plants but most notably, it keeps them young and improves the overall growth. Use a quality pair of pruning shears to prune shrubs, bushes and small trees. Once you have pruned your plants, apply the right feed according to their needs and water regularly ahead of the spring. Atlantic Fertilisers offers a range of organic fertilisers and are safe to use in your garden. Once rainfall starts in summer rainfall areas, less frequent watering is needed.

What to feed:

August is feeding time as many of your dormant plants are getting ready for the spring. To maximise growth and prepare for beautiful spring blooms, it is important that your plants are given the right feed to meet their needs. There are various fertilisers available to aid in healthy plant growth and sustained release of nutrients into the soil. Some plants such as Azaleas (rhododendron) and Gardenias will need an acid compost to boost their flower development while others such as the red Hydrangeas may need a more alkaline feed. Speak to your GCA about the best option available for your garden. Once you have fed your plants, apply an organic mulch to the soil to keep the roots warm and prevent possible weeds from cropping up.

Don’t forget to feed your fruit trees with Bio Ocean fertilliser. The key ingredient seaweed, contains a range of naturally occurring minerals and growth stimulants which help maximise plant growth. It will help prepare for the first blossoms in the weeks to come. Compost should also be added to the soil. Remember to water your trees in the drier regions across the country for the juiciest fruits.

Rose care

This is a good time to prune rose bushes ahead of the spring to enjoy a good show of roses by October. Use clean and sharp secateurs and leather gloves to prune your roses. Once you have pruned the roses to remove dead leaves, flowers and stems, spray the plant’s stems with an insecticide and fungicide to kill insect eggs and fungus spores. Apply organic compost to the soil and top with mulch to protect the roots.

This is a good time to prune rose bushes ahead of the spring to enjoy a good show of roses by October. Use clean and sharp secateurs and leather gloves to prune your roses. Once you have pruned the roses to remove dead leaves, flowers and stems, spray the plant’s stems with an insecticide and fungicide to kill insect eggs and fungus spores. Apply organic compost to the soil and top with mulch to protect the roots.

Project of the month: Start a compost heap

To get the most out of your garden, why not start a compost heap and use your waste for good. A compost heap is quick and easy to set up and your garden will love you for it. To get started you will need an area that is fairly out of sight to visitors and a large container, ideally one that can seal, these can be purchased from your GCA. Place a combination of green and brown scraps into the container with green scraps coming from fruits, vegetables and similar products and brown being leaves and bark scraps amongst other. The combination of the green and brown work together to feed the organisms that break down the scraps and provide nitrogen to build the cell structure for the compost. Once you have put your green and brown scraps into your container apply some Organic Compost Activator to get the microbes working. Mix the compost every week and when it starts to look like soil, it is ready for you to use.

Be water wise

Spring is around the corner and for many regions across the country, this means the first rains for the new season and others will start to see dry months ahead. However, whether it is rainy or not, being water wise and protecting this precious resource should be a key consideration for every garden lover. But saving water doesn’t mean that your garden needs to be drab, there are water wise plants that will thrive in every garden:

  • Aloe Sea Urchin (aloe marlothii x arborescens sea Urchin) easy-to-grow with a beautiful red cone-shaped flowers, these aloes will add bursts of colour to the garden with minimum care needed.
  • Gazania Assorted (syn. g. splendens) – the bold, bright colours of the Gazania assorted flowers will add colourful bursts of sunshine to your garden. These plants are not only drought tolerant but grow well in flower beds, containers and baskets. Plant these in sunny flower beds around the garden to add splashes of bright colour to your landscape.
  • Pelargonium Interspecific (pelargonium interspecific) – if you’re looking to add bright, vivid colour to flower beds, pots, window boxes and hanging baskets that are heat and drought tolerant then you should plant the Pelargonium Interspecific. Plant your Pelargonium in a sunny area and water when the soil is dry to the touch. Add some flower feed such as Bio Ocean organic fertiliser towards the end of August to enjoy a showy bloom of spring flowers amongst healthy, attractive foliage. In Spring you can start feeding your flowers with Flower & Fruit fertiliser.
  • Geranium Assorted (pelargonium hybrid) – ideal for pots, baskets, smaller gardens or flower beds, these compact, sun loving beauties will flower throughout the year with minimal care. Water when the soil is dry to the touch, place in a sunny area and enjoy a well-branched plant with bright flowers held neatly above the foilage.
  • Cancer Bush (sutherlandia frutescens) – this small evergreen shrub is tough and hardy, making it easy-to-grow. The beautiful red flowers will brighten up the garden and are loved by nectar eating birds. Place in a sunny area and water moderately for best results.
  • Golden Daisy Bush (euryops pectinatus) – if you are looking for a fast growing, evergreen shrub that adds colour to the garden for most of the year, look no further than the Golden Daisy Bush. Plant in full sun and water moderately to enjoy the large, bright yellow flowers on this easy-to-grow shrub.

Indoor plant suggestions

As you prepare your garden for the spring and summer, it is also a good time to add some greenery inside.

  • Creeping Fig (ficus pumila) – this is an easy-to-grow vine that grows best in a sunny area but out of direct sunlight. It is a fairly thirsty plant, so water thoroughly and keep the soil moist. These plants grow well in hanging baskets or pots that have added support for it to climb.
  • Spike moss (selaginella kraussiana) – to add bright green foliage to darker areas around the home, grow spike moss in pots. These plants grow best when placed out of direct sunlight. Remember to water well and regularly.
  • Staghorn Fern (platycerium bifurcatum Netherlands) – This showy fern that grows fairly large depending on the size of the pot you plant it in. For a larger plant, place it in a large pot in a large room in the house. It grows best in a sunny area out of direct sunlight and the roots need to be kept moist at all times.
  • Calathea Zebra (calathea zebrina) – this striking plant with zebra stripped leaves will add a tropical feel to your home. Plant in a large room, out of direct sunlight and water frequently. Apply a mist to the leaves during dry months to keep the plant growing at its best.

Coastal gardening

(Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal)

Keep a look out for snail damage, paying particular attention to newly planted seedlings as they have tender roots and are a firm favourite for snails. To prevent plant damage, apply organic snail bait to keep these nuisances away.

Add some colour to your garden with a few plants that are in flower now.

  • Geraldton wax (chamelaucium) – these fast growing, drought tolerant shrubs are easy to care for, grow best in full sun and, while they will need to be watered often to encourage initial growth, once established these plants require moderate watering. The shrub bears flowers in a range of colours: white, pink and red.
  • Pincushion (leucospermum) – add splashes of orange to your garden with the hardy pincushion shrub. It is best grown in full sun and as it is drought resistant will require minimal water. The bright flowers which resemble pin cushions, will attract insects and birds to the garden to aid in flower pollination.
  • Sweet William (dianthus barbatus) – for bursts of colour and sweet fragrances drifting in the air, Sweet William is ideal for planting now. It makes a great border and is available in a range of colours including white, red, pink purple and bi-colour — plant in full sun and water moderately.
  • Tree wisteria (bolusanthus speciosus) – Ideally planted in a medium sized to large garden the tree Wisteria will be the central focus of your garden. These splendid trees boast beautiful purple flowers in the spring and the summer. They grow best in sunny areas and require moderate water.

Inland gardening

The first rains will be falling soon, and this is the time to prepare your garden for the spring. Feed all your plants with Bio Ganic All Purpose fertiliser to maximise growth in the spring.  It is easy and safe to use in your garden. Be sure to water well after fertilising and apply a mulch to keep the moisture and nutrients in.

Plant some hardy, flowering plants to enjoy some colour in spring:

  • Fairy Bells (dierama pendulum) – at the tips of its branches the plants grow elegant bell shaped pink or white flowers that grow from spring through to autumn. Fairy bells are a beautiful addition to flower beds, planted alongside water features or in rockeries. Plant then in well-drained soil in a sunny spot and water well regularly.
  • Parrot Beak (lotus berthelotii ‘Yellow Flash’) – this evergreen makes an ideal ground cover for the garden and is drought and heat tolerant making it an easy plant to grow. Plant in well-drained soil in a sunny area and enjoy the show of bright yellow, beak shaped flowers that appear in the spring.
  • Campfire bush (crassula capitella) – this hardy succulent grows well in both full and partial sun and requires little watering. The leaves are lime green with fire red tips but when placed in full sun with little water will turn bright red. Add colour to flower beds or plant in hanging baskets on the patio.

Prepare your garden for new life in the spring.