Back to Basics with Trees in Pots
September 1, 2021
Water Gardening
October 1, 2021

Spring Zing

The season that needs no introduction – it can only be spring! This is an exciting time for gardeners filled with blossoms, blooms, and renewed beauty after the winter. This month, Life is a Garden loves the spekboom, and we’ve got some special varieties to share. The veggie garden is every home grower’s dream, so check out our edible zingers for September. Perennials and bulbs are also ready to crank up the heat in the garden, so let’s dig and plant right in!

‘n Spekkie for thought

Portulacaria afra (elephant’s food, elephant bush, or spekboom) is an indigenous superstar in our South African climate. They tolerate high humidity, high rainfall or drought, heat, desert sun or well-lit indoor spaces. They are frost-tender but will bounce back quickly. Not prone to pests or disease either, the spekkie boasts the following fabulous benefits:

  • Environment: They help to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by acting like a handy carbon sponge, thereby improving the quality of air we breathe.
  • Firebreaks: This plant is used in fire-prone areas as a perimeter hedge – good to know!
  • Food: Spekboom leaves are edible and add interesting texture and flavour to salads. They are high in Vitamin C with a juicy, sour taste – definitely worth a try!  
  • Soil: A good soil binder that helps to prevent soil erosion – wind and slopes beware!
  • Versatile: With so many varieties available, spekkies are excellent groundcovers, look spectacular in hanging baskets, add a vibe to mixed succulent containers, are super hardy trees, cute bonsais, and are just overall an awesomely easy addition to the garden. 
  • Easy to please: Prune them to shape or let them grow wild, feed them or forget about them, mulch them or munch on them.

Did you know? Spekboom provides 80% of an elephant’s diet and can live up to 200 years.

Plant these Portulacaria afra varieties now in well-drained soil with a dash of All Purpose or Bio Ocean organic fertiliser available from your GCA Garden Centre.

  • Tom Thumb: a small-leaved, compact variety that makes an excellent bonsai.
  • Longstockings: also small-leaved but with a distinctly vertical growth form.
  • Macrophylla: a giant-leaved variety, very sculptural in the garden or in pots.
  • Also try: Limpopo (most common), Prostrata, Aurea, Foliis variegate, Medio-picta, Variegata, Tricolor, and Cork Bark.

Fired-up flowers

  • Plant Allysum in garden beds or hanging baskets in full to partial sun. They tolerate dry soil and will flourish with frequent deadheading. Allysums are ideal as attractive edge borders, framing flower beds, as well as adding vibrancy and texture to window boxes.
  • Also plant clivias, salvias, begonia ‘Dragon Wings’, verbenas, penstemons, camellias and azaleas for a splash of happy spring colour.
  • Warm-season bulbs like tuberous begonias, dahlias and amaryllis can also be planted now. For summer bedding colour, include masses of petunias, dianthus, gazanias, and Zantedeschia hybrids.
  • Perennials to plant with your spring collection include columbines, angel wings (Gaura), bearded iris, Limonium perezi (giant statice), Scabiosa columbaria ‘Butterfly Blue’ (cornflower) and Viola odorata ‘The Czar’ (sweet violet).
  • Sow bold sunflowers, zinnias, and portulacas to reap the rewards in a few weeks.

In the bloom prune zone: Mayflowers, banksia roses, hibiscus and poinsettia are ready for a snip. Deadhead pansies and violas now too.

Edible spring zingers

  • Plant strawberries, asparagus, tomatoes, chillies, peppers, eggplant, lettuce, cabbage, beetroot, spinach and chard.
  • Sow seeds of tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, beans, beetroot, eggplants, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, mealies, pumpkin, dwarf beans, runner beans, maize and sweetcorn.
  • Trees to plant are olives and almonds, yummy!
  • Herbs to plant include dill, chervil, origanum, borage mustard, watercress, caraway, coriander, mint, Pennyroyal, rosemary, fennel, basil, anise and summer savoury.

Top tip: Remember to head over to your GCA Garden Centre for a bag of Bio Ocean fertiliser to help you get the most from your greens. Seed packets are the cheapest way to grow your own food and are widely available at nurseries and supermarkets.

Trees for your troubles

Wildlife-attracting, shade-providing, and spring-blooming trees to plant now are:

  • Paperbark acacia
  • Fever tree
  • Pompon tree
  • Forest elder
  • Cape chestnut
  • Dombeya rotundifolia (wild pear)

Our perfect pick: The indigenous Kiggelaria africana (wild peach) is a showy must-have for the critter-loving gardener. This beauty is drought-tolerant, evergreen, fast-growing, ideal for screening/hedging, costal safe (salt and wind), suitable for containers and small gardens, has minimal waste shedding, and the best part – this tree hosts the Acrea Horta butterfly and several other species too, including some stunning moths. Diederik and red-chested Cuckoos feast on these caterpillars, keeping the numbers in check and sustaining your garden’s essential food chain. The fruits are not edible but trees will reward your garden with colour, charm, and an abundance of life!

Get your lawn lush

Plant new lawn grass seed or grass plugs now. September is the best time for establishing new lawns as conditions give roots the perfect opportunity to settle down before the summer feet come rolling in. Fertilise with Bio Ganic Lawns and begin watering the lawn regularly and fix bare patches with a top-dressing of fine compost or commercial lawn dressing. Your GCA Garden Centre is fully stocked with all your lawn essentials, go check it out.

Pesky pest alert

Watch out for these nasty guys that are as excited about spring as we are. Charge down to your nursery for eco-friendly pesticides that’ll make quick work of these pesky pests.

  • Leaf gall on azaleas (small swellings or knobs on the leaves, stems, and flowers).
  • Thrips on gladioli (spottings on flowers and yellow speckled areas on leaves).
  • Citrus psylla on lemons (raised, pocket-like swelling on leaves).
  • Impatient fungus (yellow-green discolouration of leaves, often curling downwards).
  • Snails and slugs around newly planted seedlings.
  • Cutworms on the roots and foliage of new growth.

Maintenance incoming

  • Refresh, top-up or replace pebbles and gravel around the garden, especially between paving stones where dust and mud accumulate to spoil the effect.
  • Check for algae and moss on paving. Scrub down with a solution of copper sulphate or use a moss killer.

Enjoy your zesty, zinger of a spring and plant your heart out. The rains will soon be coming to give all your new babies some TLC, followed by warm, early wake-up calls for the sun. September is a party in the backyard when your Life is a Garden filled with blooms, edibles, and trees like these.

Source: Life is a Garden

SUBSCRIBE TO NEWSLETTER