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Durban – Spring is well upon us. Lovely warm-to-hot days, interspersed with a cold snap or two, and a bit of rain – a typical KwaZulu-Natal spring.
The days are getting longer by up to 20 minutes each week. Plants are bursting into bloom and trees are budding everywhere.
I am always fascinated by Mother Nature and how she works her magic. Each tree will come into bud simultaneously and all over the tree – the buds at the bottom open at the same time as the ones on top, the ones on the shady side open at the same time as those in the sun. How do they know?
In some years they open in the middle of September, some years later, but always simultaneously – it is as if someone threw a switch.
Most plants are already in full leaf, although my Flatcrown tree (Albizzia adianthifolia) has only just started, even though others on my street are in full leaf. Most Frangipanis are still fast asleep.
A few spectacular trees put out flowers just before their leaves, and are a glorious sight in spring. Beautiful examples are the indigenous (and world famous) Erythrina or “Coral trees”.
The Magnolia soulangiana, or “Tulip magnolias”, have large tulip-like white, pink or purple flowers on bare stems which are spectacular and grow well in Westville and further inland.
The “Yellow Trumpet trees” or Tabebuia have also been spectacular.
September was Arbor Month – but if you did not plant a tree do not worry – it is never too late.
* Are you an “urban farmer”?
If you grow your own fruit and vegetables then you are automatically a member of this fast growing community. Everyone should find a space to “grow their own”. A few lettuce plants, some parsley, chives, basil and a tomato or two and you will never be short of a salad. Add beans, carrots, beetroot and chard and you’re close to self-sufficient.
All these are dead easy to grow and do not take up too much space – they can even be grown in pots and troughs. Remember to use a decent potting mix, and to give them as much sun as possible.
* Every plant in your garden is growing rapidly now and the demand for adequate nutrition is at a maximum – be sure to apply a generous helping of fertiliser, compost or manure to all your plants.
Water well after application, and repeat the dose in six-to-eight weeks.
* Mow your lawn as required. I am a great advocate of mowing “long”. If you mow too short, you expose the grass to sunburn, you cut off all the leaves which manufacture the food the grass needs and you leave ugly brown patches.
A “long” lawn always looks green, it shades its own roots, it grows vigorously due to optimum food production, discourages weeds and is nice and soft to walk on.
A healthy lawn will be full of life in the soil – if you have lots of hadedas feeding on your lawn it is normally a good sign, but it could indicate that you also have crickets, which can cause damage.
Your nurseryman will recommend an easy spray to get rid of them.
My lawn is looking really good – I have got rid of the weeds with only one application of weedkiller and the hadedas are feeding regularly. I will be feeding my lawn this weekend with 2:3:2 which is a nice balanced fertiliser, which will not encourage too much leaf growth (ensuring I will not have to mow every week).
* There is so much to plant at this time – a visit to the nursery is a must as they are bursting with plants and colour. It is now time for summer seedlings or “bedding plants” such as begonia, dahlia, celosia, salvia, torenia, portulaca and zinnia. Begonias do best with some shade, but the others can withstand full sun at this time of year.
Prepare your soil well with a decent potting mix, or add compost and bonemeal to your existing beds.
It is important that your bedding plants lack nothing when growing, so that they can put all their efforts into blooming – you will be amazed at how many flowers and how much colour you can get from the modern hybrids that are available these days – so long as you look after them and feed, water and “dead head” them regularly.
* There are many “new” indigenous plants available that have been hybridised both locally and abroad. South African plants are favourites all over the world, and are grown by their millions in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the Americas.
Where would Europe be without the trailing geraniums they all grow in their window boxes each summer?
Indigenous hybrids of Agapanthus, Geraniums (pelargoniums), Osteospermums (Cape daisies), Diascia, Nemesia and Bacopa are all worth growing. They often have “hybrid vigour” and outperform the older varieties, with bigger and brighter flowers and a wider range of colours.
Look out too for indigenous Clivia or “Bush Lily” plants, with their big bright orange flowers, which grow so well in tough, shady positions. There are yellow, peach and red colour forms as well, which make lovely tub plants. – The Mercury
They’re so useful, but solar lights used to be so dull. Now they have gone all whimsical, writes Helen Grange.