"Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all." - Stanley Horowitz
Have you noticed how many leaves have already dropped from the trees and shrubs? Well, winter is on its way. Slowly nature is readying itself for the coming cold.
Your African daisies (Namaqualand daisies) and bokbaai vygies you sowed last month should have germinated by now. Remember to keep seed moist until germination to prevent loss. If you have not sown your winter plants, do it as soon as possible. Remember to check the guideline of sowing on the back of the seed packet. Other annual plants seeds that need to be sown before May are Delphinium, Hollyhock and Nemesia. The earlier you sow the seeds the better the growth will be in winter. Feed your seedlings with seedling food or a good general organic fertiliser.
Who needs to have a dull garden in winter - with no colour? There are so many ways to have plenty of colour in winter, many bulbs thrive when the temperatures drop. Having bright colours will lighten and warm up your garden. There are a variety of winter bulbs that are rich in colours of oranges, yellows, reds and pinks. When planting a variety of bulbs together, make sure that the taller ones are at the back and the shorter ones are in front. Some bulb varieties that you can plant now are your indigenous Trittonias, Sparaxis and if you are lucky enough to find Lachenalia. Exotic winter bulbs are Ranunculus, Hyacinths, Dutch iris, Narcissus and Anemone to name a few. When planting your bulbs plant them close to each other as this will give a better show. Prepare the soil properly before you plant the bulbs. You will need to add plenty of “Bark Unlimited” compost to the soil so that there is good drainage. For best results feed your bulbs with specialised formulated bulb food. Water regularly if your water restrictions have been lifted. Those folk with water restrictions plant your bulbs in pots and add Just Organics coco peat or Starke Ayres palm peat (holds moisture) to the potting soil mixture and water them with grey water.
Many indigenous plants such as aloes flower in winter. Why not plant a variety of aloes of different sizes. This would brighten up any garden and the aloes flowers will attract humming birds. Aloes such as Aloe arborescens gives a mighty show in winter. Smaller hybrid aloes such as Malanseuns newer varieties of Aloe ‘Hedgehog’, Aloe ‘Porcupine’ and Aloe ‘Sea Urchin’ can be used as fillers in your garden and can be planted in front of the larger aloes. Some aloes are frost hardy and will grow well in colder areas prone to severe frosts and low temperatures.
Fertilise your roses for the last time this season and check for black spot, this is very common at this time of the year. Use a general systemic fungicide such as Efekto’s Funginex to stop the black spot on the roses from spreading. Roses do not mind the cooler temperatures and can still be flowering through this month. Roses need to be watered often especially potted roses.
This is a very good time to start harvesting and preserving your herbs for use in the winter months. The aromatic herbs you will need to bunch up and air dry. A great idea for softer herbs such as parsley, basil and even mint, is to freeze them in olive oil. It is very easy, just add the soft herbs to ice trays and fill with olive oil and freeze. When you need some basil for a stew, pop out a cube and add directly to the pot. With a salad just let the cube defrost and add it to your salad.
For those chilly winters a nice cup of homemade soup from your ‘veggie’ garden is a must. Hopefully you started sowing your winter crop seeds in March and that the seedlings are now doing well? If you did not sow seeds, now is the time to get your vegetable seedlings. Plant Onion, Swiss Chard, Cabbage and Broccoli as these all taste great in a soup. Sow Carrots and Turnips and remember to keep the soil moist until the seeds have germinated. Onions prefer a well worked friable soil and heavy clayey soils should be avoided. They have a long growth period and need regular watering until the bulbs have reached ripened stage, then decrease watering. Carrots are best sown in an area where a previous seasons crop such as cabbage stood. They must not be over fertilised or too much compost used in the planting bed as this will cause carrots to grow excessive side roots and they will also fork. Weeding and thinning out is a must to have a successful crop. Cabbages are heavy feeders and require a fertiliser high in nitrogen every 3 weeks. Adding manure to the planting hole is also very important for Cabbages, Broccoli also needs a rich soil. Add plenty of compost and manure to where you are planting the Broccoli and feed with a fertiliser a month after planting the seedlings and again when the central head is cut.
“The bright summer had passed away, and gorgeous autumn was flinging its rainbow-tints of beauty on hill and dale.” - Cornelia L. Tuthill
Enjoy your garden!