Things to do in July

Such beautiful weather this past week after some really cold weather. Well I cannot predict weather but do know that these warm days will not last. Having said that, people have always said “Joburg in July has the best winter weather” and I think they are right.

An interesting question came in from a 702 listener.
The question is “ can ash from the fire be used in the garden”.

Using ‘Woodash’ is fine as long as you spread in finely over the compost or directly into the garden. Don’t keep heaping it up in one place as you will not get the decomposition required.

Using ‘Coalash’ is not a good idea to place directly into the garden. This can be spread into the compost heap. I am always nervous of coal into the garden because I don’t think you get the nutrition released as quickly as woodash. Be careful of the braai briquettes as this in coaldust mixed with wood and they use a binder which would not benefit the garden.

Here are two links to learn more about the use of woodash (RHS.UK)


and coalash (USA):


In the USA it was discovered that vegetables grew incredibly well from what is known as ‘flyash’ from coal but they have now discovered that it can convert in arsenic which could be taken up into vegetables and that would not be a good idea.


Start pruning Fruit trees and Grape Vines now and then at the end of the month into mid August, prune roses.

Sometimes people ask why their fruit trees do not produce the fruit that they expected. A good example is the Eureka lemon and many other citrus trees.

Citrus trees are usually grafted onto the root stock of the Rough skinned lemon which is a prolific and fast grower. This graft could be anywhere from just out of the ground to a good metre above the ground. If you do not watch your plant well you could suddenly see long shoots with many thorns shoot out from this grafted point. The leaves will be larger and just look different. Fruit will form and it will not be the lemon you expected. So the trick is to watch out for this problem and make sure you cut out.

This also happens with peach or apple trees when you suddenly see lots of shoots coming from the ground. Remove these and clear them away to leave a clear trunk to the tree.

Roses are also grown on rootstock and sometimes you see long thin flimsy stems with small leaves grow past the roses. This is the briar that the rose is grafted on to and you need to remove these otherwise your rose bush will just get weaker and weaker until the briar becomes dominant and takes over.


• Keep fertilisising seedlings and bulbs every two weeks

• Get lawnmowers sharpened and cleaned up because at the end of this month will be a good time to scarify, water well and fertilise so that you have a beautiful green lawn to show off the spring flowers.

• Sharpen all pruning tools and make sure they have been washed very well to remove any fungus or bacteria that could be carried from last years pruning.

SPRAY CONIFERS for the Italian aphid with a systemic controller into the soil

• Water Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Magnolias and Camelias deeply twice a week and fertilise

• New plants will start coming into nurseries soon so keep your eyes open for all the new varieties that we are likely to see during summer.

• There is still time to plant Stargazer and Tiger Lilies this month. They will flower by December and also make wonderful pot plants.

• Keep deadheading Poppies, pansies and violas to prolong their flowering.

• Feed citrus trees with Epsom salts and 3:1:5

• Feed roses with 5:1:5, Epsom Salts, Bonemeal and compost. Then mulch when finished.

• Ask your butcher for some fresh bonemeal for the birds. Make into fist size balls and mix birdseed into the balls. Freeze these and every time one is finished, defrost and put out for the birds. You’ll be amazed at what birds you attract.

HAPPY GARDENING in this glorious weather.

Harvest time

Running a bit late with my notes for February but do hope you enjoy the things to do right now. Can you believe we are almost two months down of 2012??

This is the time of the year when our plants start to produce seeds or slow down growing in readiness for the ‘dormant period’. Otherwise known as “Harvest Time”.

So start harvesting seeds from so many plants. Get some plain envelopes and gather seeds from agapanthus, daylilies, St Joseph lilies, alstroemeria, arum lilies, clivia, aquilegia, amaryllis lilies, salvia, cleome, etc.

This is also a good time to take cuttings of certain roses, lavender, hydrangea, fuchsia, daisies, geraniums, salvia, etc.

If you have never taken cuttings before try to look for soft and hardwood cuttings because you might have success with one or the other. Some plants like Hydrangeas are better if you take hardwood but lavender is better if you take softwood cuttings.

You can make your own germination mix or buy a bag from the nursery. To make your own you should use river sand, vermiculite, perlite and loam soil. The ‘medium’ should not be rich. If I have to make my own then I just mix some well washed river sand with a bit of vermiculite and the cuttings work well in this.

Lavender - cut the tip of the lavender (not a flowering tip) and strip all the little leaves off the stem except for about 3 at the tip. Cut these leaves right across the top so that you now have a flat line. Dip the cutting into a No 2 hormone powder. You could fit about 50 to 100 cuttings in a small tray. Put 10 in a line and make 10 lines. Always let the cutting lie at an angle. Never straight up.

Hydrangea - take a hardwood cutting and cut just above the ‘eye’ at an angle. Dip them into No 2 hormone powder or straight into the soil.

Remember to water every day until you see them shooting.

Get some late veggies now. Plant some bush beans (blanche and freeze for winter months), radishes, basil (make pesto for winter) and tomatoes. Lettuce, baby spinach, rocket, oriental veggies which are delicious harvested when they are young. You can start planting winter soup veg like carrots, turnips, onions, garlic. Leeks and celery.

CARAWAY seed is very easily grown and best sown outdoors in early autumn into full sun or light shade. Well drained soil. Caraway perpetuates itself by self-sowing and can, with a little control maintain the cycle. Harvest by cutting the seed heads just before they fall. Fresh leaves are great in a salad.

You could do the same with CORIANDER.

If your ginger is pushing little shoots, plant them in the garden and by next spring you will have your own GINGER.

Take yourself off to the Nursery and get some winter seeds. This is a much cheaper way of having a pretty spring garden. Get some Stocks, Primula, Larkspur, Iceland Poppes, Pansies and more…………

Think SWEETPEAS and get a place ready to plant later in the month. They really like a well nourished soil in a hot spot against a wall or over a fence that gets sun most of the day. Nothing nicer than the sweet perfume of sweetpeas. I can already smell them!

ROSES – this is a good time to summer prune roses, fertilse and give them a boost for the next few months. Epsom salts, 5:1:5, bonemeal – bounce back and mulch with manure and compost. Cut blind shoots back.

Fuchsias – Also good time to summer prune. Fuchsias will push out lush new growth and flowers. Foliar feed with nitrogen which would be nitrosol, seagrow, multifeed classic, then top-dress with compost NOT acid compost because fuchsias are not acid lovers.

Compost/manure – time now to order a nice big load of good quality manure or compost and get this into the garden before the winter annuals start going in. I see quite a few winter annuals already in Nurseries. Pansies, etc. Don’t plant Petunia’s until the rains have gone as they cannot handle too much water but a good time to plant is in early autumn.

I caused a bit of fuss when I mentioned to Jenny Cryws-Williams that talcum powder would sort out the caterpillars on Clivia and Amaryllus. If you continue to do this every few days, you will smother the worms and they will die. Another good idea is to use Diatomaeous earth which is a organic powder. Wonderful fertiliser as well. This can be purchased on line from Oleum is also a good alternative.

Happy gardening!!

702 Gardening Chat (6th January 2012)

Welcome to 2012…………… I believe an exciting year in the garden!!

People are so much busier and want a pretty but easier garden to maintain. Water wise gardening and environmentally friendly gardens are in. We are
all so much more aware of our surroundings, birds, trees, flowers and veggie gardening. All good stuff………….lets keep up the momentum until we have converted the country into being more considerate and concerned about our environment.

December/January has been a wet time here in Joburg so with all this rain comes all sorts of gardening issues.

Hopefully everyone has remembered to switch off the irrigation.

Watch out for the various bugs that pop up right now and control them. The biggest problem are snails and slugs as they love this weather and eat up
all the special plants. There is an organic snail bait which works well but remember to collect all the snail shells afterwards. Alternatively, put a large pipe in the garden about a foot long and able to put a small saucer inside. Then put some beer in this and the snails will go in and drink the beer and they die. This is an easy way to collect the shells. The eggs remain in the shell and will hatch out, that is why you need to collect the shells.

Kikuyu lawn hates too much water and starts to rot in certain areas so you need to let it dry out as much as you can and do not feed at this stage as it will only promote more growth and mowing is rather difficult with all the rain so just wait for the sun to come out and give it a really good ‘low’ cut and feed with 3:1:5

Make a few ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ in your garden.

  • Simplify the design
  • have less lawn to maintain
  • use less plant varieties
  • plant more indigenous and even try ‘endemic’
  • use water cautiously and wisely
  • mulch as much as possibly

Just a few guidelines for this time of the year……………….

− it is now time to start thinking about what plants and bulbs to be planted for the winter garden. If sowing from seed then these must be planted in trays now so that they will be ready for the winter planting around Easter. Think of things like : primula, antirrhium, aquilegia, pansies, etc.

− still time to plant some veggie plants before the end of winter e.g. beans, spinach, beetroot, basil, coriander, and parsley. Try some Potatoes. They are easy to grow and you can still harvest before winter. Tomato plants will be OK and still enough time to ripen but not later than the end of this month.

− Take cuttings of fuchsias, daisies, lavender, geraniums, salvia and hydrangea.

− divide perennials like agapanthus, daylilies, altstroemeria,

− Collect seed of the agapanthus and daylilies. Aggies grow very easily from seed. Also Eucomis (Pineapple flower).

− Deadhead roses and feed with bonemeal, 5:1:5 and Epsom salts.

− Check roses for mildew and black spot. Spray if necessary.

− Prune shrubs but NOT spring flowering varieties such as Cape May

− Fertilise lawn.

Have a wonderful 2012 filled with much laughter, peace and good health.!!

Mafikeng return

The Ham and trimmings are ready to be done or maybe it will be Duck this year? We’ll see!!

On Monday my husband and I took a trip to Mafikeng, the place I was born in many years ago. I had not been there for about 15 years and it was truly a shock to see this town of my birth. It has grown out of all proportions and there are still many landmarks that brought back memories but the most disturbing thing was that it is honestly the filthiest town I have ever been into.

We went to the cemetery where both my Mother and Father’s parents are buried together with my brother Graham. This was as depressing as no one looks after it and many of the tombstones have been vandalised. The surrounding walls have all been broken down and there are mounds of plastic bags, weeds and general debris all over the place. The plan was to put my Mother and my Brother’s ashes on my Dad’s grave. I am now thinking of putting their ashes in the ‘Garden of Remembrance’ in St. John’s Anglican church where we were married and our sons christened. My parents, especially my father played a very big part in this church and my grandmother was in the choir for many years. The architect Sir Herbert Baker designed this church in the mid 19th century.

We saw the Mafikeng town hall which is now a museum. Our wedding was the last reception or celebration in this hall before it became a museum and it still looks as gracious as it always was. There is now a beautiful steam train in front of the Hall but much of the brass work has been stolen by vandals so the trimmings have been removed to be protected. My Father started life on the railways before he started his own business. He was an electrician by trade and put the first lights in Francistown Botswana.

My Mother was the chief town councillor secretary and was an interpreter in the courts for the Tswana people. She grew up on a farm in the Setlagoli area and spoke fluent Tswana until she died in August this year.

I found the house that I was born in (Shippard Street) but it looked so tiny and hidden behind high walls. I saw the beautiful convent where I spent my first 2 years of schooling. This is an amazing Victorian building which has been maintained and still looks imposing and impressive. Saw the school that I went to until Std 5 when I went to boarding school in Potchefstroom (convent). Went down the street where the houses of our friends were still the same – where the Finchams, Bundy’s, Prince’s and Dick’s lived.

Then we went to the house that I spent the rest of my childhood Tillard Street and although the house is still the same, there is now another high wall. No one had walls in our days, there were just fences as everyone was so proud of their gardens and especially my parents. There were only two private swimming pools in town and one of them was ours.

I accept chance but find it hard to accept that the town is so mismanaged and dirty. If only they could see that this town has so much history (Baden Powell and the Siege) that would attract tourists. Who knows … maybe the next time I visit, things will have changed. Who knows, maybe the DA will still have a chance to turn things around.

702 Gardening Chat (16th December 2011)

Just a few days from mid summer…………….. another year gone and how quick it has been.

Well we have done the garden related Christmas presents and by now most people have bought their presents.

If you are going away, don’t forget to make sure that the garden is being watered. Don’t panic about the lawn not being mowed because you can do this when you get back even if it is a bit long, the lawn will soon recover on your return. Don’t fertilise the lawn now otherwise it will be really very long and you will need to mow a few times to get it even again.

Watering is so important and because we have had quite a bit of rain lately, does not guarantee that this will be the case for the rest of the holiday.
Group your pots together under irrigation so that they will be watered easily.

To look after indoor plants, place some newspaper into the kitchen sink or the bath, put the plug in and wet the newspaper thoroughly and leave just a small amount of water in the bottom to keep the paper wet. Put all the pots in and water them well. This should stay damp until your return and the plants will stay moist. Don’t leave them standing in deep water otherwise they will just rot.

For those that are staying home………………… settle back and enjoy all the hard work and care that you have done to bring your garden this far. Gardens are so pretty at the moment because there is nothing like rain to clean and perk everything up.

Now, I am already planning and designing gardens for next year. I love to make each garden different but right now I am going through many of the international designers and I love so many of their ideas.

The contemporary look which can be so simple and elegant if you think about level changes and balance between flat lawn areas and organic shapes that will create a visually pleasing result. Explore the potential of your spaces and explore alternatives as even though this might seem to be a challenge, can be so rewarding. Obviously, do a bit of homework in advance to make sure you are on the right track. Homework would be to look at the spaces from all sides, look up and around. Let you imagination get carried away and then refine it as you let the ideas come true.

People often ask me “are you not afraid that your ideas will be copied?” and my reply is always “no” because no two gardens will ever be the same even though you copy the design or planting. Every space is different in that the soil, climate, contours all play a part in making it different. Also each one of us sees our spaces differently. This is the beauty of being an individual.
You do not need to be creative to let your imagination go. It is also a compliment to have someone think your idea good enough to copy. To share plants and knowledge is such a pleasure.

Don’t be in a rush to cut your Agapanthus, Clivia, Amaryllus seed heads off. Wait a while and let them ripen because they grow so easily from seed and you can start growing your own and then next Christmas you can plant them up in pretty pots and give to your gardening friends.

Take cuttings of Hydrangeas, Lavander, Roses and some shrubs and grow these because you will be amazed how successful you can be. Don’t expect 100% result but be happy with what you get and then try again at another time of the year. Get some ‘germination’ mix or make your own (half river sand, half soil) or even some vermiculite and then cut the stem just above a ‘bud’ with a good stem beneath. Use rooting hormone and dip the stem in. Place the cuttings at an angle and wait for about 6 weeks then check for roots and wait for about 5 leaves to form, then plant in small individual pots.

Check your veggies and get some more in now so that you prolong your crop into late summer.

If you have some spaces in the garden, get some seeds to throw in situ.
These could be Zinnias, Cosmos, Nasturtiums, Cleome, Marigolds, Candytuft and Allysum.

Happy Gardening!!