February in your garden

It is hot everywhere right now, but you will simply have to resist the call of the swimming pool in your garden, or the beach, to focus on your garden! It is time to take soft cuttings, sow a first crop of winter vegetables and winter- and spring-flowering annuals in trays in most regions.

 The end of the month will be a great time to sow Sweet William seed to provide splashes of colour in your happy place.

Part of the carnation family, Sweet William, (Dianthus barbatus), bear masses of single flowers that are mostly striped and have pretty, serrated edges, available in pinks, whites, purples, violet and more. Scatter the seeds onto the soil in a sunny spot and water lightly every few days. These biennials have a sweet, peppery perfume and are prized as a cut flower. Their nectar attracts bees, butterflies and birds and they tend to self-seed.

Tip: Start preparing your soil in strips or ridges for the sowing of Sweet Peas in March and April. Don’t forget the trellis or other support framework for them to climb up.

What to Plant

It is a good time to start planning your plantings of winter flowering annuals. Across most of our country cold winter days warm up sufficiently by midday to enjoy a winter braai to compliment the rugby or simply enjoy with friends. Winter and spring flowering annuals provide the colourful WOW factor in your happy place. The nights will start to cool down soon and by March and April you will be able to buy your favourites.

Hold onto your heart, while you get introduced to royalty, the new Petunia “Queen of Hearts” and “King of Hearts”. These two regal gems are set to smitten you with their large flowers bordered by perfectly formed red hearts set in a yellow background, for the Queen, and white background for the King of Hearts. In favourable conditions the flowers often smother the plant…. with their hearts ….. or should we say kisses? Grow them in full sun or partial shade in the garden, pots or hanging baskets.

What to Spray – to protect your happy place

Intense Summer heat combined with the under-watering of certain plants, (like roses), are ideal conditions for Red Spider Mites and Two Spotted Mites to cause damage to your plants. To identify them you will need to look out for white/yellowish spots/patches on their upper leaf surface. These spots multiply and the leaf becomes more yellow with the outer edges of the leaf staying greener.

This is an indication of the increase in mites sucking on the underside of the leaves. Later leaves may drop off, and in severe cases, tiny web-like strands can be seen on the plant. Turn the leaf over and by using a magnifying glass you will notice a few, (or many), very tiny adult mites moving around. If in doubt, take a few sample leaves into your local GCA Garden Centre to identify the pest. Make sure that the sample is carefully sealed in a zip-lock bag. Certain recommended oils are best used to spray on the underside of the leaves in order to suffocate the pest and these can be bought at your garden centre. Tip: Do not apply oil sprays in the heat of the day.

Powdery Mildew is a fungal disease that loves hot, wet and windy weather. Affected leaves, stems and even fruit look like they have been powdered. The pathogens may have overwintered in the plant or spread by wind. Tentacles enter the plant to take out nutrients and moisture, but the powdery spreading takes place outside the plant. The disease stresses and weakens the plant and if it covers large areas of the leaves it may also reduce the sugars produced in the plant and thus the flavour of the fruit or vegetable. Here are some of the most common plants that are more susceptible to Powdery Mildew: roses, begonias, dahlias, zinnias, melons, zucchini, squash, grapes, potato plants, peppers and lettuce. Visit your local GCA Garden Centre for a recommended solution.

What to Feed

Give your happy place plants a boost to get them through the Summer. This can be done in several ways, firstly there are the traditional granular/pelleted fertilisers. At this time of year any flowering or fruiting plants will benefit from a balanced fertiliser. Your favourite GCA Garden Centre will have a range on offer for you. Like roses and lots of other flowers they need to keep growing and require nitrogen as well as some phosphates.

Liquid fertilisers are said to be like Red Bull for plants! Yes, like other fertilisers, they can be used to boost the health and nutrition of both indoor and outdoor plants. They are easy to apply either as a soil drench, with some being great as a foliar feed too.

Source:  Life is a Garden

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