As we move into our final months of an extraordinarily summer, water remain top of mind for all avid gardeners. Maintaining a garden with a restricted water supply is an enormous challenge; yet it’s refreshing to see just how innovative gardeners can be when they’re put to the test. With clever water-saving and retention methods, and a shift in focus towards hardier, drought-resistant plant varieties, many of our green-fingered community have proven that it’s possible to maintain that all-important touch of green.
SPOTLIGHT ON: SUCCULENTS
Succulents are the perfect plants for novice (or forgetful!) gardeners, as well as gardening aficionados. The name of the ‘cannot die’ succulent is a telling indicator of the hardiness of many of these plants; importantly, they require very little water, which makes them a great choice for both indoor and outdoor spaces when water is scarce. While there’s a vast abundance of succulent types, some species are easier to care for and more versatile in homes and gardens, among them the echeveria (rock rose), crassula (jade plant), cotyldedon (kanniedood), aloe and sedum (stonecrop) are a good few to try.
Succulents also make for wonderful, unique gifts. With Valentine’s Day looming, what better way to treat your favourite person than an everlasting gift that grows?
ON YOUR TO-DO LIST FOR FEBRUARY
Plant and sow:
- Sow these veggies: cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, onions, lettuce, spinach, turnips and beetroot.
- Plant woody-stemmed, water-wise herbs like sage, oregano, rosemary and thyme.
- Sow these winter-flowering annuals: marigold, chrysanthemum, larkspur, Iceland poppy, viola and pansy.
- Plant winter-flowering bulbs like gladiolus and veltheimia bracteata (forest lily).
Mulch, mulch, mulch:
Mulch is any substance that can be placed on the soil surface around plants to help keep the moisture in the soil. It’s one of the easiest and most affordable ways to save water in your garden and comes in both organic and inorganic forms:
- Organic mulch, which comes from plant or animal sources, is considered the best type of mulch as it conserves water and provides the soil with nutrients as it slowly breaks down. Examples include compost, pine needles, grass clippings, bark chips, straw, peat and leaves.
- Inorganic mulch doesn’t break down, but acts as a physical barrier that helps to keep moisture in the soil. Examples include stones and gravel.
- Feed deciduous fruit trees like apple, apricot, cherry, nectarine, peach, pear, plum and quince with 2kg of 2:3:2 each.
- Feed lilies with a tablespoon of 3:1:5 dissolved in 5 litres of water. Mulch well.
- Feed dahlias with Multifeed or bulb food, and remove any faded flowers.
- Mulch roses, and feed them with 8:1:5.
Prune and divide:
- Prune summer-flowering plants like pelargoniums, lavender, abelia, weigelia, hydrangeas, heliotrope and salvia.
- Cut back petunias to encourage a new flush in late autumn.
- Prune all evergreen trees, except those that bear flowers and berries in spring.
- Divide and replant easy-to-grow groundcovers and perennials like agapanthus, wild iris, red-hot pokers, hen and chickens, daylilies, alstroemerias, asters and watsonia.
OTHER FRESH IDEAS
Grow your own: Beetroot
Beetroot is one of those wonderful vegetables that grows easily, looks attractive and has a mammoth list of health benefits attached to it. Depending on the variety, beets are fairly drought-tolerant and grow best in partial or full sun. If you’re finding they need more water in the initial stages, put a bucket of water next to you in the shower and use your daily shower excess to keep them going!
Once harvested, beetroots can be eaten fresh or pickled and enjoyed months later. They are packed with vitamins A, B and C, among other minerals, as well as powerful antioxidants. And don’t forget the greens! Beetroot leaves are perfectly edible, and can be used as a lettuce substitute or cooked up as spinach.
Herb of the month: Oregano
Oregano’s pungent, zesty flavour is the star player in many Italian, Greek and Mexican dishes. It’s a hardy herb that loves the sun and well-drained soil, and makes for good ground cover if pinched and trimmed regularly.