Gardening season still full of work
Alice Spenser-Higgs gives gardening advice for May
THE rain bought a temporary halt to gardening at the end of last month but that did not mean the end of the gardening season. There is still much to do and plant in May.
The ivies and many of the trees are starting to drop their leaves and there are a number of ways to use these leaves. Sakkie Nel of the Clivia Society last week reminded me that clivia grow under a rich mulch of leaves in the forests so any available leaves can be gathered up and spread around the plant. The leaves can also be dug into the soil because clivia need humus-rich soil that drains.
The snails should be out and about after the rain. Here is a home remedy to try. Lay a black plastic refuse bag on the lawn or near where the snails feed at night. After they have finished feeding they will head for the plastic bags as a nice dark place to hide under. In the morning turn over the bag and you should find the snails underneath. Kill them by putting them in a bucket with salt water. Stamping on them just spreads their eggs.
All the rain may have chased the ants away but if it hasn’t then you can try the following ant bait. Mix together half a teaspoon of borax with one litre of water and four tablespoons of sugar to make syrup. Put the syrup in a container outside or where the ant problem is and the ants will not be able to resist it.
If your roses are still full of leaves and you want good blooms into winter then it is worth getting out the spray pump and spraying to prevent black spot. Ludwig Taschner recommends Chronos as the longest lasting fungicide and even if the roses have already developed some black spot it will prevent it spreading. Other products are Dithane WG (with a sticker) or Rose Protector.
Assess the performance of the past season and replace roses that have been particularly disease prone. Two new disease resistant roses are “Mara Louw”, a waist high hybrid tea with deep gold centre and dark pink petal edges, and “Vuvuzela”, also a hybrid tea that has a bright yellow centre. If rose have not performed well in spite of care then the problems could be a lack of light or water, compact soil or root competition.
Broad beans, lettuce, kale, peas, radishes, Swiss chard and spinach can still be sown in May. Oriental vegetables like tatsoi, mizuna and giant red mustard will be available as young plants and can be planted in a semi shade position that receives morning sun.
For a good crop of spinach and Swiss chard harvest and feed reg- ularly to encourage the plants to keep on producing leaves. Don’t cut off all the leaves at once because this sets the plant back. Lettuce should be grown in full morning sun and soil should be kept consistently moist to prevent the leaves becoming bitter.
Broad beans will give a good yield if the soil is enriched with plenty of compost and even 2:3:2 or 3:1:5 before planting. With all the rain, watch out for downy mildew and use Dithane WG. It can also be used for powdery mildew on lower leaves.
Water regularly but don’t over water. Although growth slows down it is necessary to feed vegetables at least once to twice a month with a liquid fertiliser. Leafy vegetables grow well if fed with a nitrogen rich fertiliser. Put thick mulch around young plants to protect the roots during winter. Use natural mulches like straw, rough compost, peanut shells or even a deep layer or newspaper, about 10 to 15 pages.
Planting in autumn allows plants to settle in over winter and have a head start in spring.
For positions with full sun or plenty of morning or afternoon sun plant alyssum “Lobularia maritime”, snap dragons “Antirrhinum majus”, bachelors buttons “Bellis perennis”, Calendula “Calendula officinale”, mini chrysanthemums “Coleostephus multicaule/ paludosum”, Diascia hybrids, Dianthus chinensis, Gazania hybrids, Iceland poppies, pansies, petunias (only in summer rainfall areas), stocks “Matthiola incana”, winter vygies “Delosperma” and violas.
In shady areas plant fairy primula “Primula malacoides”, Cineraria senecio, and Foxglove “Digitalis”.
RoseTheThe Mara Louw Rose Vuvuzela .
Primula and cineraria.