10 must-dos this month

South African Garden and Home - - Garden News & Debuts -

Con­tribut­ing gar­den editor Mar­i­anne Alexan­der’s handy check­list of es­sen­tial chores to do in Au­gust

Liven up dull gar­dens with six packs of spring-flow­er­ing bed­ding plants like prim­u­las, pan­sies, cal­en­du­las, dianthus and snap­drag­ons. Main­tain your feed­ing reg­i­men and dead­head to en­sure a longer, bet­ter dis­play.

Start look­ing for sum­mer bulbs to plant in Septem­ber. In­dige­nous op­tions in­clude glad­i­oli, red-hot pok­ers, arum lilies, sca­doxus, cro­cos­mia and cyr­tan­thus. Ex­otic bulbs in­clude tiger lilies ( Ti­gridia pavo­nia), chli­dan­thus and li­a­tris.

Mulch the whole gar­den. Or­ganic mulches im­prove the soil and feed plants. Try mush­room com­post, dry lawn clip­pings, shred­ded bark or bark chips, nut shells and straw bales. A 30m³ bag of com­mer­i­cal com­post spread 5cm deep will cover about 2m². Mulch acid-lov­ing plants with old teabags, pine nee­dles, bark chips and oak leaves. Keep feed­ing spring bulbs un­til the leaves have with­ered. Use 3:1:5 or 2:3:4 or a high-potash food for healthy flow­ers next year. You can also use fresh wood ash. Scar­ify kikuyu and buf­falo lawns where run­ners have built up a thick thatch. Rake to loosen the dry grass, or mow on a low setting then again at a 90° an­gle.

Check if dor­mant sum­mer-flow­er­ing plants like achimenes, hip­peas­trums, tuber­ous be­go­nias and glox­inia are shoot­ing. If not, pro­vide more light and water. Re­move scale and mealy bug from ferns, palms and other in­door plants with a cot­ton bud dipped in di­luted methy­lated spir­its. Give win­ter-flow­er­ing in­door plants like cy­cla­men less water to en­cour­age dor­mancy, and re­pot sum­mer bloomers that aren’t per­form­ing. Fin­ish prun­ing hy­drangeas, mulch and start feed­ing. Ap­ply 2T of blue­ing agent, alu­minium sul­phate, fort­nightly. Pinch out the tips of fuch­sias. Prune roses in the sub­trop­ics. Cut back sum­mer and au­tumn-flow­er­ing salvia by two thirds in warm ar­eas. Check that ties on staked plants aren’t stran­gling their stems.

Deal with weeds as soon as they ap­pear. Re­move from lawns by hand or spot treat with a suit­able herbicide and smother those in beds and bor­ders with thick mulch. For or­ganic weed re­moval on drive­ways and paths, pour over boil­ing water or vine­gar or sprin­kle with salt.

Re­vi­talise the soil around roses in mid to late Au­gust. Lightly fork in the old mulch, add a sprin­kle of bone­meal, com­post, old ma­nure and a few hand­fuls of Ep­som salts (mag­ne­sium sul­phate). Water and ap­ply 5–10cm mulch: pine bark, peach pips, peanut husks or straw. Give each plant about 30g of a fer­tiliser like Vig­orosa 5:1:5 or Tal­borne Vita-Green 5:1:5.

Boost aza­leas, rhodo­den­drons and camel­lias by wa­ter­ing in a light ap­pli­ca­tion of high-nitro­gen fer­tiliser. Ap­ply iron chelate to acid-lov­ing plants like yes­ter­day-to­day-and-to­mor­row, gar­de­nias and cit­rus trees with yel­low­ing leaves; follow up a few weeks later with Ep­som salts.

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