The festive season has come screeching around the corner once again – and it’s time to gear up for the holidays. At the same time, it’s never been more important to save water. With large parts of our country facing severe water restrictions due to lack of rain, it’s vital for us all to do what we can to save this precious resource. If you’re not sure how to play your part, we’ve got a wealth of handy online tips to help you. Otherwise, pop in to your closest garden centre to find out more.
SPOTLIGHT ON: POINSETTIAS
What’s a Christmas table without the festive cheer of a poinsettia? Follow these tips when caring for yours:
- When choosing your poinsettia, make sure you pick out a young, healthy plant. The foliage should be full, attractive and balanced-looking, with a dark green colour.
- Avoid plants with bracts, or leaves that are green around the edges; this means it was shipped before maturity. Your plant should be at least two times taller than its container.
- Dip your finger into the soil. If it’s wet and the plant appears wilted, it could have root rot.
Location, location, location
- Put your poinsettia somewhere that receives indirect light –perhaps behind a screen or curtain near the window. Bright sunlight should be avoided, but the plant should receive six hours of indirect light daily.
- Try to keep your festive friend at a daytime temperature of 16 to 21 degrees Celsius and about 13 degrees at night (transfer it to a cool room if necessary). Don’t forget it in your garage, near a heating vent, near a cool window, or on top of the television. Extreme temperatures can damage the plant and lead to loss of leaves.
If you take proper care of your poinsettia, it will last well beyond Christmas and into the new year (and might even bloom another season!)
ON YOUR TO-DO LIST FOR DECEMBER
Plant and sow:
If you’re at home for the festive season:
- Plant heat-tolerant bedding plants like amaranthus, gomphrena, verbena, zinnia, vinca, marigolds, gazanias and dianthus.
- Plant sun-loving herbs like rosemary, origanum, sage, thyme and fennel.
- Sow these vegetables: beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, celery, cucumber and celery.
- Feed your entire garden with a general fertiliser like 2:3:2, or an organic all-purpose fertiliser and water deeply (unless you have a borehole, do this with a watering can in the mornings and evenings).
- Check the mulch around your roses and re-apply if necessary. Nourish them with 8:1:5 or 5:1:5.
- Feed cannas, day lilies, hibiscus and dahlias with 3:1:5.
- Feed hydrangeas with Nitrosol or Multifeed once every two weeks. If the leaves start to turn yellow, treat plants with iron chelate or Epsom salts.
- Sustain indoor and outdoor container plants with a liquid fertiliser like Multifeed or Seagro.
- If you have a borehole, feed your lawn with a handful of 4:1:1 or LAN per square metre and water it well in the early morning.
Prune and Trim:
- Deadhead annuals and perennials like lavender, daisy bushes, geraniums, candytuft, catmint, veronica and phlox. This will direct the plant’s resources away from seed production and allow vegetative growth, which improves the plant’s appearance.
- Cut back wisteria to encourage productive flowering next year.
- Clip your hedges neatly, making sure that the base is slightly broader than the top, so that sunlight can reach all parts of the plant.
Tackle those weeds:
- Pull up any weeds before they go to seed and cause more problems for next year. Weeds steal valuable water and nutrients from your plants.
- Spray driveways and paving with a non-selective weed killer like Clear Pave or, for an economical, organic solution, try pouring boiling water on the weeds on a hot day.
OTHER FRESH IDEAS
If you’re going away this December, keep this nifty garden checklist in mind before you leave:
- Weed your flowerbeds and mulch the soil well.
- Deadhead flowering shrubs so you’ve got more chance of a beautiful flush of florals on your return.
- Group potted plants together in shady areas to prevent them from drying out too quickly.
- Add water retention granules to the soil of your indoor and outdoor potted plants.
- Store all your garden tools and outdoor furniture in a secure spot.
- Postpone sowing seeds or planting new seedlings until you’re back and rearing to start the new year.
If your potted houseplants dry out too quickly after watering, try this simple trick: When repotting, tuck a damp sponge into the bottom of the pot before filling with soil. It will act as a water reservoir and mean you’ll need to water less often!
Herb of the month: Lavender
This month we’re loving lavender. Why? The oil in its leaves reduces loss of water through transpiration (a water-wise beauty!) and when temperatures are high, it gives off a wonderful aromatic scent.
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