April is a great time to start getting your garden ready for the much-anticipated winter rains, particularly with the drought threatening to continue. Autumn is one of the best times to plant, as new arrivals have the cold winter months (and its rain) to settle in and develop root systems, so that they survive on less water during summer. Establish a garden with hardy, drought-resilient varieties so that they have a better chance of coping when the hot, dry months come around again. Get advice from a garden expert to help you to do this.
ON YOUR TO-DO LIST FOR APRIL
Plant and sow
- Plant drought-tolerant plants such as bougainvillea, wild iris (Dietes grandiflora) yellow wild iris (Dietes bicolor), spekboom (Portulacaria afra), plumbago, Tulbaghia, Duinekraaibessie (Searsia crenata), Margaret Roberts lavender, Pelargonium Geranium Maverick, Leucadendron, Natal plum (Carissa marcrocarpa) and rosemary.
- Sow winter veggies like broad beans, peas, potatoes, cauliflower, onions and turnips.
- Sow or plant winter- and spring-flowering seedlings like African daisies, sweet peas, Virginian stocks, cinerarias, snapdragons, lobelias, delphiniums, dianthus, nemesia, pansies, salvia, violas, scabiosa and Flanders poppies.
- Plant out strawberry runners and cover the soil beneath the plants with a layer of straw to prevent the plants from rotting.
- Feed azaleas, camellias and tea bushes with a handful of shake and grow. Mulch with compost before the rains.
- Feed container plants with Nitrosol to give them a winter boost.
- Feed sweet peas with 2:3:2 to encourage healthy growth and abundant flowers in the months ahead. Pinch out side-shoots to encourage upward growth.
- Feed citrus trees with a handful of magnesium sulphate. Inspect the leaves carefully for signs of citrus psylla or scale; if you see traces, cover the affected leaves with a generous dose of Margaret Roberts Organic Insect Spray.
Prune and divide
- Prune evergreen hedges, summer-flowering shrubs and overgrown climbers.
- Deadhead your roses to encourage a final autumn flush.
- Cut back dahlias to 20cm above soil level. Wait two weeks before lifting the bulbs and storing them in a cool, dry place. The bulbs can be replanted in August.
OTHER FRESH IDEAS
TOP TIP: Autumn leaves
Instead of fighting the autumn leaf fall, fallen leaves can be left on the grass or in garden beds to form a nutrient-rich mulch for the garden. In time, they’ll break down and become food for the soil again.
SPOTLIGHT ON: Spring-flowering bulbs
Hooray for bulbs! Some of the easiest yet most rewarding plants to grow. April is the right time to plant them so that you can enjoy their marvelous flowers in spring. Plant indigenous beauties such as tritonia, lachenalia, ixias, sparaxis, babianas, watsonias and chincherinchee, and follow these handy tips to get them off to a good start.
GROW YOUR OWN: Veggies from seed
Growing your own veggies has to be one of the most rewarding kinds of gardening – and now’s the time to get those winter soup veggies in the ground! Plant some drought-tolerant crops such as beans, brinjal, squash and potatoes.
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