April in the garden
The air has started to cool around the country as we step into the beginning of autumn and if April is known for nothing else, it will always be, or should always be known as bulb planting time. If you haven’t popped into your local accredited garden centre yet to pick out your favourites, there is no time to waste, and while you’re there you should pick up a couple of other essentials too.
If you’re wondering if it’s cold enough to plant your bulbs yet, there’s a funny story that goes “If you can sit comfortably on your bare bottom on the ground where you plan to plant your bulbs, then the soil is still not cold enough and you should wait”. Don’t forget to scan for wandering neighbour’s eyes if you decide to give it a try!
April is a wonderful time for gardening around the country with the temperatures outside being neither too cold nor too hot so not only is it easy on us, climate wise, whether you’re establishing new plants or transplanting old ones, your plants will also be grateful for the temperate conditions and should settle in quickly. The leaves should be starting their annual migration to the floor giving our garden plenty of time to prepare for the coming winter months. It’s a beautiful design really.
The shedding of leaves is nature’s way of depositing a blanket over the soil to keep the ground level plants protected from the cold. So instead of throwing away the extra leaves you find yourself with from the driveway or other areas that you’ve tidied up, cover those areas that didn’t have the benefit of an overhanging tree. Any surplus should go straight to the compost heap! If you don’t have one, start one this autumn, you won’t regret it.
It’s never too late to plant fruit trees in the Eastern Cape. Whether you have a small or large property, your local accredited garden centre will have something suitable. Tree tomatoes, which bear an abundance of fruit, and self-fertile paw paws can both manage in small gardens. The coastal climate is quite mild and you can still expect another show of blooms from your roses so remember to deadhead the spent flowers.
It’s important to keep fungal diseases at bay, as they can be fatal, so don’t stop watering or spraying your roses just yet. Keep an eye out for amaryllis worm and lawn caterpillar which are very active this time of year.
With an area so prone to extremes, April is such a welcome break and simply the best time of year in the Free State with the majority of days being wind free and neither too cold nor to warm. With the sandy soil and dry climate experienced in this region, composting is essential, so as the leaves start to fall this autumn remember that it is never too early to round up the kids and get out there to start collecting them for your compost heap.
Frost is guaranteed in the Free State so remember to change your watering cycles to water later in the mornings as you get closer to the end of April and pick up some frost protection from your local accredited garden centre before it’s too late!
Lifting and dividing, sowing and planting and cleaning and feeding are just a few of the things you could get busy with in your garden in Gauteng this April. Snails and slugs are particularly troublesome during April so keep an eye out for them and put down some beer traps to catch them or broken egg shells as a deterrent. If you’re lifting and dividing your perennials, water them well before lifting and pick a shady spot in the garden to divide them.
A neat trick when sowing seeds is to mix them with a little mieliemeal which helps them spread more easily and stops the birds from making off with your seeds. If you have cyclamen plants from last year then remember to start feeding them every second week as soon buds start appearing if you’d like to have them re-flower again next year.
Keep an eye on the rain gauge during April and if the rain starts easing up don’t forget to supplement with extra watering when necessary. Lawn growth will also start slowing down now so raise the height of your lawnmower blade to avoid cutting it too short before the winter months. Now is an excellent time to get weeds under control, as their growth slows down, if you’ve struggled through the summer. Get down to your local accredited garden centre and they’ll happily advise what will work best.
Growing lettuce in the heat in Kwa-Zulu Natal is a challenge as it always wants to bolt and set seed. Take advantage of the cooler weather coming up and plant out some fresh seedlings at regular intervals for a steady supply of greenery for your salads.
If you love Bokbaai vygies but haven’t quite got it together yet to sow your seed, now is your last chance, so get down to your local accredited garden centre to ensure a June/July colour spectacle. If your lawn took a beating during the hot months then don’t forget that autumn is also great for sowing lawn seed so don’t leave it too late or you’ll have to wait till September to put the spring back in your step.
April is feeding time for much of your garden but just remember not to use any fertilisers that are rich in nitrogen, especially in cold and frosty areas, as it stimulates new growth which will, in all likelihood, get badly damaged by the cold going into winter.