Getting Back to Basics in the Garden

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Well laid out, thoughtfully planned gardens provide enjoyment all year round and if planted correctly, will provide dazzling flowers and lush foliage which will put any firework display to shame. Here are a few tips from Damon Johnson from Terra Firma Landscapes to help you to get started - or to help you spruce up a wilted garden.

"Placing sun-loving plants in full sun conditions, semi-sun plants in early morning and late afternoon sun spaces and full shade hibernators in dark areas with sufficient light (no direct sun), will give a plant the optimum survival rate from the outset." Although this advice may seem a little basic, planting in the wrong place is one of the most common mistakes that gardeners make.

He says that knowing what to plant in what type of soil is slightly more complicated. However, one of the simplest ways of ascertaining what type of soil you have can be achieved by planting a Hydrangea. This plant, which flourishes in both alkaline and acid soil, will produce pink flowers in an alkaline soil, while a blue flower will indicate an acid soil.

"Soil can be manipulated to accommodate the various plants’ requirements but it is always preferable to have the plant in the right soil to begin with. In other words, acid loving species in acid soils and alkaline lovers in alkaline soils. If this is not done the plant will always struggle to thrive. It won't necessarily kill the plant but it will hinder it from growing at its optimum rate or reaching its full potential."

green

Add some curb appeal to your garden this summer.

It is always good to fertilise the plant at the start and during its peak growing period, when it requires extra nutrients for flowers and new leaf growth. The need to fertilise becomes more urgent when the plant has been in the same place for a couple of years, as the continuous absorption of nutrients drains the soil of the required elements. The fertiliser used will depend on the species of plant needing feeding and the type of product one will need. Check with your local nursery for advice on what to buy and how to apply the product. Fertilising will boost root, leaf and flower growth which will, in turn, provide more food or nutrients to the plant naturally - or with a bit of human intervention. The better the root system, the more nutrients for the leaves of the plant to convert into food. An abundance of healthy leaves will supply adequate food to sustain the plant, which will then provide exceptional and regular flower growth.

Mulching is a great way of ensuring that as much water as possible is retained in the soil and will, to a certain degree, help to keep weeds away. "I always recommend a good layer of compost mulch to my clients as the black finish from the compost makes all the plant's foliage colours really stand out and at the same time, acts as a form of slow release fertiliser, says Johnson".

As the compost breaks down it feeds the beds and plants over the period of time that it takes for the compost to degrade. Quick release fertilisers can also be given at the same time for a fast, almost instant, boost to plants and soils.

Now is also the ideal time to spruce up and fertilise plants in containers or pots. Adding a top dressing will improve the water retention and also lessen evaporation of nutrients from the soil. Because the space is limited, it is recommended that the plants in these types of containers receive more regular feeding and watering.

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