It may be chilly outside, but your garden will enjoy attention as much as your body would enjoy a bit of fresh air. This month, there is still plentyto do.
The Western Cape is well known for its fabulous fynbos and July is an excellent time of year to add some indigenous gems to your garden. Fynbos is happiest if planted in well-draining soil and in full sun. They eventually become drought tolerant, only requiring water once a week, but water them twice a week while they are establishing themselves, if rainfall is not forthcoming.
Another consistent theme for July (countrywide), is pruning. In the Western Cape prune roses, autumn-flowering shrubs and deciduous fruit trees like peaches and nectarines. Remember to snip off the long, scraggly side branches of granadillas (apricots, plums, apples and pears need little winter pruning). Pruning is one of the most rewarding tasks in the garden. You get a neat form, you get rid of dried wood and infective leaves – you feel the garden getting under control. Cut or saw all dead or sick branches until only the healthy growth remain. When two branches cross, remove the weaker or the one that will open the plant. If necessary to encourage new growth – remove dense inner growth to improve light and space. Remove weak branches completely and cut the plant in an aesthetic form. Continue to add leaves and shredded cuttings from pruning to your compost heap or bins.
Check citrus trees for scale. Add a layer of mulch, but do not let it touch their trunks. Feed citrus trees after harvesting with 5:1:5 and a good sprinkle of Epsom salts. Spray deficient leaves with trace elements. Mulch should be added to the base of all plants that are susceptible to the cold to protect the roots. Spray deciduous fruit trees on a windless day with a mixture of lime sulphur and water, at a rate of 1:10. Repeat a fortnight later.
Take hardwood cuttings (like hibiscus, honeysuckle, roses and honeysuckle). Trim the base of each cutting straight just below a node, and snip the top at an angle above a node to remind you which end is which.
During July flowers also need to be deadheaded, so remove the faded flowers and flower heads from all of your bedding plants. By getting rid of it deadheads you will encourage the plants to produce more blooms and extend the season of colour. You can also feed your bedding plants – annuals and bulbs – with a fertiliser to help the plant make new flowers. The ash from wood fires (not briquettes or anthracite), makes a good fertiliser, as it is rich in potash.
Transplanting is another common theme during July as many plants are dormant and can be moved without worrying about disturbing them, thus time to repot old and tired plants. Move any plants that have grown too big or are not in the right position, trim them back before lifting, keeping as much soil as possible on the roots. Position so they are facing the same direction. Water in and anchor with stakes or by placing heavy stones or bricks around the base.
If your lawn is looking a little sorry for itself then you need to take action. This is your last chance to feed your lawn with special lawn fertiliser – it will encourage a healthy green lawn for the rest of summer.
Lastly, check the ties on plants and release any that are too tight and strangling it.
If you are looking for a change of scenery or just to update the overall look and feel of your garden, this is an ideal time. Effortlessly add colour to your patio by dropping colour pots of mature bedding plants and flowering bulbs, sold in individual containers, into a single large container. Make up your own colour combinations. Alternatively, grow cabbages in garden beds or pots – their form, colour and shape will add interest to the winter garden. You can also bring in colour with aloes, coral trees or bottlebrush (Greyia sutherlandii).
Enjoy your winter garden that gives hope for new things to come – calmness and peace that resembles an untroubled earth – happy and content.