Winter is coming, here’s how to prepare your garden
I was driving through the tree-lined streets of Parktown North, clearly showing off that autumn has arrived. What a beautiful spectacle it is with all the different autumn colours.
Coincidentally it seemed to be the day for garden staff cleaning the properties getting the gardens ready for the weekend festivities. I noticed that many of the homes bag the leaves and take them off to the municipal refuse dumping sites. It got me thinking how barren and nutrient deficient the soils many gardens must be.
Unless you are composting your garden frequently, and I mean at least twice a year, you are probably wondering why your garden and plants are doing so poorly. Keeping those leaves now, oh my, what a difference it will make!
Expert tip: Use all the leaves that fall as mulch to cover any open soil within your garden beds. I realise some people don’t like the sight of leaves in the beds as they say it looks untidy, but the benefits of leaves acting as a mulch will soon become evident to you on so many levels.
Firstly, the leaves break down and create their own compost, with that the microorganisms help the breakdown process. A healthy soil has earth worms, tiny mites, wood lice, millipedes, grubs, ants and beetles. A poor environment will be over-populated by one species eg: Ants, which is never good for your garden.
Top tip: Understand that ants generally love drier conditions, as they can make more tunnels when the ground is dry. When people ask what to do about ants, the most common factor is lack of water.
Secondly the mulch acts as a layer above the soil which helps keep the moisture in after it has rained or been irrigated. An open soil dries out much faster, and if you dig in it you’ll usually only find earth worms about a ruler’s depth below ground. If you are planning on planting winter and spring flowering bedding plants they are not going to survive as the top layers are not nutrient rich.
If you really don’t like the sight of leaves, I would recommend that you buy a compost or bark chips from your local nursery as this will also act as a mulch for those winter months.
Remember: With all the autumn leaves falling, you generally focus on what you can see on the ground, I would recommend cleaning out your gutters at least once every two weeks. We recently had a very late rainfall and I hadn’t done my gutters. All the down pipes were clogged and water was spewing over the edges.
A build-up of leaves in your gutters can cause real problems, if unchecked the leaves and other organic matter will begin to decompose and if you have galvanised gutters you will soon have rusty gutters that leak.
Now for the exciting stuff, what to plant for spectacular winter and spring flowering colours. Mass plant these annuals to achieve a gorgeous year-round garden.
My favourite annuals are: Alyssum (Heuningblom), Chrysanthemum, Cineraria maritima (Dusty Miller), Delphinium (Queen of the border),Dianthus, Foxgloves, Kale, Mesembryanthemum (Bokbaai Vygie), Pansies, Petunia’s, Poppies and Fairy Primula.
What you should also be doing now is planning your garden for the summer months, do all the hard landscaping aspects of the garden makeover such as paving, decking, building swimming pools and ponds, thus focusing on the planting in spring and summer. Try to get your irrigation installations and repairs done in winter too; nothing worse than digging trenches through a beautifully manicured lawn and a seedling filled flowerbed in summer.
As the seasons change and it gets colder, remember to change your irrigation watering times, buy some frost guard now for those tender plants before it is too late and plant your winter harvest veggies; most nurseries will stock the winter veggies.
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Who is Nicholas Spargo?
Nicholas Spargo, owner of Spargo Landscape Consultants, has been in the landscape trade for 12 years as well as being a lecturer at the Lifestyle Garden Design Centre for the past year. He was awarded a Gold for a design at the Lifestyle Garden Design Centre Design Show in 2008, is an Invasive Species Consultant and is affiliated with the South African Green Industries Council.
Landscaping and education are very close to his hear