Hone green fingers this holiday season with these garden tips

Elizabeth Macey of Craighall, chairlady of the Randburg Horticultural Society with guest speaker Shirley Wallington.
Elizabeth Macey of Craighall, chairlady of the Randburg Horticultural Society with guest speaker Shirley Wallington.

Addressing members of the Randburg Horticultural Society during their festive end-of-year meeting, Wallington stressed the top three needs of any garden are water, good soil and maintenance.

“Irrigation systems may spoil the therapeutic effects of watering by hand, but it’s money well spent when it comes to managing water. Water at night at about 8pm. Cut watering back to every third day but water for longer to encourage deep root growth,” said Wallington. She also advised the capacity gathering not to leave any soil visible.

“Mulch, mulch, mulch with anything you can find. Pine needles for acid-loving plants, shredded newspaper, leaves, well-soaked cardboard, lawn clippings – anything you can think of. That crucial top six inches of soil must be kept moist so bacteria can grow and not be cooked to death,” she stressed.

In fact, plants themselves have already warned the observant of a dry season ahead. “Along William Nicol Drive, the sieberianas have produced a fortune of flowers and seeds to keep the species going. Jacarandas have had a brilliant season with no rain and hail to shred the proliferation of blossoms. And did you know there are 49 species of Jacaranda and Joburg now has more than Pretoria where they were introduced in 1888?” added Wallington.

Here are some tips for avid northern suburbs gardeners who, over the years, have created the biggest man-made forest in the world:

  • Do not to buy plants on impulse
  • Do not shop for plants with your spouse – he will want a thorn tree, she a rose! Rather create His and Hers gardens
  • Go to the nursery with a notebook and no credit card. Note down the plants you like for different situations. Go home, plan and then buy only what you really need
  • To get rid of weeds in your driveway mix vinegar with boiling water and pour it over them
  • You can grow tomatoes from cuttings
  • You don’t need to buy hormone powders to dip cuttings into, ordinary turmeric works very well – also cinnamon and honey
  • Rose cuttings grow brilliantly in potatoes
  • Chillies, onions and garlic, cooked, blended and strained into a bottle is a good formula to get rid of a variety of pests
  • Borax for ants works. For ants around the house cut three raw onions into a gallon of water and leave in the sun for three days. Strain and pour the liquid around the walls of the house. Ants also don’t like talcum powder
  • Mangoes and avocados grow well in pots. Nip and prune like bonsai. Feed and water well – always from the drier outside rim inwards
  • Get rid of slugs with ½ ammonia to 10 parts of water. Water the ground around and on bottom leaves
  • Snails and slugs don’t like broken up eggshells and coffee grounds. Snails love beer so a tilted yoghurt cup, filled and set into the ground invites them to a happy death by drowning
  • Never leave snail shells lying around. Bin them, as thousands of eggs are stored inside them
  • Neat meths zaps a lot of stuff but don’t spray on ferns or delicate plants.

“Remember boere recipes are natural so you have to repeat treatments regularly,” said Wallington.

“It’s also important to teach your children to plant seeds and enjoy gardening. When young, my sons didn’t want to know about gardening. Something got through, though. In adulthood, one has created a tropical garden paradise, the other, a garden in England as beautiful as only English gardens can be,” said Wallington.

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