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PLANNING A GARDEN
Louise Kelly, owner of Green with Envy plant nursery and landscapers, Vause Road, Durban.
* Draw plans until you get the perfect design. Design a garden that suits your lifestyle. Wild or formal? Tropical or herbaceous borders? Consider the area you live in. Is it coastal, dry, windy or shady?
* When planning a new garden or doing a make-over, always start with the hard landscaping. We love to buy plants and rush to get to the planting stage, but it all starts with the architectural lines – pathways, edges, water features, decking – then planting.
* Compost is vital. Not putting compost into the beds is equivalent to building a house with no foundations. It is a time-consuming, boring job and you can never put in too much compost. Compost aerates the soil, retains water and brings in the vital micro-organisms that live there.
* Install irrigation – it can save water if correctly used.
* Planting new plants in winter maximises spring growth. Newly planted shrubs will settle during winter and flourish when spring comes – Durban spring starts towards the end of July.
* Always plant a perfumed shrub. Perfume is the elusive sense in the garden. Murray, Heliotrope and Jasmine Gardenia are some.
* Plant plants with similar needs together to be water wise.
* Vegetables are no longer relegated to the back garden, but are now in courtyards and flowerbeds. Use parsley as under planting in a bed and strawberry plants as a ground cover with a potted lemon.
Wojtek Olejniczak, co-owner of Plant and Flowers Nursery and Garden Centre, Hillcrest.
* Prepare beds before you start planting. Add lots of compost and dig out all weeds.
* When planting, add superphosphate or bonemeal to the hole to encourage good root development.
* Feed your plants regularly – especially pot plants – with good plant food.
* Deadhead flowers on plants to encourage more flowers.
* Buy your plants from a reputable garden centre and ask their advice as to where to plant the plants you have chosen. Most unsuccessful gardeners place plants in conditions not suited to them, like planting a sun-loving plant in deep shade.
Andrew Donkin, owner of Home Organic, Durban.
* Choose a spot close to your kitchen so you can easily access it. At the bottom of the garden will end up “out of sight”.
* Keep it small, you can always make it bigger at a later stage.
* Raise it – this will eliminate the bending and sore knees. It will also keep it clean and tidy.
* Use contained veggie gardens. They will keep out pests, such as moles, and promote moisture retention.
* Install an irrigation system. This way you can water all at once.
* Use a good-quality growing medium, available from your local nursery. Or a 50:50 mix of potting soil and compost mix.
* Mix in a handful of slow-release organic fertiliser into the soil.
* When planting, sow more seeds than you need. Excess sprouts can be thinned out and used in salads and sandwiches. It really is easier just to sprinkle seeds out instead of measuring each spacing. Remember to thin the plants out, otherwise growth will be stunted.
* Seed germination takes from five to 20 days, depending on the seed type. Ensure they are kept moist at all times. As the plants grow and protect the soil from drying out, so the watering frequency can be reduced.
* Plants require regular feeding and watering.
See www.homeorganic.co.za or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
CARING FOR ORCHIDS
Hennie Steyn, of Inhle Orchids, Umhlali.
* Know the type of orchid you have as this will determine how you care for them. If you are not sure, ask an expert. There are about 35 000 discovered species (as well as hundreds of thousands of hybrids) classified into numerous genera and most of these differ in important ways.
* Winter caring is determined by the conditions the species experience in their natural habitat.
* Most species – and their hybrids – do not tolerate frost, so if you live in an area with frost, keep them out of it. Many also do not like cold winds.
* Others, however, including the popular Cymbidiums, Zygopetalums and Coelogynes, need a bit of cold to make them flower well. It is really the drop in temperature between day and night temperatures that they are after.
* Regarding watering, generally, you can maintain your plants a little drier than summer, but some such as the Dendrobium nobile types want to be kept completely dry in winter to bloom well. Others, such as the Catasetineae, will rot and die if they get watered in winter.
Vandaceous plants will still need daily (or at least weekly) watering.
Water after the morning cold has broken, but early enough so they can dry off before night fall.
* Feeding your plants can be reduced to half the summer feeding (of balanced food – no high nitrogen at this stage) but a foliar feeding of calcium nitrate is good for them.
(There is less sun around so the sun lovers might require you to put them in an area where they get a little more sun.)
* Wait until spring before you repot. Very few plants will grow out of their pots in winter.