Durban - The December holidays are not far away and you need to start thinking of what to do before you go away for a few weeks. It is hard to believe it has been a year since I advised you what to do with your garden over this period because all the hard work you have put into your garden throughout the year can be ruined in a few short weeks. 
Either get in a garden service to assist or find a house sitter or family member to look after your garden while you enjoy a few sun downers on the beach in Mauritius. I think we are going to have a wet summer, which is good for us gardeners, but with rain and heat comes lots of growth and weeds.
  • Start cutting your lawns every week as the rains have started and the summer season is just around the corner. Every week try to lift the mower a little higher. This allows the lawns to grow full and healthy and reduces the growth of weeds. It is time to start feeding and either apply a natural fertiliser or an inorganic fertiliser such as 3.2.1. Lawns respond to food as they take a lot of strain during summer with it being cut every week.
  • Stick to local: plant indigenous water-wise plants such as aloes and shrub groundcovers that require less water to flower and survive. Example are Plumbago auriculata, Crassula ovata, Crassula multicarva, Aristida junciformis, Anthericum saundersiae, Agapanthus praecox, Becium obovatum, Tecoma capensis, Asystasia gangetica, Dietes grandiflora, Aloe species, Carissa macrocarpa, Carissa green carpet, Eucomis autumnalis, Bauhinia galpinii and Setaria megaphylla. Continue to mulch your flower beds as this reduces water loss from the soil and protects the delicate roots from drying out. I recently landscaped a garden in the Drakensberg and we applied thick mulch over the newly planted areas. This will keep the newly exposed areas covered, reducing the water loss and weed growth. It also keeps the soil from eroding, especially after the heavy rains we experienced this past week.
  • Enjoy the summer flowering shrubs and groundcovers which provide flowers over the next few months. Examples being  Hydrageas, Agapanthus, Tulbagias, Plumbago auriculata, Plectranthus zuluensis, Aloe tenuior, Cyrtanthus obliquus, Bauhinia galpinii, Crinum bulbispermum
  • Watch for insects and fungal problems because of the humid weather, especially scale insects, aphids and mealybugs. Make sure you identify what is a pest and what is a caterpillar that will turn into a beautiful butterfly. The last thing you want to do is kill those caterpillars that feed on plants you have put in your garden to attract butterflies. Try to plant flower plants that attract butterflies during summer such as scabiosa, Plectranthus and Bulbines. 
  • It is the ideal time to repot indoor and outdoor pots. Remove the plant from the pot and remove most of the old soil from around the roots. Wash off excess soil with water and then, using fresh potting medium, replant the plants in the existing pot. Reduce the size of the plant by pruning some of the leaves and side branches to prevent the plant from wilting. Sprinkle some blue chips on the top of the soil. This is a high nitrogen fertiliser that will boost the growth of the plants
  • Summer is Agapanthus season so you will see Durban filled with all different sizes and colours of this spectacular groundcover. It is rewarding, requires little attention and will flower every year for you. Happy gardening
  • This article is sponsored by Chris Dalzell Landscapes, specialising in landscaping, consultation and botanical expeditions. If you have any questions please e-mail me at [email protected]
The Independent on Saturday