Prep your garden for the holidays

Get ready for summer holidays in your garden by planting ahead of the break.

Get ready for summer holidays in your garden by planting ahead of the break.

Published Nov 5, 2023


It’s almost time to kick back and relax, show off your gardening skills and enjoy some downtime with your loved ones. Begin your pool party preparations and get some stunning colour into those beds and pots.

The yellow calibrachoa variety is an idead for the trailing spiller in the thriller, filler and spiller (TFS) pot planting model.

What’s potting?

Turn your patio into a welcoming colour-popping experience by using the thriller, filler and spiller (TFS) planting model to design your next mixed flower container. Choose a taller, upright focal point plant as your thriller, a lower, mounded plant as the filler around it, and then something to trail over the edge as your splendid spiller.

The thriller ‒ the Arabian night dahlia.

Grow your own reminder of the sweeter things in life by designing a strawberries and cream themed pot that showcases a delicious variety of deep reds and indulgent cream hues. Using the trusty TFS planting model, here’s how to create your desert pot: Choose dahlia “Arabian night” and/ or “karma choc” as a deep burgundy thriller, followed by low-growing petunia “easy wave red” as the filler, and lastly, a yellow-white calibrachoa variety as the trailing spiller. This trio will flourish in full sun to semi-shade.

Dreamy fuchsias produce fairy-like flowers for a picture-perfect pot plant.

Also in the spotlight this month are dreamy fuchsias that produce fairy-like flowers for a picture-perfect pot plant. They grow as a compact, deciduous shrub with ovate, toothed, dark green leaves. You can expect a sensational flower show throughout summer with blooms varying in shades of red, pink, white, and purple, with many new bi-colour hybrids on the market. They thrive in full shade with good natural light and moist, fertile soil.

The sabal palm (Sabal palmetto) is an elegant statement maker reaching heights of 15 metres.

Pool parties

When you’re a gardener, pool parties are all about the plants. Transform your backyard into a palm beach or tropical paradise with these theme-generating plants and accessories.

For a palm beach theme, plant these: sabal palm (Sabal palmetto) for an elegant statement maker reaching heights of 15 metres. They like full sun, loamy/sandy soil, and can handle both drought and coastal conditions. They boast long trunks and full canopies of beach-vibe fun.

Sago palm (Cycas spp.) has the benefit of flourishing in shade or semisun. They need well-drained soil in containers and beds with a good fertiliser to get them going. These palms have short trunks and are well-suited for smaller gardens. Incorporate old surfboard decor and a flip-flop rack for added charm.

Bright options for around the pool area: yellow and red cannas.

For a tropical look, bring in added theme enhancers such as hammocks, suspended chairs, macramé hangers, and bright floral furniture covers and pillowcases to go with these jungle contenders: bird of paradise, hibiscus, canna, passionflower vine, philodendron, and banana trees. Remember to check the growing instructions for each plant and follow our top pool tips.

The beautiful strelitzia, bird of paradise.

The last thing you want is to be stressed out by maintenance or constantly needing to replace pool filters because of rotting leaves. Therefore don’t plant annuals that shed during autumn, littering the pool and surrounding area. Instead, plant evergreens that are always jolly and low maintenance.

The stunning and intricate passionflower vine.

Avoid growing soft fruit trees like plums and apricots that’ll drop and rot around the space and rather go for hard-shelled, non-shedding edible trees such as lemons or lychee.

Non-shedding edible trees such as lychee or lemons will not scatter rotting fruit on the ground or in your pool.

Don’t plant flowers too close to the pool as petals can become a nuisance. Instead, choose evergreen ferns and ornamental grasses that don’t shed. Avoid trees with large invasive root systems that may damage pool infrastructure and rather plant trees in containers to ensure your paving and pool is safe.

Paw paw trees grow easily and fruit when a male and female plant are within a 3m proximity.

Fruit trees

Papaya trees grow so easily from seeds in the compost heap. They will produce fruit when there is a male and female tree planted within a 3-metre proximity. The male (or even a hermaphrodite) can cross-pollinate the female. For best results, grow at least three trees together in full sun with nutrient-rich soil and good protection from frost.

Avocado trees are worth a little patience

Avocado trees are definitely worth a little patience. Each tree is either type A or type B and needs to be pollinated from trees of the opposite type. Type A varieties are Hass, Pinkerton, and Gwen. Type B varieties include Fuerte, Bacon, and Zutano. Plant your trees six to nine metres apart with plenty of sunshine and well-draining, rich soil.

Marigolds are top attractions for pollinators.

Did you know? Cross-pollination is when pollen from one plant is transferred to another with the help of insects (like bees, butterflies, and wasps). Certain plants depend on this process to produce their harvest.

To attract more pollinators, plant lavender varieties, marigolds, and an assortment of seasonal herbs around your fruit tree beds. Allow your herbs to come to flower for max honeybee power. Remember that chemical pesticides on fruit trees will cause a negative chain reaction to your garden’s ecosystem. Ask your garden centre guide for pollinator-friendly pesticide solutions and also when to apply the spray, which is equally important.


On your seed sowing list for November are all pumpkin varieties, as well as tasty French beans, climbing beans, mealies, sweetcorn, and cucumbers. Control weed growth and harvest any ripe vegetables that may get damaged by the constant wet weather. Watch for powdery mildew on the pumpkin family and put out bait for pumpkin fly.

Seedling trays of young edibles already established include sweet peppers, chillies, and cooking herbs such as sweet basil, coriander, and parsley. You can purchase seed packets and seedlings for your favourite garden centre. Keep leafy veggies like salad and spinach healthy with frequent feeding and watering to strengthen them against pests. Use lots of companion plants such as rosemary and chives in the veggie garden as they can help to repel pests.

Edibles like chillies are colourful when fruiting and easy to grow.

Your November to-do list

There’s much to prep before family and friends come over. If your lawn isn’t dark green by now, fertilise, water, and mow regularly.

Speaking of water, rainy days may be causing problems in the garden, so focus on improving drainage and check for boggy areas and standing water. You might have to add drainage pipes or extra holes to containers, as well as more rough organic material and river sand to beds.

There are many flower seedlings that can be planted now for a spectacular summer and autumn display, while also ensuring that the garden is in full bloom during the festive season. Perennials to plant include gauras, agapanthus, vincas, marigolds, dianthus, and salvias. For colour in the shade try impatiens, begonias, and browallia.

If your gravel garden looks a bit worse for wear, top up the gravel with a fresh load of stone after you have weeded the area first. Use different grades of stone, as well as smooth pebbles to create interesting floor patterns with different textures and in different designs, such as spirals.

Keep deadheading and feeding your roses to encourage new growth for the next flush in January.

Cut back perennials like rudbeckia, helenium, echinacea, phlox, and daisies to stop them from growing too tall and leggy, encouraging them to produce more flowers instead.

Birds will enjoy a little splash in a shallow birdbath during the heat of the day. It is also a source of drinking water for them. Keep it clean and filled up with fresh water, as well as some seeds in a feeder for our feathered friends nearby.

Provide shelter for beneficial insects and flying mammals by installing a bug, bee, butterfly, and bat hotel.

You can visit www.lifeisagarden. for a selection of DIY articles to keep the kids engaged and creative this holiday. Our wildlife activities are lots of fun and specially tailored for SA. Don’t discard your broken clay pots – if turned upside down and placed among your plants, it might just become home to a friendly frog or two.

Beware the lily borer, a black caterpillar with yellow bands, which bores into the hearts of clivias, agapanthus, and arum lilies. Signs of activity are decaying leaves and dying plants. Treat early or preventively with a registered insecticide containing cypermethrin.

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