Durban - We’re in for an extra hot and dry summer. The new climate cycle, El Niño, is predicted to last until the end of the season with record-breaking temperatures expected for the next five years.
Jump aboard the eco-train with Life is a Garden to ensure you are practising sustainable gardening by hydrozoning your plants, collecting rainwater, planting indigenous and supporting our wildlife.
There are five native Begonia species to add to your indoor collection this month.
We love the maple leaf begonia (Begonia dregei), a drought-hardy, deciduous perennial with glossy, semi-succulent leaves. Plant them in a large container as a bushy focal point stunner and enjoy their masses of white flowers throughout summer. Begonias can also be grown in semi-shade or full-shade areas in the garden where little else will grow.
The maple leaf begonia is an excellent bonsai candidate, so be sure to experiment and play. Transplant the begonia into a bonsai-specific pot with bonsai soil mix, which you can buy at your garden centre. Be sure to read up about bonsai root training to help you achieve a stylish mini “tree”.
The South African Nursery Association (Sana) has launched its new Water Warrior initiative to help all gardeners not only survive but thrive during the dry times ahead. Here’s how to get on board this eco-October.
Begin with rainwater harvesting and storing. We don’t know how much rain we will get and with water-shedding predicted, best we organise a private water source for the garden. Start collecting empty plastic bottles and containers. Place all the buckets, bottles and large containers you have in the rain and use this water to fill the collected plastic bottles. Seal the bottles and store them in the shade.
As a low-cost solution, buy 20l (or bigger) barrels to collect water from roof gutters. A lot of water can be harvested from gutter run-offs during a nice downpour. If you have a bigger budget, invest in a rainwater tank that you can connect directly to your gutter and/or irrigation system. There are a few reputable brands on the market to choose from.
Edibles are everything
On the sowing side, grab a seed packet of cucumber and spinach to get your summer detox on the way. Add to a healthy lifestyle by growing lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and cabbage.
If you’d like homegrown watermelon at Christmas, sow seeds now for a harvest in about 80 days from sowing. Other juicy fruits ready for the ground include melons: check with your garden centre for a variety best suited to your region.
Plant bush beans, carrots, brinjals, parsnips, pumpkin, squash and potatoes.
Top tip: Practise sustainable watering in the veggie garden by applying a thick layer of mulch around plants to help the roots retain moisture and prevent the soil from baking in the harsh sun.
Try this nifty bottle watering hack: fill an empty 2l bottle with water and then flip it mouth down into the soil. Dig a few centimetres down so the bottle won’t tip over and the water can reach the roots. This is a smart and simple way of saving water while keeping seedlings moist.
Your October to-do list
Hydrozoning is a smart landscaping technique where plants with the same water requirements are grouped and planted together. This prevents water waste as low-hydrozone plants (need little water) can survive longer periods than high-hydrozone plants. If your beds and mixed containers are correctly hydrozoned, you save water and time (less watering needed), as well as money on hefty watering bills.
Now is the time to evaluate your plants and rearrange the garden for optimal hydrozoning. Plant these summer blooming, low-hydro indigenous plants in the same bed for summer rain regions: brakvygie (Aptenia cordifolia), blue sceptre (Aristea major), pride-of-de-kaap (Bauhinia galpinii), and Natal bauhinia (Bauhinia natalensis).
Also on the to-do list is habitat creation for wildlife along with a feeding and drinking/bathing area. Plastic bottles can easily be upcycled into cute seed feeders and the drip trays of large pots work well as bird baths.
Welcome a host of birds and beneficial insects by planting these: Cape honeysuckle, plumbago, vygies, agapanthus, borage, wild olive trees, and all the herbs. Bees and butterflies particularly love it when we allow the herbs to come to flower.
October is rose month across the country and plants should be producing their first flush of perfect blooms while the sun is still not too scorching – allowing the blooms to last longer. Spring is the ideal time to select and plant new rose bushes in your garden. These are some of our favourites: Zulu royal, King David, Princess Charlene de Monaco, and the Hannon rose.
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The Independent on Saturday