To make a small garden appear larger, plant pale soft colours farthest from the house.

Garden guru Keith Kirsten was in Durban for the East Coast Radio House and Garden show. He had some great gardening advice for locals, which can also be found in his latest book Create a Garden, is published by Random House Struik.

Omeshnie Naidoo drew an extract:

RINSE THOSE LEAVES

If you are near the coast and your garden receives salt-laden spray from the sea, hose off the salt deposits on leaves before the sun gets to them in the mornings. This will prevent the salt drawing moisture out of the leaf and will also prevent salt burn on leaves.

USE GRAVEL FOR LOW MAINTENANCE

Use of gravel for pathways, driveways or in beds in level areas can cut down maintenance and reduce the number of weeds. Gravel also allows rainwater to seep into ground far more freely than hard surfaces such as brick paving.

USE BOILING WATER AS A WEED-KILLER

Instead of using commercial weed-killers on paved areas, try boiling salt water. Pour this on to the weeds and they will shrivel and die.

PLAY IT SAFE

Wash your hands in cold water with ordinary household soap after working with pesticides. While hot water might seem the better option, it will open the pores and could allow pesticide residues to penetrate the skin.

PRUNE HEDGING PLANTS HARD WHEN YOU FIRST PLANT THEM

This will encourage bottom branches to grow and ensure that you avoid gaps forming along the base of the hedge. Hard pruning and pinching out top shoots on a regular basis will encourage side branches to develop as close to the ground as possible.

LOOK OUT FOR SMALLER LEAVES

Check if the new leaves formed by an indoor plant are smaller than the previous ones. This is a sign that the plant is being starved of nutrients. By re-potting and regularly feeding the plant, the problem should disappear.

AERATE LAWNS

Spike and aerate lawns before the rainy season to make sure fertiliser and water penetrate deep into the soil and do not wash away during heavy downpours. Aeration of the lawn also allows extra oxygen to enter the soil for healthy root development.

REMOVE WEEDS AS SOON AS THEY APPEAR

Remember the first golden rule for all weeds: Wen it first appears, get it out. The second golden rule is: Reove any flowers before they can set seed. This immediately reduces the risk of the weed spreading. It is said that one year's seeding makes seven year's weeding.

LOOK AT THE LIGHT

The low angle of the sun at the start and end of the day highlights certain colours dramatically, so place plants in the garden where their colours will be best highlighted by changes in the intensity of the light. Early morning light has a reddish cast that accentuates warm-hued flowers and foliage. During late afternoon lavenders, blues, creams and whites appear to glow in the light of dusk. White flowering plants can lighten a deep shady corner.

GO EASY ON THE QUANTITY

A herb such as rosemary is not used in great quantities, so one or two plants will supply the average household. Basil, parsley, chives and others that might be needed in large quantities can then be given the extra space. Hard-wooded or perennial herbs such as rosemary or bay (Laurus) can be used as a central point in the herb garden.

DECEIVE THE EYE

To make a small garden appear larger, plant pale, soft colours farthest from the house or the main viewing area of the garden - the patio or front door, for example - and use hot, vivid colours in the foreground. To make a narrow garden look broader, plant bright flowering plants towards the back and the paler, softer colour towards the middle of the garden.

BEWARE THE BIG SPECIMENS

A large, well-established plant is not always the best buy, so don't necessarily buy the biggest affordable size. Some of these plants have been in their containers for many years, and it may take some years for the root system to adjust and spread in its new location. This means there may not be any foliage growth until this happens

TURN DOWN THE PRESSURE

Do not use a high-pressure spray with a fine nozzle on young plants, especially seedlings. The pressure of the water will bruise the leaves.

DO NOT SPOIL YOUR BOUGAINVILLEAS

Plant bougainvilleas in dry, sunny and warm sections of the garden to prevent them from running too rampant. Long, vigorous “water shoots” that do not flower (usually identifiable by their reddish or dark-hued stems and leaves) are a sure sign of too much water and fertiliser. Do not treat your bougainvillea too kindly when you first plant it - rather than the usual roomy hole filled with compost and fertiliser, just make a hole big enough to take the roots, place the plant in it and cover it with soil.

You can add a couple of handfuls of superphosphate and some compost to give it a head start, but then never again. Keep the plant especially dry during the autumn and winter months. The more it struggles, the better it will flower.

BE EXTRAVAGANT WITH CREEPERS

When trying to cover large areas of wall or fence, plant creepers far closer than the recommended distance. Creepers do not mind being cramped, as they will find their own sunlight. Plant the creeper at least 40cm from the base of a wall. Place a stake at an angle to the wall and train stems along it. - Natal Mercury