Plants like yesterday, today and tomorrow are in full bloom in October.
LIFESTYLE NEWS - October is undoubtedly rose month in South Africa and nothing compares with that first flush of perfect blooms that last so much longer because the sun is not too scorching hot yet.
Many other spring flowering plants like yesterday, today and tomorrow, crab apples, and cherries are also in full bloom; not forgetting the beautiful bearded irises, foxgloves and delphiniums. Luckily, we are all inspired to garden at this time of the year because there is no time to rest for gardeners in October.
If you really want a good return on money spent in the garden this season you need to get cracking and plant this month. This will give you the whole season to reap the rewards of summer with her promise of bountiful blooms, fruits, vegetables and herbs.
It is essential to water your roses thoroughly about two to three times a week and to start feeding for that beautiful October show, using a balanced fertiliser that is high in nitrogen and potassium like 8:1:6. Nitrogen and sufficient water are very important at this time of the year because you want to encourage not only beautiful blooms, but also lots of healthy green leaves to support the roots of your plants, as well as to protect the delicate stems from sunburn during our hot summer days. Mulching is also vital to conserve moisture and to keep the roots cool.
Avoid wetting your rose leaves in the late afternoon as wet leaves at this time of the day will encourage black spot and powdery mildew. As a preventative measure, start spraying for fungal infections now with a good organic fungicide like Margaret Roberts Organic Fungicide, or Biogrow Copper Soap. If your roses are susceptible to red spider during hot, dry spells start spraying now with a good organic insecticide like Margaret Roberts Organic Insecticide, or Biogrow Bioneem, both of which will also control aphids and other insects.
Good leaf coverage is essential in summer so do not cut off too many leaves when cutting long stemmed roses for the vase. Cutting roses for the vase can be done at any time of the day as long as they are immediately plunged right up to their necks in a bucket of water. If you leave them overnight in the bucket before arranging, and then add 1 teaspoon of household bleach and 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar to 1 litre of water for the arrangement, they will last for much longer.
Briar growth must be removed from your bushes. This grows out from the rootstock of Hybrid Tea Roses from just below the graft and is a light green colour, with smaller leaves.
Do not cut them off or they will just grow again; rather tug them off gently at ground level when they reach about knee height. Briar growth should not be confused with new water shoots which have thick reddish stems and will become the new framework of the rose bush; when these reach about knee height, nip out the growing tip to encourage branching. Prune your banksia roses when they have finished flowering.
Plant ‘living’ mulch between your roses this summer to conserve water, and to keep their roots cool. Choose small plants and groundcovers with shallow root systems like: Marguerite Daisy (Argyranthemum); Garden Verbena (Verbena); Summer Snapdragon (Angelonia); Alyssum (Lobularia); River Daisy (Brachyscome); Carpet Geranium (Geranium incanum); Snow in Summer (Cerastium tomentosum); Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia); False Heather (Cuphea); Seaside Daisy (Erigeron) and Candytuft (Iberis). Companion planting will help to keep your roses healthy and reduce the need to spray. Lavender and Thyme deter aphids, snails and ants; and any plant in the onion family like Chives protect against black spot, mildew and aphids. Sage promotes healthy plant growth and will attract bees.
Your winter and spring flowering annuals will start dying down as the weather warms up and it is time to start planting your summer beds. Try alyssum, aster, cleome, cosmos, dianthus, gaillardia, sunflower, lavatera, lobelia, marigold, zinnia, bedding begonia, celosia, New Guinea impatiens, petunia and vinca. Pinch out the young growth on newly planted seedlings to encourage bushy growth.
Save money this summer by sowing flower seeds directly into your garden beds. There are many easy to grow mixtures available for both sun and shade. Dig over the bed, adding lots of compost and a handful of bone meal per square meter before raking the bed nice and smooth. Mix the seeds with a generous helping of fine compost or cake flour (mix thoroughly). These will help you to spread the seeds evenly over the bed. Rake the bed very lightly after sowing and sprinkle extra compost over any exposed seeds. Never plant your seeds too deep and water the beds daily until they germinate; never allowing the soil to dry out totally.
Position annuals where they will be most appreciated and if you are planting several varieties together, always ensure that you group them according to their watering needs as well as their sun requirements. Water is becoming a very expensive commodity and it would be wise to reduce the beds you normally plant with annuals by planting more drought tolerant groundcovers and perennial plants.
Spring and early summer or autumn are the best times to split and divide overcrowded perennials, ornamental grasses and succulents, so if you have not done so yet, do so this month. Remember to feed them regularly in summer.
Prune all your spring flowering plants as soon as they have finished blooming, mulch their roots and feed with a balanced feeder. Azaleas flower next spring on this summer’s growth and should only be pruned once a year, when they have finished flowering. Do not prune early summer flowering plants like Deutzia, Spiraea and Forsythia.
If you pinched out the growing tips of your fuchsias last month to encourage them to bush, you can allow them to grow freely now but don’t forget to water regularly and feed with 3:1:5. If you did not finger pinch them last month you can still do so now. Watch out for red spider and whitefly; alternate spraying with Oleum (white oil) and a natural insecticide will keep these troublesome insects at bay.
If you have not done so yet, fertilise your Camellias and Azaleas with an organic feeder that is high in nitrogen and mulch with acid compost. Continue feeding your Hydrangeas with a general purpose fertiliser, or a special colour enhancing feeder and water regularly.
Summer bulbs include amaryllis, arum lily, tuberous begonia hybrids, caladium, canna cultivars, dahlia, Pineapple Lily (Eucomis), Berg Lily (Galtonia), spider lily, Gay Feather (Liatris), lilium, tigridia and tuberose. Dahlia bulbs are also available now and will take about 10 weeks to flower if planted from a tuber; but if well-established plants are planted out this month they will be in full bloom by December.
October is also the time to plant Gladioli corms for a brilliant Christmas show. Store Amaryllis bulbs in the fridge and plant them into pots about 6 weeks before Christmas and they will be in full bloom then; wrap them up in a pretty sleeve and you have a gorgeous and affordable gift. Irises are in bloom now, so visit a nursery to choose your favourites to plant out; divide established clumps at the end of the month when they have finished flowering.
Continue watering and feeding your winter and spring bulbs until they die down naturally before lifting and storing them for next season. If you need to plant summer bulbs or annuals immediately and your bulbs are not totally dormant yet, you can dig up the whole clump, trying to leave as much soil around them as possible. Place them in a temporary hole in an unused part of the garden, not forgetting to water them. Once the leaves have totally died down, gently split them, shake off the excess soil and lay them out in a cool, shady place to dry. Once dry, dust them with flowers of sulphur (available from chemists) and pack them in cardboard boxes, layered between vermiculite or sawdust, label and store in a dry, cool place until next season. Discard the bulbs of tulips, Dutch iris, anemones and ranunculas as they seldom flower well the following year. Find out more about growing bulbs in our bulb section.
As the weather warms myriads of insects will suddenly turn up in your garden, so watch out for insects like aphids, mealy bugs and whitefly as they love soft young growth; if you spray the insects off the leaves with a fairly strong jet of water every time you water, it should be enough to control them naturally, alternatively use an organic insecticide.
Add water retention granules and a good layer of fresh potting soil as well as a mulch like bark chips, rooibos tea, peach pips or even pebbles to your hanging baskets and potted plants and remember to water and feed regularly. Repot overcrowded potted ferns with fresh potting soil and start feeding with half strength liquid fertiliser every two weeks. October is also a good time to re-pot Cymbidium orchids when they have finished flowering.
It is time to take softwood cuttings of your favourite shrubs and perennials like: geranium (Pelargonium), fuchsia, lavender, chrysanthemum, rosemary and other herbs.
Jazz up your vegetable garden this summer with some edible plants which will also add colour and interest. Chamomile is considered a tonic for anything you grow in the garden and is used as a 'companion plant' to help keep neighbouring plants healthy and free of diseases and pests. It improves the flavour of cabbages, cucumbers and onions; and is invaluable in vegetable gardens because it is loved by bees and other pollinators.
Chamile is also one of the safest and most versatile pet remedies around, with scientifically proven uses for both humans and pets. Violas like the tiny ‘Johnny jump-up’ and ‘Cuty’ love to grow in the shade between vegetables and are great in salads, ice creams and cake icings. The purple cone flower is a perfect companion for eggplants, sweet peppers and Chinese cabbage; and not forgetting Nasturtiums which are so cheerful in the vegetable patch and wonderful on cheese sandwiches, seeding themselves all over the vegetable garden.
Feed your young summer vegetables with a liquid organic fertiliser every two weeks and make sure the beds are mulched and weed free. Thin out seedlings to the correct spacing and use the thinning’s of carrots, spring onions and beetroot to add to salads. Tomatoes can be planted right up to their lowest leaves and the soil should be mounded up against the stems as they develop. This helps them develop strong roots that will require less watering and will also make the plant more stable. Once all danger of frost is over, start sowing or planting; asparagus, maize, sweet corn, bush beans, climbing beans, eggplant, broccoli, cucumber, cabbages, carrots, celery, lettuce, leeks, peppers, pumpkins, potatoes and sweet potatoes, radish, turnips, tomatoes, squashes, baby marrows and melons.
Always harvest your vegetables when they are young and tender, because the more you pick the more they will produce. Spring is also a good time to divide large clumps of rhubarb.
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