It’s time for groundwork; enriching the soil, pruning shrubs, roses and fruit trees, and eradicating hardy pests like scale on woody plants and aphids on leafy veggies.
At its most basic level, pruning involves cutting out dead and old wood to create space for new growth to come through in spring.
Most shrubs benefit from being shaped and trimmed. How vigorously you do it depends on the space available and whether the shrubs are overgrowing the other plants around them.
Vigorous growers like Plumbago, Pyracantha, Elderberry, Abelia, Cape Honeysuckle, Plectranthus, Poinsettia, and Buddleia can be cut back quite hard.
However, don’t prune spring flowering shrubs like camellias, magnolias, and rhododendrons, which includes azalea species, and May bush (Spirea) until after flowering in spring.
Roses and deciduous fruit trees like peaches and nectarines are pruned from the middle of July but wait until August to prune hydrangeas, clematis, and fuchsias.
Pruning can often reveal problems that were out of sight in summer. Scale is one such pest that clings onto woody stems, sapping the strength of the plant.
Spraying with Ludwig’s Insect Spray or Margaret Roberts Organic Insecticide. Both contain canola oil and spraying at double strength will smother the scale, making it easier to rub off with a scrubbing brush.
Feed the flowers
Although growth slows down, feed winter flowering annuals with a liquid fertiliser like Margaret Roberts Organic Supercharger once a month. It provides the macro and micronutrients to keep them in flowering mode.
Brassicas and other leafy vegetables also benefit from a monthly application of liquid fertilizer. Vegetables and herbs in containers should be fed every two weeks. This helps them to be more resistant to the cold.
Fertilise lemon trees and other citrus with Vigorosa around the drip line and water in well.
Keep Sweet Peas sweet
Sweet peas sown in early March should have started flowering while those sown in April will flower in spring. The more you pick, the more they flower, so keep on picking and enjoy their heady scent throughout the home.
For healthy flowering plants water regularly and feed with Margaret Roberts Organic Supercharger at half strength every two weeks or with Vigorosa once a month. Vigorosa contains Epsom salts which many gardens like to use to encourage better flowering. Mulch around plants to keep the soil and moist for longer.
Enrich the soil
Dormant plants don’t mind their roots being disturbed, which makes this an ideal time to work compost and other organics into the soil, creating a good foundation for the season ahead..
Add a granular fertiliser like Vigorosa 5:1:5 that contains humic acids which play a very important role in the improvement of soil physical characteristics, soil structure and water retention capacity. The organic component in the fertilizer contains up to 20% carbon.
Keep the soil consistently moist and push your finger into the soil to check the soil moisture. Soil that is too dry or too wet stresses the plants and make them more susceptible to cold and frost.
Water during the warmest part of the day so that the leaves dry off by nightfall. Wet leaves become susceptible to fungus diseases which can spoil leafy crops like kale, cabbage, spinach, and lettuce.
Should there be some unseasonable rainfall, spray with fungicide to protect crops.
Margaret Roberts Organic fungicide helps to control powdery mildew, bacterial leaf spot, damping off and other diseases that become prevalent with ongoing wet weather.
It’s a natural fungicide containing organic plant acids that work by attacking the cell walls of the fungus, making it susceptible to the elements. Being systemic, it is absorbed by the plant which provides extra protection.
An alternative is Hygrotech Ludwig’s Copper Count-N which contains copper ammonium acetate, that is a general biocide for treating fungal and bacterial infections like bacterial blight, mildew, early blight on tomatoes, rust and leaf curl.
Pests are generally less active in winter but in warmer gardens aphids can be a big spoiler of cabbages, kale, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts, making them inedible.
Check regularly for aphids and spray with Ludwig’s Insect Spray as soon as you notice them. Repeat every seven days until they are eradicated.
Conifers like ‘Gold Crest’ and ‘Skyrocket are susceptible to Italian Cypress Aphid that is active in winter. Dry, brown branches are signs of an infestation and if left untreated can kill the conifer. Spray the stems and foliage with an organic insecticide like Ludwig’s Insect Spray or use insecticide granules sprinkled around the base of the conifer.
For more information visit http://www.kirchhoffs.co.za/product-category/garden-care/
TEXT: Alice Coetzee.