Dig deep

There’s a long weekend this month … you’ve plenty of time to get into the garden. Enjoy!

We’re planting … Calibrachoa MiniFamous ‘Pink Hawaii’ for its profusion of beautiful tropical flowers – rather like the garlands that visitors receive on their arrival in Hawaii. This gorgeous calibrachoa tumbles its star-patterned flowers over the edge of hanging baskets and containers, flowering through Winter and onto Spring and Summer. To get the best from them, position baskets or containers where they receive morning sun, keep the soil moist and feed with a liquid fertiliser once a month. The plants form an attractive rounded shape but can be trimmed and neatened should they grow too vigorously. They attract butterflies, too. Details: ballstraathof.co.za

Indoor plant of the month

Calathea Orbifolia is nothing like the traditional Calathea – better known as the prayer plant for folding up its leaves at night. Orbifolia is one of the largest Calatheas, with bold oversized green and silver striped leaves that are up to 30cm wide. It is a classic statement plant, with designer-quality foliage. It originates from the Bolivian jungle and that’s a clue to the care it needs – medium light, a warm, humid room and moist, but not soggy, soil. The room temperature should not drop below 18°C. Feed with a liquid plant food at half or quarter strength once a month in Spring and Summer. Water less in Winter and keep the plant out of draughts and away from cold windows. Details: lvgplant.co.za

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Veggie of the month

How about trying something different this Winter. Parsnips ‘White Gem’ (from Kirchhoffs) may look like rather chunky, whitish carrots but they are much sweeter. If sown this month they will be ready for harvesting in August. They make a delicious addition to stews and as a roasted vegetable.

To grow: Parsnips need deep, fertile, loose soil that drains well so that the roots can grow to their customary length of 15 to 20cm. When preparing the soil, remove all stones and sticks and break down clods of soil so that soil texture is fine. A good idea is to sow radishes at the same time because radishes are quicker to germinate. They open up the soil’s surface which helps the parsnip seedlings to emerge.

Harvest when the roots reach 15 to 20cm in length, gently fork them out of the ground and don’t pull them out because this damages the roots.

Scrub and scrape or peel before cooking, then cook like you would carrots … they may cook a little faster because of their higher sugar content. They combine well with Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and potatoes, can be grated raw and used in coleslaw, and added to stews. Yum.

Details: kirchhoffs.co.za/product/parsnip/

Garden tasks for April

  • Plant Winter and Spring flowers like pansies, poppies, primulas, calendula and snapdragons for a bright and cheerful garden that keeps the Winter blues away. • Namaqualand daisies, alyssum, lobelia, Virginian stocks, and the winter scatter pack mixes are best sown from seed. • Wait until after Easter to plant out Spring flowering bulbs. • Give shrubs and perennials a last application of fertiliser before Winter and water Camellias, Azaleas and Hellebores regularly so that they set good buds for Spring. • This is the last month to feed the lawn before Winter. Use a lawn fertiliser or a general fertiliser like 5:1:5 or 3:1:5. • In the veggie garden, sow broad beans, beetroot, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, leeks, peas, Asian vegetables such as Pak choi or Tatsoi, parsnips, spinach and Swiss chard, spring onions, turnips, and radishes.

Text:  ALICE COETZEE

After digging up the veggie patch, treat your hands with this gloriously fragranced Longmarket Soap Company Garden Flowers Hand & Nail Cream … it’s got shea butter for added hydration oomph. R69.95 from Woolworths

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