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How to get the life back into your Spring garden

Spring is sprung, and now is the time to give our gardens new life, colour and a fresh new look. 

Whether we are creative or not, we know what style or look appeals to us and what we wish to achieve. “Always ask advice concerning your overall ideas, but to give your garden character, your own imprint will be the most rewarding as your personal touch will give the most satisfying result,” says Wendy Williams, one of the directors of Engel & Völkers Southern Africa.
 
Ideally we need to look at indigenous, low-maintenance plants and automated irrigation to fit our busy schedules. However you could consider being brave and create one or two sections in your garden that would need a lot of attention and know you will be rewarded with a spectacular show. “There are few things more rewarding than feeling the earthiness of the soil on your hands,” Wendy added.
 
Alice Spenser-Higgs, who regularly contributes to The Citizen Newspaper and The Gardener magazine, noted recently 'There is nothing more exciting than seeing the garden come alive as seeds germinate, new shoots push up through the soil and the lawn changes from brown to green.”
 
She comments that Kirchhoff's seeds have wonderful tips on their website and that it is well worth a visit, www.ballstraathof.co.za:

Nothing sets off the garden better than an immaculate lawn. Re-invigorate kikuyu lawn by raking away the dead grass and cutting it low. Start watering but only fertilise with 5:1:5 or Vigorosa when it starts to grow. Top dressing helps even out the surface of the lawn. If the soil is compact, spike it with a garden fork. Longer growing evergreen lawns, including LM grass just need to be fertilised and watered well.
 
Restore patchy lawns to a green carpet by over-sowing with LM grass, which copes with sun and shade. Kirchhoffs now offers LM grass from seed.
 
Spring is all about fragrance, and that is delivered in abundance by honey-scented alyssum (Lobularia maritima).
 
For non-stop flowers, give all flowering plants a good drench of liquid fertiliser, like Margaret Roberts Supercharger or a light sprinkling of Vigorosa and water well afterwards.
 
As day temperatures increase check the soil every two or three days to see if the plants are receiving enough water. Generally, beds, shrubs, creepers and lawn should receive 20mm of water a week in spring. Push your finger into the soil down to the first knuckle and if the soil is still damp, only water the following day.
 
Re-do containers if the plants are looking tired. Either cut back the plants, feed and water or replace them with a new batch of flowers. Just make sure that you replace the potting soil as well because it will be spent of nutrients.
 
It is never too late to start a vegetable garden. Summer vegetables like beans, brinjals, beetroot, carrot, tomatoes, squashes, and Swiss chard can be sown until December. Kirchhoffs has the widest selection of vegetable seed on the market, including organic seed.
 
Consider keeping a garden calendar to remind yourself when to use fertilisers and when they were applied. 
 
Alice continues that it is still too early to plant impatiens and begonias or the hot summer survivors like vincas, but there are plenty of spring-flowering annuals to fill the gaps or bring spring colour into a garden that is still colourless. Garden centres are full of Cape daisies (Osteospermum FlowerPower) which are looking spectacular and have become 'the' spring flower and magnificent at this time of year. The colour range has extended considerably and there are both double and single varieties, in shades of red, gold, lavender, pink-honey, peach and rose.  
 
Gazanias have also made an appearance and they are drought tolerant, fuss-free plants that work as groundcovers or as a border. Other sunny options are petunias, phlox, and pelargoniums (geraniums).
 
For semi shade, there are mimulus and torenia that provide early spring colour and then go on to bloom throughout summer. Torenia is an alternative to impatiens and also flowers profusely. A new introduction is Torenia 'Kauai' with pure white throat and deep blue rim.
 
Easy to grow indigenous or exotic varieties include shrubs such as Cape honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis), bush violet (Barleria obtusa), Plectranthus ecklonii and other Plectranthus varieties, Buddleja species (also known as butterfly bushes) and Pentas lanceolata, a fast growing, medium sized shrub with red, pink, mauve or white flowers.
 
Bedding flowers include gazanias, alyssum, pink rudbeckia (Echinacea purpurea), Peruvian lily (Alstroemeria aurea), marguerite daisies (Argyranthemum frutescens) kingfisher daisies (Felicia amelloides) and shasta daisies (Chrysanthemum maximum), twin spur (Diascia integerrima), gaura, and Scabiosa columbaria.
 
Celebrate our wild flowers: take a walk or picnic in your nearest botanical garden. It is the best source of inspiration for colourful, low maintenance indigenous gardening. Bruce Stead's book, “Creative Indigenous Garden Design” shows how to translate a natural scene into a garden setting.
 
“If you are ahead of the game, all the spring annuals and bulbs will be in full flower in spring and the garden will be looking gorgeous, for you to enjoy!” Wendy concluded.


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