After a long and cold winter there are many things to love about spring. From the musical chirping of birds outside of your window at 04:00am, to the breath taking colours of sunflowers, cone flowers (Echinacea) and even the relaxing forget – me – not ( Myosotis sylvatica). There are also many things to hate about spring; from allergies, weeds to an unsightly garden.
As much as we all love spring, let’s face it; not everyone has the envied ‘green finger syndrome’ and sometimes it’s challenging to figure out where to start working in your garden especially if gardening is new to you. To help make your gardening experience an enjoyable one, try following these tips and you might surprise yourself at how fun – filled gardening can be and how good you are at it.
1) Surveying the Land
Before you embark on tidying up your garden for spring, take note of all the tree limbs that need to be either removed or cabled, especially those that either hang into the neighbour’s yard or those that overhang homes. It might be a good idea to start raking up any mulch and bulbs that could have been collecting through the winter. Also remember to check your fencing, some might need to be re-positioned and others might need a new coat of paint, depending on rain damage.
2) Do A Soil Test
Your soil’s pH – balance is very important because it reflects healthy soil. Well balanced soil produces healthy plants and trees. The acidity of your soil is measured between zero and fourteen where zero is very acidic and fourteen is very alkaline. Most plants grow best if the soil is fairly balanced and neutral (between six and seven). If you find that after you've done the soil test and the state of your soil has not improved, try sending the soil samples to a laboratory for an analyses of what else could be the problem with your soil.
3) Water Conservation
Water saving is a big concern for many South African’s in the summer time particularly for Capetonians. Below is some water saving methods and devices that can be used in your garden.
Grey Water - Grey water is the water that can be found in your dishwasher, bathroom sinks, washing machines and showers. It is not the water that has come into contact with the toilet. Although grey water might not need too many chemicals to treat it before you use it in your garden as irrigation water, the water must still be carefully used because it can contain hair, detergent, dead skin etc.
The simplest way to make use of grey water is to have a pipe that leads the water directly outside into your garden where it can be used to water plant’s and/ fruit trees. You can also use some of the grey water on some vegetables as long as it doesn't touch the edible parts of the plants. Alternatively, if you have extra cash to spare, there are grey water DIY installation kits that can be bought and installed in your garden.
Aqua trapping – The aqua trap disc liner is a great way to save water. It is a SA water wise product that is manufactured out of used car tires. How it works is very simple: - the circular rubber discs are installed approximately 250 – 300 mm beneath sandy soil and creates a false water table that prevents water, compost and nutrients from draining away.
Recycling rain water - This is probably the easiest water conservation method there is. Recycling rain water entails catching the rain that has fallen and since it lacks a lot of the impurities that could be found in grey water, if carefully recycled it can be safe for cooking, drink and flushing toilets. You can use recycling buckets or containers beneath your roof or simply place the bucket in the open sky to catch the falling water.
You can take your water conservation a step further and install a rainwater down pipe diverter. These down pipes will divert all the rain that would usually go to waste and send it to your Jacuzzi, water tank or specific areas in your garden.
4) Grow Indigenous Plants
The Department of Environment and Primary Industries describes indigenous plants as any original flora or plant that occurs naturally in any given location. Indigenous plants do offer maintenance, productivity and environmental advantages. Some of the advantages of planting indigenous plants include providing shelter, wind breaks, soil erosion control and they provide timber for fence posts and firewood.
For a complete list of indigenous plants suitable to your area click here.
5) Create A Bokashi Compost Bin
If you have an issue with space, the Bokashi way is for you. Bokashi (means fermentation) bin composting is a Japanese system that pickles your waste and thus is perfect for small spaces. All you would need is a bin, which can be kept inside, and bokashi composting bran inoculated with good bacteria. Simply add your uncooked and cooked waste, add some bran and you’re good to go.
The waste will break down almost immediately into traditional compost. There might be a slight whiff of fermentation which is to be expected. Once the process of composition is complete, just dig it into the soil or add it to your traditional bin. You might not have bins, but you can also add worms to the Bokashi since they love the compost. Before you know it, you will be churning out liquid worm feed which is great for feeding plants.
6) Solar Lighting
You might have started an Eco - garden with the aim of being in complete harmony with nature and the environment around you. Garden lighting plays an important part in some garden types. Light pollution can be annoying not just to you but to your neighbours as well and it uses additional electricity.
If you absolutely can’t go without lighting in your garden, perhaps you should invest in good solar powered lights. Solar powered light can assist in creating a softer atmosphere without lighting up the entire neighbourhood it also saves on electricity and can be used as an extra security feature.
As you begin to work more fervently in your garden you will be rewarded by a healthy Eco-system, beautiful flowers and a great sense of accomplishment, yet another reason to love spring. Happy gardening!