Spring has arrived in all its tender green glory! Now is the time to give your garden a little bit of TLC, because any effort you put in now will be handsomely rewarded with a summer garden showstopper. Here’s our checklist of those must-do spring tasks.
The great cleanup
It’s surprising how much dirt, debris and even algae can accumulate on garden furniture, patios and decking during the wet Cape winter months. So whip those garden furniture covers off and give your chairs and tables a wash with warm soapy water. Give decks and patios a good scrub too, or blitz them with a pressure hose.
The outside doesn’t hold much appeal when it’s sub zero – chances are the garden shed wasn’t even opened during the deep winter months! Time to blast out the cobwebs. Unpack the entire shed, give it a good dust down and sweep or vacuum. Garden sheds are where all manner of unwanted, arbitrary household objects go to die. So look really critically at what you are storing in your shed when you repack. Throw out that ghastly bronze lamp that Aunt Agatha gave you for your wedding. You know you’re never going to use it!
Wash your metal tools like spades and rakes with water and a stiff brush as dirty tools can help spread diseases and infect the plants you have growing in your garden. Once clean, oil your garden tools to prevent them from rusting. Service the lawnmower and sharpen anything with a blade. That includes your lawnmower blades because blunt blades will rip at lawns instead of cutting them.
The fence and gate
If the fence is looking a bit shoddy, now’s the time to sand it down and seal or repaint it, before lush summer growth gets in the way. Also have a look at your metal garden gates. Did the winter rain leave you with a rust problem? Catch it early and treat it with an appropriate rust product, then repaint.
Now is also a good time to clean out debris from your pond or water feature. While you’re at it, scrub and sterilize your birdbath and containers. A solution of one part bleach to five parts water should take care of any lingering diseases or insect eggs.
If you want a verdant green carpet this summer, your lawn needs plenty of intervention during spring. The number one favour you could do your lawn right now is to aerate it. This means making holes about 20cm deep in the lawn. It breaks up compacted soil, helps to prevent water logging and really gives nutrients the chance to penetrate. No special implement is required – all you need is a garden fork and patience.
It’s not just your lawn that has woken up after its winter slumber, the weeds have woken up too. Keep it from becoming a real problem by hand weeding regularly before you mow the lawn. If you have an out-of-control situation and need chemical intervention, visit us and we’ll advise on the best weed killer solution.
The winter rains will have leeched nutrients, so now’s the time to give your lawn the food it needs for strong summer growth with a good fertilizer made specially for lawns. Feed every 6-8 weeks all through spring and into summer. If your lawn has any bare patches, reseed or turf now so that it’s lush and covered come summer.
As our winter rains come to an end it will be necessary to start watering. The frequency of watering and how much you water will depend on your soil type, but watering less frequently and deeply is the general rule. Always water early in the morning to curb the risk of fungal disease.
Cleaning and weeding
Start by clearing any winter debris like twigs and leaves. Get rid of weeds before they become too established. To stay on top of it, you need to be checking for weeds weekly and pulling them out by hand. If you feel like you’re losing the battle, talk to us about an appropriate weed killer.
Your garden soil will be in poor condition after winter, so dig in a 5cm layer of compost or manure to prepare your beds for the growing season. A good organic pellet fertilizer like Neutrog’s Bounce Back is also a brilliant kick-start for lush summer growth.
Deadhead any early flowering spring bulbs like tulips and daffodils, but leave the foliage intact so it can die back naturally.
It’s time to plant summer bulbs like amaryllis to ensure you have a fabulous flush in time for Christmas. Winter annuals like pansies will start to go down. Lift them and replace them with summer-flowering annuals like petunias. They’re water wise and will give you a gorgeously colourful display all summer long.
It’s also time to fill in any large gaps in your garden beds by planting shrubs. Remember to give them a good head start with plenty of compost and some bonemeal when you plant. If you have a veggie patch, now’s the time to sow carrots, lettuces, rocket, spring onions, spinach, leeks and beetroot.
As the weather gets warmer and your ornamentals like roses and hydrangeas start growing, they’ll be susceptible to powdery mildew. Watch out for it and spray it with an appropriate fungal treatment as soon as you spot a problem. (To help prevent powdery mildew, always water early in the morning and not in the evening.)
Our summers are hot. It’s essential to mulch to keep plants cool and keep moisture in. Mulching also helps to combat weeds and makes beds look neat and tended. Wood chips, straw and peach pips all work well, while acid-loving shrubs like azaleas and camellias will particularly appreciate a mulch of pine needles.