Newsletter May 2021

Perhaps it was the delightful name of Howard Garrett’s website www.dirtdoctor.com that made me subscribe to his newsletter which has turned out to be unfailingly interesting and informative. Gardeners are always looking for new and better ways of getting the best out of their plants, so I thought I would share some of his facts and tips about foliar spraying for feeding or pest control purposes.

Apparently, the idea started as long ago as 1844 with the discovery that rain could leach plant nutrients from leaves. Experiments by some clever person then showed that this could also work in the opposite direction. The principle is basically that whatever is sprayed onto the foliage is immediately available to the plant and yields quicker results.

Here are some of Howard’s tips for foliar spraying:

·        The first thing to remember is that foliar feeding is not enough. It is extremely important to continue feeding the soil as well “to keep the roots from getting lazy”!

·        Light regular foliar feeding is best, unless you are also trying to control pests, in which case big heavier drops are sometimes more effective. 

·        Do your spraying at the coolest time of day when the stomata of the leaves are open. Late afternoon is best for pest control, and early morning for foliar feeding.

·        Leaf absorption is also best under humid conditions. Spraying when it is damp increases the effectiveness of whatever you are applying.

·        Young foliage seems to absorb nutrients the best; another good reason to feed during the growth period.

·        Adding small amounts of sugar or molasses to your spray solution helps to stimulate the growth of beneficial microorganisms on the leaf surface, which in turn help to combat pests and harmful pathogens. 

·        For those of you who have taken to vegetable gardening, Howard also mentions that foliar feeding increases not only the cold and heat tolerance of food crops but also their storage life. Now isn’t that interesting!

Multifeed, Nitrosol and Seagrow are local products that we use, and I also buy products that are high in various other elements from the Pretoria farmer’s co-op. We use a high calcium foliar spray, particularly in winter, as it strengthens the plant cell walls and helps the plants cope with the winter cold. One should apparently also use it in summer to help them cope with excessive heat.

IN THE GARDEN

There is still lots of colour in the garden from the salvias and other shrubs and climbers, but the really nice thing about this time of year is finally having the time to weed and start planning winter projects and the annual clean up. We are also starting to sprinkle chicken manure on the beds and giving the irrigation system a good service and revamp.

Rethinking the pavement garden is my big project for this winter – planting more fruit trees to feed passers-by, popping in sweet potato runners, perhaps doing raised beds…? Time will tell.


Abutilon showing her skirts

Thunbergia Arizona glow - perfect winter colour!

Salvia saggitata

Salvia wagneriana

IN THE NURSERY

Click here to view all the plants in this newsletter on the website.

·        Indigenous plants

The summer dormant Ponogeton distachyos, better known as waterblommetjie, produces its edible white flowers in winter. Indigenous to the Western Cape, this aquatic perennial with its dark green floating leaves and wants full sun. Make sure there is at least 30cm of water above the plant. (See the little story under Snippets below!)

Kleinia galpinii is such a pretty succulent, with its narrow fleshy chalky silver leaves and tufted red flowers from summer to autumn. Sun-loving and growing about 45cm high, it wants dry, sandy soil. Indigenous to KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

Also aptly known as the sunbird bush, Metarungia longistrobus, is an attractive dense self-seeding shrub with spikes of yellow-orange flowers from summer to winter that attract birds, butterflies and bees. Evergreen and hardy, it grows about two metres high and prefers semi-shade. It makes a good container plant.

Veltheimia bracteata is a lovely summer deciduous bulb with glossy, fleshy leaves and dense racemes of really beautiful tubular pink flowers from winter to spring. Indigenous to the Eastern Cape, it is hardy and likes shade to semi-shade. It grows about 60cm high.

·        Exotic plants

Abutilon Buttercup is a lovely dark yellow Chinese lantern variety. An upright plant that can grow as tall as 1.6m, it could make a good standard. Like all the Abutilons, it likes sun to semi-shade and acid soil. The open pendant bell-shaped flowers appear throughout the season.

The New Zealand rock lily, Arthropodium cirrathum, is a rather gorgeous tufted perennial with lance-shaped grey green leaves and panicles of star-shaped white flowers in summer. Unusually, it likes semi shade but dry, sandy soil. It is evergreen and very hardy, and grows about 75cm high.

Hailing from Angola and Tanzania, Clerodendrum schweinfurthii is a very rare, fast growing evergreen shrub/trailer with bright green leaves and clusters of scented white flowers from summer to autumn, followed by unusual blue-black fruits. It reaches an average height of about 2m. 

If you’re looking for some colour for your winter garden, try Salvia purpurea. This large 2m high shrub has grey green quilted leaves and striking fat panicles of purple flowers from autumn to winter. It is evergreen and hardy, and the cascading branching needs to be cut back hard in spring if you want it to retain its shape. Plant in sun to semi-shade.

SNIPPETS

When people come to buy waterlilies, I always tell them to put the plants into a larger container as soon as possible. With no prompting from me, Renée Varejes went one step further, planting up 35cm pots with one waterblommetjie and one waterlily plant. The waterlilies are thrilled with the extra “root room” and push out large leaves almost immediately, and Renée is assured of cover on her pond throughout the year.

Our previous newsletter about the Rex Union oranges prompted so much feedback – including a Rex orange marmelade recipe from 20 years ago! And as it turns out, Lemoenfontein Farm is hosting a “Picking & Picnic in the Orchard” event on Sunday 6 June. There will be three talks on marmelade making (of course!), the initiative to protect the Rex Union trees, and the Rex Union gin which is made in a distillery in the tiny Johannesburg suburb of Lorentzville. Sounds positively irresistible! For more information or to book, contact Brian on 011 888 5384 or sacheese@gmail.com.

 

Happy gardening!

Leoné

082 482 0257