June gardening …time to potter

Pottering is a wonderful garden activity and June is the best time to do it.

June is a quiet time in the garden. Growth has slowed down and there is no urgency to plant, or prune. In other words, the perfect time to keep busy at a leisurely pace, without any plan but just doing tasks that catch your attention. Why not find a quiet spot in the garden and start by just observing the garden.

Is there a bare spot that bothers you?

For instance, are you niggled by that bare patch in a bed, or an empty pot that’s crying out to be filled? A flowering winter annual that you can still plant is nemesia.

Nesia ‘Tutti Frutti ‘ is an unusual nemesia with large multicoloured flowers that look as if they have been individually hand-painted. Their out-of-the ordinary blooms make a beautiful show in the garden as compact edging or border plants, as well as in containers.

Nemesias are problem free, easy to grow plants that are not shy to flower, if planted in full sun in winter. The flowers look a little tiny snapdragons and cover the rounded, compact plants that don’t grow higher than 40cm. Deadheading and regular watering will help to prolong flowering.

Water less in winter, just enough to keep the soil evenly moist. Be careful of overwatering as nemesias are prone to root and stem rot.

Nemesia ‘Denim’ is another striking colour that can be paired with yellow and black-faced pansies, alyssum, spring bulbs, and diascia (Spur flower), a low growing indigenous winter annual. More information:

How about potting up a herb or two?

Chives and garlic chives can be sown all year round, even in winter in warm, frost-free gardens or in a seed tray that’s kept on a sunny windowsill or any other warm, sunny, and sheltered place. They grow well in pots and even in hanging baskets with other herbs.

Chives form neat clumps of slim leaves, reaching a height of 50cm. Harvest the leaves by snipping them off at soil level and they will quickly resprout.

The mild onion flavour of their leaves means they can be added to any savoury dish, especially eggs and cheese, snipped into salads and sandwiches, or used as a garnish.

Did you know: The leaves are rich in vitamins A and C, as well as calcium and iron. Like parsley, adding one or two tablespoons a day to the diet takes very little effort.


Chives jive with comfort food

  • Make deluxe mashed potato by adding butter or cream cheese and chop in chives.
  • Chives and eggs are perfect partners. Add chives to creamy, cheesy scrambled eggs or add chopped chives and flowers to breakfast fried soft eggs. Tip the chopped chives into the pan and fry for 30 seconds then break in the eggs and cook as desired. Tip onto hot buttered, toast or muffin.
  • Make a chive oil to drizzle over roast potatoes or salad. To make: Put chopped chives in a blender, add olive oil and whizz up to the required drizzling consistency. Strain the mixture if you don’t like the chunky bits. Mix the chive oil with a creamy Greek yoghurt, crème fraiche or sour cream for a rich, yummy sauce.


Create a care corner for the birds

Winter is a hard time for the birds with seeds, insects, nectar and water in short supply. Creating a corner in the garden where they can safely feast, will bring many more birds into the garden.

Make sure the feeders are out of reach of pets, but accessible enough for you to keep the feeders clean and supply fresh water. One of the best winter foods for birds is suet. It is a high fat and protein feed that helps birds to maintain their energy levels and keep warm during the frosty nights. Using a suet feeder allows the birds to only peck small amounts at a time.

The Wild Wings range of suet feeders includes wire holders for suet balls, a terracotta bowl, and suet slab holder with a roof to keep it dry and a thin ledge. Birds can perch, hang or sit while eating, and try as hard as they like, no cat will be able to cling onto the feeder.


Make a winter hanging basket.

Hanging baskets are often more successful in winter than summer because they need less watering and don’t dry out as fast. Use pansies, petunias, violas, bacopa, trailing snapdragons, and alyssum in sunny baskets.

Try this: Bacopa ‘MegaCopa’ has large white, pink, or blue flowers on a nicely compact plant that fills a hanging basket. Hang baskets in a position that receives full sun in winter and from spring onwards, move the basket into semi-shade. It will flower well into summer. MegaCopa is a far more heat tolerant plant than the original, indigenous bacopa, with flowers that are double the size. Being mounded, it doesn’t fall open in the middle, so produces a cushion of flowers, covering the plant from top to bottom. Keep the soil moist, feed with a liquid fertiliser once a month, then sit back and enjoy the show.


Garden tasks

  • Feed winter flowering annuals with liquid fertilizer like Margaret Roberts Organic Supercharger.
  • Water daffodils and other spring bulbs for 40 minutes once a week. They should not dry out.
  • Water in the morning so that the plants can dry off before evening. Plants in moist soil (not soggy) withstand the cold better than when the soil is dry.
  • Water winter pot plants like cyclamen, Primula acaulis, cineraria, and spring bulbs every two to three days and feed with a liquid fertiliser once a week.
  • Herbs in pots should be watered once or twice a week and fed with a liquid fertiliser (at half strength) every second week.
  • Don’t throw away old branches or logs. The cats will use them as a scratching post and play area, and the dogs will jump over them or chase around them – good for agility training.


This article was supplied by Alice Coetzee.


For more on gardening visit Get It Magazine.

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