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Your regional gardening guide for June

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Lake Kenmo, Himeville. Picture courtesy Graham AndersonLake Kenmo, Himeville. Picture courtesy Graham AndersonAll Regions

June is an interesting gardening month and the shortest day and longest night is on June 21; after which the days then gradually start getting longer, but very slowly at first so that you hardly realise it! And in the warmer regions, after about three weeks, you will notice that many plants would have begun to grow again - spring in Durban starts in late July! If you live in the warmer subtropical regions of the country the temperatures are perfect for gardening now; so while the rest of us freeze, why not get stuck into your garden and implement all those changes you planned on doing this summer, but just never got around too. In the cold interior the chilly nights and frosts will slow down plant growth dramatically making June a much quieter time for gardeners in these regions. The sap of plants will also slowly start to rise after June 21st; and many gardeners advocate delaying pruning until after this date, believing that their plants respond better afterwards. In the winter rainfall regions the rains have arrived, but on the occasional sunny day there is no reason not to do some gardening.

If the weather is extremely cold or the soil very sodden, making gardening unpleasant; why not cuddle up with us this winter to plan your dream summer garden. Put on those winter woollies, grab a hot cuppa and escape from the rat race for a while into the peaceful and fascinating world of plants. Gardening in South Africa was designed with just this in mind –no flashing banners and irritating pop-ups to distract you all the time – just peaceful gardening bliss. No matter if you are a beginner gardener or an experienced one, you are sure to find our plant info and articles fascinating and very helpful. Good planning is vital for your gardening success and selecting the correct plants for each situation will also save you a lot of time and money in the long run. Our plant section documents in detail over 800 plants, enabling you to make informed decisions on which plants are the most suitable for your region and particular situation. Click here to sign up or to learn more.

The next beautiful winters day, take the whole family to your favourite garden centre to see what is available at this time of the year, you will be surprised at the beautiful plants available at this time of the year. For example, June is when the flamboyant early-flowering camellias come into bloom, and a great time to make your selection. For an extended flowering period, select some varieties that will flower later in August and September. Continue to water your existing plants deeply and regularly and mulch the soil with acid compost and bark chips. If you wish to trim camellias, do so after they have finished flowering.

Lilium bulbs are also available this month and must be planted immediately as they don’t have a long shelf life. Select only plump, healthy looking bulbs, and plant into well-composted garden beds, or pots; ensuring that the soil has perfect drainage. After planting out, mulch their roots to protect them from cold, and once growth emerges protect the delicate new growth from severe frost with a plant cover. In very cold regions, put off planting liliums until spring, or plant them into containers and place them in a warm and protected place. Protect young plants from snails and slugs; and if mole rats are a problem plant in containers. Water your bulbs deeply about every four days. Established clumps in the garden or in pots can be can be lifted and divided now, but remember that they resent disturbance and can be left undivided for up to 5 years.

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CliviaCliviaCliviaPlant hardy perennials now, as their roots keep on growing in winter and they will be well established by summer. Keep your clivias a bit on the dry side, as this will initiate flower spikes; and in cold regions protect them with a frost cover and thick mulch around their roots.

In the warm subtropical regions, water and mow your lawn when necessary but do not cut the blades too short. In the winter rainfall regions mow kikuyu lawn once a week and buffalo grass about once every 14 days. In cold regions Kikuyu lawn will be dormant and only needs to be watered every three weeks. Remember to water your shade or evergreen lawns weekly as they continue to grow during winter. Remove winter grass (Poa annua) from your lawn and beds before it sets seed. June is also a good month to service your lawnmower.

Get all your pruning equipment ready to prune your roses next month. July is also traditionally the time to transplant roses which are growing in the wrong place as well as to plant new roses and to re-pot container grown plants. Prepare the planting holes this month, adding lots of compost and some bone-meal. Water lightly and leave until next month to allow the soil to settle before planting. In the subtropical regions roses can produce flowers till September but it is best to encourage a period of rest in June and July, by reducing watering and not feeding. In the summer rainfall regions water your established rose bushes deeply about every 10 days. Turn over the soil lightly around your roses to expose fungal spores and insects - the birds will relish any exposed insects and the frost will kill off the rest.  Every 2 to 3 years, lightly dig1 cup of agricultural lime into the soil around your roses and water it in well; this helps to strengthen the cell walls of the plant, making it more resistant to diseases like powdery mildew and black spot. The best time to do this is in June before the bushes are pruned.

June is the best month to transplant conifers and to prune and tidy them up. If you are transplanting, spray them with ‘Wilt-Pruf’ before moving as this helps to prevent shock during transplanting. Dig the new holes first and make sure that you plant them at the same depth that they were growing before transplanting. Add generous amounts of compost and a good dressing of bone meal to the planting holes to encourage new root growth. Ensure that the transplants are firmly planted in their new positions and staked if necessary. Water the plants thoroughly after planting, and moderately thereafter. Continue to treat your conifers for aphids by regularly applying insecticide granules or a similar product around their roots. Prune your plants lightly; this should be done every year to keep them looking neat and to retain their shape. Shake out most of the dead material from the centre of the plant and mulch the soil around the root zone with a good layer of organic material. In the summer rainfall regions give your plants a very good soaking every 10 to 14 days through winter.

July is the best month to transplant deciduous trees and shrubs that are growing in the wrong place, so have a good look at your garden now, and prepare the new planting holes this month so that the soil can settle before planting. Add lots of compost and a generous dressing of bone meal, when planting.

Weigelia floribundaWeigelia floribundaWeigelia floribundaJuly is also the best month to prune deciduous trees because dead and diseased branches can easily be spotted and removed; so check your trees now to decide which ones need pruning next month; and ensure that your pruning gear is in good order. Do not prune deciduous trees and shrubs like weigelia and spiraea which flower in early spring and summer, on last season’s growth.

Odd's and Ends: Ensure that your gutters are clean and check that all your standard plants and young trees are securely staked and tied, and that old ties are not cutting into the bark of your plants. Remember to water your winter and spring flowering shrubs and trees regularly, not forgetting your winter bedding plants and bulbs. Apply thick mulch around their roots to protect them from excessive rainfall and frost. Pick your sweet peas regularly and feed every 2 weeks with organic 3:1:5 fertilisers.

Parsnip Picture courtesy Ulrica AlmquistParsnip Picture courtesy Ulrica AlmquistParsnip Picture courtesy Ulrica AlmquistVegetables:

Gardeners in the Lowveld and coastal KwaZulu-Natal appreciate the cooler weather and lower humidity; and the winter months remain the best months to grow vegetables; so continue to plant out vegetables about every 2 to 3 weeks to ensure that you have a continuous supply. In all but the coldest regions you can still sow hardy root vegetables like parsnip, carrot, radish and turnip. In cold inland regions June and July are not good months to sow seeds of vegetables because the soil is too cold for good germination and growth. If you do want to plant some veggies, visit your garden centre to purchase established seedlings of those varieties you require. In the winter rainfall regions, if you have raised beds with good drainage, you can still sow seeds of peas, turnip, broad beans, celery and parsley.

Pick your peas continually to encourage new bud formation and try to keep them off of the ground by placing twiggy branches along the rows. Developing broad beans will need to be tied to supports. Mound the soil up around developing onions if they are lifting from the ground. Jerusalem artichokes should be ready to harvest and can be lifted gently with a fork. Prepare deep holes with lots of organic matter to plant asparagus, rhubarb, globe artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes and chives; but remember that perennial plants like these need separate beds where they can grow un- disturbed for several years. In cold regions the seeds of these plants can be sown in spring but in warm regions it is best to sow in late summer or autumn.

Prepare holes now to plant new fruit trees in June and July. In the warmer temperate, sub-tropical and winter rainfall regions you can start pruning your deciduous fruit trees and grapes this month. In other regions you can start pruning towards the end of June and July. Spray with a winter strength lime sulphur solution when you have finished pruning and spray the surface of the soil around your trees lightly as well.  Turn over the soil lightly around your fruit trees to expose fungal spores and insects - the birds will relish any exposed insects and the frost will kill off the rest.

Begonia 'Emerald Princess'Begonia 'Emerald Princess'Begonia 'Emerald Princess'Move indoor pot plants away from cold glass windows and doors and keep them away from cold draughts, as well as heaters. Mist spraying their leaves often with tepid water and placing them in drip trays filled with damp pebbles will help to increase humidity around the leaves; this is especially important in dry inland areas and in heated rooms.  Water with lukewarm water and feed your winter flowering pot plants regularly with water soluble 3:1:5.

Feed the birds this winter by setting up a bird feeder in the garden and catering for the needs of fruit and seed eaters. Ask your butcher to give you a bag of bone meal for the birds; divide it into smaller quantities and freeze the excess – many birds, including robins and thrushes will appreciate this treat when food is scarce in winter. Also, in the summer rainfall regions, keep your bird bath full, and in frosty gardens remember to crack the ice in the mornings.

Subtropical summer rainfall regions

Weather in these regions is brilliant in June so make the most of the lower temperatures and humidity by getting stuck into your garden. You can start pruning your deciduous fruit trees and grapes this month. Also, prune your ixora now, because if you prune too late the plants will produce fewer flowers next season. Prune your container plants lightly and feed with organic 3:1:5. Lift and divide your agapanthus now, bearing in mind that they will produce few flowers if you split them into very small pieces. Re-pot your water lilies and clean your water features.

June is normally quite a dry month, so your garden will still need watering although growth is slower. It is very important to allow your roses and other summer and autumn flowering plants time to rest in mid-winter, by not feeding them and watering less.  Roses do not need a lot of attention this month; and they will need to be pruned in July, so do not do anything to stimulate growth until then. Your lawn will also benefit from occasional watering. The weeds will not be growing too strongly now, so allow your lawn grow longer so that it can make the most of the reduced growing conditions –the more leaves the better!

Your bougainvilleas should be thriving, as they love the dryer months. Make sure that they receive full sun and don’t get overwatered by sprinklers in the garden, once established they do not need to be watered at all and will flourish on natural rainfall. Bougainvilleas growing in pots will have to be watered, but allow them to dry out totally between watering; feed occasionally with an organic 3:1:5 to encourage deeper colouring of the bracts.

Short days are important to plants for a number of reasons and some plants need short days to flower well. Examples of these include poinsettias, kalanchoe, zygocactus and chrysanthemums. Short days coupled with colder weather, is what “triggers” their flowering ability. In subtropical regions planting winter, or short day flowering bulbs like daffodils and tulips, which need quite a lot of winter chilling to get them to flower can be tricky, because most of the winter bulbs come from growers in colder parts of the country and these bulbs come already primed with embryo buds ready to burst forth as soon as the soil temperature and moisture levels are right. The trick is not to plant your bulbs too soon, when the soil is not cold enough. If the soil is too hot the bulbs will sprout and you will get leaves but no flowers. This is also the reason why bulbs will often perform well in their first year, but fail in subsequent years. For this reason it is best to purchase fresh bulbs every season in the warmer KwaZulu-Natal areas. The Natal Midlands are normally cold enough for bulbs to grow well from season to season. Deciduous fruit trees such as peaches, plums and apples also need more winter chilling than subtropical conditions provide, which is why they are not recommended for the warmer areas, but do well in Pietermaritzburg and inland.

Many winter and summer flowering plants that normally find the subtropics too warm at other times of the year do really well in winter. Try some winter seedlings like Iceland poppies, pansies, violas, primula, calendula and stocks for a welcome change from the normal summer seedlings. You can also still sow and plant flowers like antirrhinum, chrysanthemum, salvia, petunia, marigold, aster, impatiens, cineraria, begonias, snapdragon, delphinium, ageratum and alyssum.  Antirrhinum, stocks, pansies and violas will flower for much longer if they are well-mulched. Most of the winter seedlings are ideal for hanging baskets and window boxes, and will provide colour well into spring.

For gardeners in the Lowveld and coastal KwaZulu-Natal the winter months remain the best months to grow vegetables; so continue to plant out vegetables like peas, green beans, broad beans, beetroot, baby marrow, cucumber, carrots, tomato, lettuce, pepper, eggplant, turnip, radish, potato, spring onions, squash and pumpkin, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, Swiss chard, leeks, melons, parsley and melons. Succession sowing about every 2 to 3 weeks will ensure you have a continuous supply.

Dry, semi-arid and continental regions    

If you completed your tasks for April and May; June should be a fairly quiet month in the garden. If you are in a severe frost area, plant your lilium bulbs into containers and place them on a warm, sunny and protected patio. In the drier parts lavender looks glorious at this time of the year; so consider planting hardy varieties for fragrance and flowers. If you haven’t covered your tender plants yet, it is probably too late; but if they aren’t badly damaged, cover them with frost cover without delay. Store your hosepipe where it is protected from frost and bind water pipes with strips of hessian to protect them from freezing. Also, switch off your water feature pump or it may burn out if the water in your pond freezes. Check that all your pruning gear is in good working order so you can prune your deciduous fruit trees and grapes towards the end of June and into July. In extremely cold regions do not prune your roses until the end of July or early August. June and July are however, good months to plant out new or bare root roses and fruit trees. Roses hate brak (salty) conditions, so in these regions install a rainwater tank to store up water in late summer for winter watering.

Watering correctly during very cold weather is vital, and although it is necessary to keep your plants alive, overwatering or watering at the wrong time can be fatal.  Established evergreen shrubs only need a thorough soaking about every 10 days in winter and deciduous plants much less. Watch the weather report in winter to see if a cold front is on the way, and never water the day before a cold front hits. Wait until it has passed; then water thoroughly and deeply, early in the morning. To minimise frost burn on tender plants, hose the plants down with cold water before the sun hits them, or for automated irrigation systems, you could set your timer to go off very early, for a short time. Brak (salty) soils must not be kept too wet during winter, as salts will build up, making the soil useless for cultivation after a few seasons.

Veggies like broccoli, beetroot, and cauliflower that were planted out in early autumn should be ready to be harvested about now. Other hardy crops include spinach, parsley, leeks and onions. If garlic is planted now it will form large cloves by mid-spring. Prepare your beds for sowing peas in July and August; the leaves are frost hardy but the flowers are tender, so planting them later will ensure that they flower at the right time.

Summer rainfall (Temperate or Highveld Regions)

If you completed your tasks for April and May; June should be a fairly quiet month in the garden. Watering correctly during winter is very important and in all regions you should be watering less. The secret is to water deeply when you do, but less often. Watering is necessary to keep your plants alive, but overwatering or watering at the wrong time can be fatal. Established evergreen shrubs only need a thorough soaking about every 10 days in winter and deciduous plants much less. Water your bulbs deeply about every four days. Watch the weather report in winter to see if a cold front is on the way, and never water the day before a cold front hits. Wait until it passes and then water thoroughly and deeply. Water in the mornings during winter, this allows the plants to dry before nightfall. To minimise frost burn on tender plants, hose the plants down with cold water before the sun hits, or for automated irrigation systems, you could set your timer to go off very early, for a short time.  If you haven’t covered your tender plants yet, it may be too late; but if they don’t look too damaged, cover them with frost cover without delay. In the warmer regions you can start pruning your deciduous fruit trees and grapes this month. In the colder regions check that all your pruning gear is in good working order for pruning towards the end of June and July.

It is still not too late to plant well-established "instant colour" seedlings of Iceland poppy, primula, pansy, phlox, snapdragons, sweetpea, sweet William, schizanthus, alyssum, cornflower, carnation, cineraria, delphinium, dianthus, nemesia, penstemon, foxglove, gazania, larkspur, lobelia, verbena and violas. You can still sow seeds of Virginian stocks and Namaqualand daisies. Remove any spent blooms on your annuals to keep them flowering for longer.  

Vegetables and herbs should be watered and fed regularly, and in warmer regions do a final sowing of broad beans and peas. In warmer regions you can also still plant out established seedling trays of broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage; and sow some true spinach, kale, radish and turnips. Try planting some oriental vegetables; they flourish during the winter months. In the very cold regions winter vegetable growing season is basically over, and you need to wait until later in June or July to start sowing peas, because the leaves of peas are frost hardy but the flowers are tender; planting them later will ensure that they flower at the right time; continue sowing peas until September. Watch out for black aphids on your broad beans.

Winter rainfall regions (Mediterranean)

When the winter rains arrive it’s not much fun in the garden because the soil is wet, soggy and difficult to work with. However, there are still chores to be done in the garden, like checking that your irrigation system is adjusted to water less often, or switched off; and ensuring that all your gutters and drainpipes are unblocked. You can start pruning your deciduous fruit trees and grapes this month. It is also a good time to look at possible drainage problems and solutions to implement in summer. Remove any dangerous overhanging branches that may fall on walls, roofs etc and remove broken branches. Treat any slippery pathways with a moss killer, and cover your compost heap with a plastic sail to prevent it becoming water-logged. Make sure all your young trees and standard plants are securely staked.  Remove excess fruit from citrus trees to prevent the branches from becoming too heavy and breaking during heavy rains. Feed your Kikuyu lawn with an organic 2:3:2 fertiliser or Bladerunner. If snails are a problem, try Ferramol Natural Snail and Slug Bait; this product is safe to use around pets and children. If aphids are still a problem, spray with Bioneem. Ensure that potted plants outside are raised with bricks or pot feet to improve drainage, and put a layer of washed river sand around your succulents and cacti to help prevent collar rot.

Lachenalia bulbs should be blooming, so feed them regularly. Nemesias are indigenous to the Cape, and if planted out now, will provide a stunning spring display. They are available in all shades of blue, orange, pink, red, yellow and white. Plant Bokbaai vygies now, they are also indigenous and will give you brilliant colour from August to October. You can still plant flowers like alyssum, aquilegia, bellis perennis, begonia, snapdragon, calendula, carnation, pansy, viola, lobelia, primula, ornamental cabbage, Shirley poppy, delphinium, dianthus, foxgloves, godetia, gazania, nicotiana and viscaria.

If you have raised beds with good drainage, you can still sow or plant final crops of broad beans, lettuce, leeks, peas, turnips, celery, onions, parsnip, radish, turnips, beetroot, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, cabbage and parsley.

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