It’s March, and time to prepare for your winter and spring flower garden.

Image by Jill Wellington from pixabayImage by Jill Wellington from pixabayIn many regions of South Africa, in the evenings and early mornings, there is a distinctive ‘nip’ in the air reminding us that autumn is knocking on the door and it’s time to get our gardens ready for a stunning winter and spring garden.

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White Tulips Image by Capri23auto from PixabayWhite Tulips Image by Capri23auto from PixabayWinter and spring flowering bulbs like daffodils, tulips and hyacinths arrive in stores this month. They are also available online.

Buy them early and store them in a dry, dark and cool place until planting time next month; once the soil temperatures have cooled down.

Consider including some of our gorgeous indigenous bulbs like Babiana, Freesia, Sparaxis, Tritonia, Ixias, Gladioli, Ornithogalum (Chincherinchee) and Lachenalias.

Once your summer flowering bulbs have died down you can lift and store them. If you plan on leaving them in the soil, mark the position where they are planted to avoid damage while they are dormant.

Find my article on winter and spring flowering bulbs here

Many winter annuals can be sown into seedling trays now, but do not sow winter seeds directly into garden beds until the daytime temperatures have dropped significantly.

Some plants like alyssum, snapdragons, dianthus and petunias can be grown almost throughout the year in South Africa and can be sown now. Not all so called “winter annuals” are fully hardy to frost, and because sowing times vary from region to region, it is always better to check with your local garden centre which plants do best in your region before sowing or planting.

Growing Bedding Plants inSouth Africa E-BookGrowing Bedding Plants inSouth Africa E-BookIf you love flowers you will love my e-book “Growing Bedding Plants in South Africa” It is written especially for South African gardeners and covers everything you need to know about growing your own seedlings. All 78 pages are packed with useful information; like the best planting and sowing times for each variety, as well as ideal germination temperatures and days to flowering.

Read more or order here

Do not plant the same seedlings into the same beds year after year as this can cause soil borne fungal diseases and will deplete the soil of nutrients. This is especially relevant for seedlings like petunia, pansy and viola,.

 In cold winter regions which experience early frosts, gardeners generally start sowing seeds of slower maturing winter and spring flowering annuals in January and February; keeping them in a cool, shaded area. In these regions, continue to feed the seedlings you sowed; such as pansy, viola, cineraria, foxglove, aquilegia, Iceland poppy, delphinium, larkspur and primula; and transplant them into larger 6-pack seedling trays or small pots to grow-on. Only plant them out into the garden once the soil temperatures have cooled down significantly in autumn.  

In subtropical and humid regions, late summer, autumn and winter are the best times to plant a flower garden; and many winter annuals, as well as summer flowering annuals are sown during these cooler months. Because sowing times vary from region to region, it’s always better to check with your local garden centre first.

Bunch of sweet peas Image by utroja0 from PixabayBunch of sweet peas Image by utroja0 from PixabayNostalgic sweet peas are back in vogue, and if you sowed seed last month and the plants are growing vigorously, to encourage larger blooms, cut off some of their tendrils and continue to do this until they start flowering. If you have not sown seeds yet you can still do so. Soak the seeds in warm water overnight before planting. If some seeds don't swell, pierce them with a sharp clean pin. Plant 15 to 20cm apart into the trenches or beds you prepared last month. (Read my February article).

Sweet pea plants can take frost but the flowers will be ruined in severe frost regions, so in In very cold regions where the weather remains cool during spring and early summer, gardeners often delay planting seeds until May or June, so that they start blooming later. Late flowering varieties are available which can be sown in early spring, to flower in early summer, before it gets too hot.

Birds love eating the fresh young shoots of sweet peas and other seedlings, so protect them with plastic netting or chicken mesh if necessary.

Find my article on winter and spring flowering annuals as well as my article on 10 stars of the winter flower garden here

See our gardening month by month articles here