1. Watering.

When first planted, you need to water your garden well every 1 to 3 days, depending on the weather. In hot, dry or windy weather you may need to water every day. Rather water well less frequently than poorly more frequently. Before watering scratch the surface and if the soil below the surface is dry or only slightly damp you need to water. If you have an automated irrigation system in summer set it to start in the early hours of the morning, between 3 and 6 am but in winter reset to water between 9 and 12 am.

Group your plants in your garden according to their water requirements. Firstly group the plants from the winter rainfall area together as they will require watering in winter when the summer rainfall plants are resting and require very little water. Secondly put plants that come from high rainfall areas together away, if possible, from the drought hardy plants from the lower rainfall areas. This will enable you to give them more water in times of drought without watering the plants that are better suited to surviving drought.

Trees and shrubs that go dormant in the dry period (winter here in Gauteng), should not be watered during that time.

A newly planted garden needs to be watered every 1 to 3 days depending on the weather, until established.

2. Weeding.

Selective weeding will allow groundcovers to knit and so suppress the germination of weeds.

Do not till or ‘skoffel’ your flowerbeds. Tilling the beds is detrimental for a number of reasons:

Tilling disturbs the roots of your groundcovers, which then rather than spreading to cover the soil and smother weeds, shrink and ultimately die.
Tilling sows the weed seeds so that you will rapidly get a new crop of weeds. If the soil is undisturbed many of the groundcovers will self seed and germinate, particularly plants like Gazania, Nemesia, Diascia and Geranium incarnum.
When tilling, you break the surface tension of the soil, which allows the water in the soil to evaporate more quickly than it would otherwise, so creating an artificial drought.
Tilling disturbs the organisms that live in the soil close to the surface and carry surface debris into the soil and assist plants with nutrient uptake

Use an old screwdriver or ‘hand weeder’ to loosen the roots of each weed from the soil individually before extracting it from the soil.

Use groundcovers and mulch to suppress weeds from germinating.

3. Pruning.

Most indigenous trees and shrubs can be pruned with little or no ill effects. Pruning to shape trees and shrubs can be done at any time of the year but I would recommend late September to November, particularly if the plants being cut back are a little frost tender or are protecting plants that are cold tender.

Many of the ‘soft-wood’ perennials like Orthosiphon, Leonotus and Plectranthus need to be pruned annually to prevent them from getting woody and lanky. This should be done in late September or October, when any frost damage to plants can also be cut back. Do not be tempted to cut back before this because if there is a late frost the plants will be more exposed to damage than if they have not been cut back. Even frost damaged ‘limbs’ provide protection to the plant parts that have not been damaged by the frost.

4. Feeding.

Contrary to popular belief indigenous gardens do enjoy regular feeding.

Compost can be spread in flowerbeds at any time of the year. I prefer to do it in winter and spring before the real growing season. I believe that the compost should be spread over the flowerbeds as a mulch and not dug in. The earthworms and other ground living organisms will bring the goodness of the compost into the soil. I also believe that leaves that fall into flowerbeds should not be removed as they also act as mulch and provide shelter to a host of organisms, that in turns provide food to birds like thrushes and robins.

A general fertilizer spread into the flowerbeds also assists in maintaining a healthy and vibrant garden. An inorganic fertilizer can be used but some indigenous plants, like Halleria lucida (Tree fuchsia) do not take kindly to them. Rather look for a good organic fertilizer, Talborne make a very good range of organic fertilizers that are scientifically formulated and available in granulated form. I use both their formulated fertilizers and bonemeal to feed our garden.

When planting mix a handful of Bonemeal and a handful of Talborne Vita green 5:1:5 with the backfill.

A good feeding program for trees, shrubs and ground covers follows:

July: Feed with Talborne Vita Green 5:1:5.
November: Feed with Talborne Vita Fruit and Flower 2:3:2.
March: Feed with Talborne Vita Grow 3:1:5.

For the lawn use Talborne Vita Green 5:1:5 every 2 – 3 months during the growing season. Give the last feed in Gauteng in March and start again in September.

Regular feeding will help create a healthy and full garden.

5. Winter protection against cold.

See Indigenous Plants and Winter.