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Part 4: Preparing your Garden for Spring / Planting Summer-Flowering Bulbs & Seeds

Spring is finally here, and now is the perfect time to plant vibrant and beautiful summer-flowering plants; especially towards mid-September as any danger of frost would have then abated. Planning is key – having already prepared your garden soil and choosing areas where the sunlight or shade supports the growth of your chosen bulbs or seedlings is the first step to creating a bright and colourful garden. With the ever-growing popularity of complexes and secure estates, garden sizes have become considerably smaller. Make the most of a smaller garden by focusing your preparation and planning on emphasising variety and beauty in your flowerbeds. Remember that a smaller garden will mean a smaller area to work and maintain – something that will come in handy when considering how busy the average South African’s work schedule really is.

Bulb Pack:

The instructions on the back of the bulb or seed pack will give you all the relevant information on how tall the plants will grow, the amount of sunlight they require, the depth that they should be planted and when they will flower (to name a few). A noteworthy point is to plant flowers that grow the highest towards the back of your flowerbed and its borders, with those that are shorter in the front so that all can be seen and fully appreciated. Different species will flower at different times throughout Winter, Spring and Summer – this can guarantee that your garden is a vast array of vivid colour right through the warmer months and even into Winter if correctly planned.

Overplanting:

Groundcover, annuals (plants with a life-cycle of a year) and perennials (plants with a life-cycle of more than a year) can be purposefully placed amongst your bulbs to highlight and compliment them, and to fill unwanted gaps in your flowerbeds. Examples of popular annuals and perennials that will make lovely additions to your garden are Nasturtium, Petunias, Impatiens and Begonias. Over-planting bulbs is an extremely popular technique in gardens where contrast and variety are the key objectives.

Step 1:

Loosen the soil to roughly 20cm deep and place the bulbs inside, planting them closely together in small related groups of 10 – 15 (this will ensure that once they’ve grown and flowered the bulbs will make a bold and beautiful statement) with at least as much soil above them as the bulbs are high or following the instructions on the bulb pack. Most bulbs favour soil that is aerated and light with a higher sand or loam content and enough organic matter to retain nutrients and moisture. Good soil drainage is probably the most important thing when planting bulbs as very few can tolerate water-logged soil.  Compost and manure are good additions to any soil and will benefit the bulbs, but be careful not to use fresh manure as this will burn the roots and potentially destroy or weaken your bulbs.

Step 2:

Over-plant the bulbs with your chosen annuals and perennials, which will act as living mulch and assist in retaining moisture and keeping the temperature of the soil cool to support flowering and growth. Over-planting also acts as an inhibitor to weeds. Roughly 3cm of old, well-decomposed compost can also be used, as long as fresh grass clippings and plant or wood matter is not present as these leech essential nitrogen from the soil on decay.

Step 3:

As with any living organism, plants need frequent watering to ensure adequate moisture is found in the soil, and to prevent the soil from drying out and the bulbs from not flowering.  Develop a routine every three/four days of watering for 30-40 minutes at a time. Using a sprinkler is an easy and effective way to water your garden if time is a factor.

Popular Summer Bulbs:

Examples of popular, indigenous, summer bulbs that are beautifully decorative, easy to plant and for the most part inexpensive are Dahlias, Gladioli, Cannas, Amaryliss, Galtonia, Tuberous Begonias and Zantedeschia. These flower bulbs come in many shades, shapes and sizes – and provide a vast variety of exquisite colour and diversity that will bring joy to your garden and home.