Protect your plants during the cooler winter months

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Take these steps to protect your plants during the cooler winter months:

• If mole rats are a problem, plant spring-flowering bulbs in pots, covering drainage holes with pieces of brick or stones. When planting a mixture of bulbs in one pot, plant in layers (large bulbs below smaller bulbs) using a commercial potting mix.

• In cold gardens, or if garden space is needed for other plants, cut off old stems of dahlias, leaving a small stump, and carefully lift the tubers. Place in a box, cover with vermiculite and store in a dry, frost-free place.

• Instead of having to remove hessian covers from frost-tender plants every morning and replacing them every evening, use lightweight horticultural fleece. This allows light, air circulation and water to reach plants and it is left on the plants until all danger of frost has passed.

• Prevent attack from the cypress aphid by working aphicide granules into the soil around the base of conifers, one tablespoon per square metre and water in well. Spray small conifers with Efekto Aphicide. Apply once a month in winter.

• Water shrubs and bulbs that originate in the winter rainfall region, and azaleas, camellias and spring-flowering shrubs, twice a week. Trim and clean under hedges, a favourite winter haven for pests such as snails and slugs.

• Check indoor pot plants before watering, as they require less water in cold weather. Move them away from windows where the temperature drops at night, and from heaters that dry the air in the room.

• In the vegetable garden, sow broad beans, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, leek, kale, peas and spinach. A mulch of straw between rows will conserve moisture and discourage weeds.

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