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Updated : 21/9/2014

To do in September

It isn't only seedlings that are stirring in spring. The whole world is being re-born, and our good earth is teeming with life.


There are pests, as well. The eggs of slugs and snails are hatching out, all kinds of biting and sucking insects are being born and somehow or other-there are always a few old and very hungry cutworms, wireworms, and so on which have managed to survive the winter and are going on the rampage in our gardens now.

Seedlings, until they grow old and tough enough to be more or less unattractive to pests, must therefore be protected from their enemies. That is easy enough if you make an early start by spraying with something like Malasol. Don't wait until your seedlings are attacked and weakened by pest attack ... keep them whole and healthy from the start.


This month seed sowing can start in real earnest. It is safe to sow any of the semi-hardy annuals now. By the time the seedlings are up we will have nothing to fear from the weather. Even a cold night or two won't hurt them now. Petunias, nicotiana, begonias and all other plants which have very fine, dust-like seeds are best sown in tins placed in a cold frame, although if you are hard-pressed for space, pots can be accommodated on a bathroom or kitchen windowsill.

Then there are some very interesting vegetable sowings for this month. There are the ornamental gourds, for instance. Their fruit are highly decorative and extremely attractive for use in autumn and winter flower arrangements. You can sow seeds of tomatoes, sweet corn, and egg plant (aubergine or brinjal).

Mulching now will help your seedlings to grow and your transplants to establish themselves because the soil in which they are growing is nice and cool and moist.


The lawn is ready for its first run over with the lawnmower. Do not set the knives of the mower too closely for this. They should not do much more than just skim the turf. The lawn can be more closely mown later on.


Do not be worried about the daffodils and narcissi you planted in the autumn. They are now rather untidy with yellowing foliage. Just be patient with them; it won't be long before the foliage dies down completely. Don't forget to take off the dead flowerheads and seed pods. If you leave them on the bulbs they will weaken them.

There is hardly a Southern African gardener who does not grow a few dahlias. There are three easy methods of propagating the dahlia. The first of these is nature's own way, which gives you brand new plants from seed. It's only drawback is that you never know what type or colour of flower a seedling will produce, unless you grow the bedding varieties which come true to type from seed. If you have the ground to spare, raise some dahlias from seed this year.

Which of the other two methods you use depends upon what you have in mind: do you want a large number of dahlia plants as soon as possible or do you merely wish to have a few plants of a particular variety? If you want a lot, then put the clumps of tubers into a box with a little soil, peat or sand thrown over them, water them, and take cuttings from the new shoots they will soon produce. These sprout very quickly and should be cut just under a joint in the stem and be rooted in moist soil or sand.

But perhaps you want only a few dahlias, in which case start the clumps of tubers into growth under cover and as soon as they start growing, separate the tubers individually. See that each tuber has a growing shoot or eye on it and plant them out in the garden at any time from now on.

Remember that dahlias like plenty of phosphate in the soil, and the easiest way of providing this is to dig some rock phosphate into the soil when you prepare the beds. It is cheap, and easy to obtain. Phosphate is good for all flowering and fruiting plants, since its special function is to assist the production of flowers, seed and fruit.


Of the salad greens, mustard and cress are the most rapid-growing and the easiest to cultivate. And yet one finds them in neither gardens nor greengrocers. It is surprising when one considers the ease of cultivation.

Sow the seeds in pots at ten day intervals and place them in a cold frame. You will then enjoy these tasty salad crops throughout the year. It is then also easy to keep the crop clean. Sow the mustard seed two or three days ahead of the cress, as it takes a little longer to germinate. Any light soil will suit this crop - in fact it really doesn't need soil at all, you can grow it on a damp flannel or a piece of wet sacking. There is no need to cover the seeds, just press them down with a flat piece of wood and keep the containers dark until germination has taken place, when they can be moved into the light (but not full sun) to colour up and take on a nice green shade. As soon as one box or tin is nicely up, sow another, and then repeat the process and you will always have a nice crop of mustard and cress.


To get the youngsters interested in gardening give each of them a brightly coloured bowl (a different colour for each) and a packet of mustard and cress seed, and let them grow this useful crop themselves. You'll be surprised to find the interest they will take in watching the crop grow.
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