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.
GARDENING FOR THE KIDS
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.