Tips for Autumn

Tips for Autumn

Summer has been, and we say hello to autumn when the leaves start to turn a lovely yellow, red and orange. The mornings have a slight chill to them, the days are cooling down, and the weather becomes unpredictable. But autumn is a beautiful and busy time in any garden.

We’ve put together a list of tasks to do now to get your garden autumn-ready.

Lawn maintenance

Keep mowing your lawn once a week on a high setting and water when dry.

Check your lawn for weeds, especially the well-known winter grass.

Fertilise with fertiliser with an equal nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium ratio. This will help develop a robust root system.

Celebrate a healthy soil

Autumn is a fabulous time to add some compost to your soil’s surface that will help protect plant roots against the winter weather.

It improves soil structure and helps retain moisture in the warmer months ahead.

It also gives a good headstart for the winter seedlings, winter bulbs and vegetables once they are planted.

Fallen autumn leaves

Be sure to collect the leaves in your garden and on your lawn regularly; otherwise, they will smother your plants and lawn. Then, add the leaves to your compost heap.


Divide perennials

Evergreen, summer-flowering perennials like Agapanthus, daylilies, Iris and Cannas overgrown can be divided by lifting them from the soil and dividing at the roots re-planting them in compost-enriched soil. Water them regularly as they will suffer some stress from being separated.

Plan your vegetable garden

Start planning your vegetable garden for the winter crops to ensure a bumper vegetable harvest during the cold winter months. There are lots of vegetables that can be planted during autumn. Kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and peas are well-known winter seedlings. Carrots, beetroot and lettuce can also be planted as these vegetables can

be grown throughout the year. Keep an eye on the seedlings for cutworm and aphids, especially on the Brassica family. Do not forget to plant herbs like coriander, parsley and organum. Plant your garden mint in pots as they tend to take over.

Seedlings – Some colour to the grey winter

Plant your sweet peas seeds now in a sunny position in your garden. Remember to water regularly once you have sown the seed. African daisies, fairy Primula’s, Cineraria’s, poppies, Pansies, Nemesia’s, stocks, Calendula’s and bokbaai vygies are only a few annuals that can be planted in autumn. Remember to add some bonemeal and compost when planting your seedlings. Water well and check regularly for snails.


Plant winter and spring-flowering bulbs now. Daffodils, Anemones, Freesias and Ixias are some of the easiest bulbs to grow. Remember to plant Tulip bulbs only in May as soon as the soil is colder. Prepare the soil by mixing in compost and bonemeal before planting. Water deeply every fourth day till the rainy season sets in. 


Keep an eye on your plants because of the unpredictable weather. The plants are also under attack from various pests. Cold nights and warm days are a big favourite of aphids, red spiders, and the hawk moth’s caterpillar on arum lilies. (Contact us for advice on how to treat these pests.)


General autumn tasks

-Clean your cutters regularly

-Reduce watering as the months get cooler

-Pull weeds up regularly before they go to seed

Azaleas, Gardenias and Camellias will start forming flowering buds now; keep them moist to avoid bud drops before they open in spring.

Autumn is a perfect time to plant deciduous fruit trees like apricots, apples and peaches. The advantage of growing in autumn is that these plants will be established in spring.

Trim hedges regular to keep them compact and bushy from ground level.

Autumn is a colourful and exitIng time in any garden and is also the time to give your garden a thorough tidy before the cold and wet weather sets in.

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What are your plants trying to tell you?

What are your plants trying to tell you?

Although healthy plants are easy to maintain in suitable soil and climate, they occasionally need protection against pests.  Like people, if feeling poorly, a plant has a way of letting you know what is wrong.  Leaves may droop, holes may appear, or growth may stop. A quick, accurate diagnosis is half the battle in controlling the problem before it gets out of hand.

Please continue to read to discover the most common pest in our gardens and easy remedies for beautiful plants.

Mealy Bugs

White woolly spots appear on stems, at junctions of stems and leaves, generally in any area hidden from bright light. Mealy bugs are insects covered with white powdery wax and suck plant juices from the plants. They excrete honeydew on which a sooty black fungus may form.

Easy remedy: when there are only a few, dip a cotton wool earbud in alcohol or methylated spirits and rub them off. For heavier infestation, spray the plants with soapy (Sunlight Liquid) water.

Red Spider Mite and your plants

Leaves show pale yellow speckles, then slowly turning yellow, and in time the plants become stunted and die. These eight-legged pests are a particular nuisance during dry, hot periods. They are small and red, hardly visible, and live under the leaves spinning delicate white webs. They feed by sucking the sap from the plants.

Control by a direct spray with water from a garden hose pipe.


These tiny plant lice are about 3 mm long and can be green, brown or black, and assemble on soft young tips or leaves’ underside. They are usually wingless and suck the plant’s sap. They cause leaves and buds to wither and stunt the growth of the plants. Leaves and stems become shiny and sticky to the touch. Aphids are generally active when days are hot and nights are cool. 

Control aphids by picking them off or knocking them off with a strong water stream of a garden hose pipe.


When your plant becomes stunted and stems and leaves are often sticky to the touch, look on leaves’ underside and plant stems. Your plants are probably infested with scale. Their yellowish (when young) or brown colour makes them hard to see until the infestation is severe. They look like small oval shells and assemble in dense colonies where they sap the plant’s strength by sucking its juices. Scale also excretes a mould forming honeydew.

Control by gently scrub the scale off the leaves and stems using a cotton wool earbud dipped in alcohol or methylated spirits.


Caterpillars are the larvae of butterflies and moths and often show up in our gardens in late summer and early autumn. They can ravage plant leaves but they’ll usually stick to one kind of plant. They are a very hungry and mostly unwelcome guest in the garden, especially on plants like arum lilies, Clivias and Agapanthus. They will eat holes in your leaves, typically overnight. They do have plenty of natural predators like wasps and birds.

Control caterpillars by picking them off your plants and looking for their eggs on the leaves’ underside, and removing them with a strong flush of water.

If all else fails

If flushing with water or swapping pest with a cotton wool earbud does not help, contact your nursery for an organic spray. Heavy infestations sometimes need harsher intervention but always avoid insecticides that might kill beneficial insects and pollinators like bees. We need them for a healthy earth.

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Chasmanthe floribunda – The Orange Flame of the Cape’s Winters

Chasmanthe floribunda – The Orange Flame of the Cape’s Winters

Common names:  Suurknolpypie, Piempiempie, cobra lily or flames.

In the Western Cape, during winter, you will see alongside our roads, mountains and in some gardens, the bright orange flowers that are loved by all – and especially appreciated by sunbirds for the nectar it provides at this time of year. Chasmanthe floribunda is a vigorous bulbous plant, endemic to the Western Cape, with vibrant orange flowers that makes a bold statement in large plantings during winter and the beginning of spring.


The leaves are erect, fresh green, sword-shaped and with a medium texture and a main prominent vein. The erect spike with bright orange flowers normally appears around mid-winter. It has 30 to 40 flowers which are arranged in opposite directions.

Caring for Chasmanthe floribunda

Chasmanthe emerges from the ground in autumn generally after the first winter rains, and flourishes and flowers in both sun and shade. Bulbs can be planted from as early as February.  As soon as green shoots appear: start watering and continue to keep the soil moist during winter (that is if it doesn’t rain).

These plants need well-drained, and enriched soil, and (although originally from the winter rainfall area) can be grown in the summer rainfall areas with success if watered in the winter and the soil is well-drained in the summer. They can be used in rockeries, on slopes and in mass planting where colour is needed in winter. They are at their best when used in large groups to provide a spectacular display of colour. It self-seeds, and if grown from seed will only start flowering after 2 to 3 years.

Chasmanthe floribunda

As soon as the leaves start to become yellow, withhold watering gradually until the leaves are entirely yellow and start drying out (generally about November). At this stage, one can lift the bulbs out of the ground and store in a cool, dry place until the following February. They may be left in the soil if conditions are suitable, in which case the yellowed, dry leaves can be removed and the ground covered with a thick mulch of compost to enrich the soil for the following year.

They will thrive for several years in the soil and form new side bulbs. After several years, the quality and number of flowers on such old plants will start to diminish.  Then, the whole clump can be lifted with a fork after the flowering season. Separate the bulbs, and replant or stored it until the next planting season.

More species

Chasmanthe floribunda var. duckittii is the yellow form of Chasmanthe floribunda, and Chasmanthe aethiopica and has fewer orange flowers in the spike facing the same direction. The flowers start opening from the bottom to the top on the spikes, and the flowers and leaves are often used in flower arrangements. They are long-lasting in a vase. These are one of South Africa’s showiest bulbous plants and are a must for attracting sugarbirds to your garden.

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