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Jobs for April: A Guide to Preparing your Garden for Winter

Updated: Apr 1

In February, the President of Zambia announced a national emergency as we are now officially experiencing a drought. Many crops have been devastated by the diminished rainfall and no doubt, we would have seen the droughts effects in our own gardens as well. We have to accept that our gardens will go through a difficult time, but established plants will bounce back in the next rainy season.


As April begins and we continue the transition winter, and the cool and dry weather sets in, it's time to roll up our sleeves and tackle some essential garden tasks. Regardless of the change in season, working through these jobs will make your garden more resilient during this dry season. Here are some essential tasks you need to do:


Protect the soil

Collecting Mulch:

Leaves and organic matters will dry out and decompose so collect as much as you can before then, to use as mulch or add to your compost. There are many options for mulch such as leaves, as grass clippings, compost or even mature. Some larger leaves will need to be crushed into smaller pieces so that they do not blow away when applied to the garden.



Mulching:

Adding mulch to our garden beds is another smart move. Whether it's compost, straw, or bark chips, opting for organic materials creates a protective layer over the soil, helping it retain moisture and maintain a stable temperature. If you do not have your own garden mulch, you can buy some of the options listed below:

  • Large hay bales are selling in Lusaka for K700 and can be used as mulch.  It's a huge increase but it is a good investment if you consider the non-cash savings from reduced pumping, labour and reduced water use. 

  • There are also options for mulch and you can find some suppliers on our garden directory. These include Ecobiz, Black Gold, and you can also find other suppliers on the Facebook Gardening Groups.


General Maintenance

Weeding:

Weeding becomes more of a challenge in the dry season as the soil hardens. This means that you are sometimes unable to pull weeds out by the root. In many cases, although the plant on top may dry out, this underground root will simply lay dormant until until the next rains come. With the ground still soft from recent rains, April presents the perfect opportunity to tackle those pesky weeds. By removing them now, we can prevent them from competing with our beloved plants for water and nutrients as the dry season progresses.


Weeds competing with a lawn.
Weeds competing with a lawn.

Pruning:

April offers a window to trim dead or damaged branches from shrubs, trees, and perennials. But remember, let's not go overboard – we want to promote healthy growth without stressing out our plants, especially with the dry season approaching.

  • Prune plants that have finished fruiting and are going dormant.

  • Trees like citrus that are fruiting this season will be pruned at the end of the cold season.


Water Conservation

Nothing greens up a garden like rain water and now that the rains are over,we must accept that we cannot restore that verdant green by watering our gardens in excess.  Now that we are in a drought, it goes without saying that we have to be super responsible with our water consumption over this extended dry season and need to rethink our water habits.


A water sprinkler
Can we maintain execess watering of lawns even during this drought?

  • We love our expansive green lawns but as community citizens let us reduce watering on the lawn. Remember we all draw water from the same underground reservoirs. Farmers are also using the same water for their crops and households use that same water for daily needs.

  • As we are going into winter, practice watering in the early morning to reduce the loss from evaporation, and so the plant does not 'sleep' in cold water at night.

  • Where possible group plants together and water according to their needs, as opposed to watering just watering on a schedule.


Plan for Winter Interest

At this time of the year the garden fades so think about adding some colour to your garden. Here are some suggestions:


Annuals:

At this time of the year, winter annuals are extremely popular in home gardens.  They add a pop of colour to selected areas in a dry garden.  However, they do require frequent watering so use them sparingly, or group them together in one location.  Check the Gardening In And Around Zambia Facebook group to see who is selling petunias, violas and marigolds, near your location.



Succulents:

From blue-gray agaves to purple aeoniums and red-edged echeverias, these drought-tolerant beauties not only thrive in the dry season but also add a pop of color all year round.




By tackling these garden tasks in April, we're setting our gardens up for success in the upcoming dry season while also doing our part in conserving water and promoting plant health.

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