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Jobs for July: Working on your hardscaping

As July approaches, the winter chill has settled into Zambian gardens. If you are being responsible then your garden is more brown than green. It does however, feel as if the temperature is warmer than it would usually be at this time of the year.

Winter is still a time when many plants begin their dormant phase, a natural rhythm that's crucial for their survival. Dormancy helps plants conserve energy and withstand the colder temperatures. Examples of plants that commonly go dormant in Zambia include the different alocasia (elephant ears), with its large, lush leaves. Many of our indigenous plants have also gone dormant at this time with almost no evidence of the flowering bulbs remaining above ground. During this time, it's best to leave dormant plants be, allowing them to rest undisturbed until the warmer days return.

A concrete wall, lush green trees, with fading, unwatered lawn.
The unwatered lawn, of a responsible citizen, during the 2024 drought in June, in Lusaka. 4 months no water. Succulents and established trees also can survive without water.

Remember your garden should change with the seasons, and each season will reveal it's unique beauty in your garden.

Hardscape Maintenance

There is a reason why a lot of construction projects take place in the dry season, its easier when its not raining and overgrown and muddy! Take this time to conduct essential garden maintenance tasks, specifically of your hard-scape - the structures that keep your garden working. This is pumps, ponds, pavements, taps, roofs. The hardscape sets up the background for your beautiful plants and is frequently not the first thing people notice. However, a strong hardscape will allow your soft-scape, your beautiful plants to to shown to their fullest potential.

  1. Repairing structures - this could be loose bricks or outdoor structures that may have been damaged in the rainy season

  2. Clearing drains - drainage is an issue in Lusaka. Keeping the drains both inside and outside our properties clear of litter and soil will prevent build-up and make waterflow easier

  3. Clearing gutters - the gutters on your roof need to be cleaned regularly as debris does build up inside them. If you do not, water will collect in them and seep through the roof. The leaves will also provide food and nesting for small animals that you do not really want living so close.

These are simple actions that can prevent prevent accidents and further deterioration of your home. 

Plant Winter Crops

Not all plants are winding down for winter. Fast-growing annuals, particularly vegetables, can still thrive in the lingering warmth in our Zambian soils. If you're cultivating these crops, take advantage of this period to ensure they have adequate sunlight and nutrients to flourish. Plants that do well in the cooler months include lettuce, peas, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli and other brassicas. Tomatoes also grow but they are sensitive in extreme cold.

Protect your plants

It's also important to be mindful of the potential impact of cold and frost on your plants. Consider moving vulnerable specimens, like the delicate aglaonema, to protected areas to shield them from harm. And if the cold does take its toll on certain plants, resist the urge to trim them back immediately. Instead, allow them to naturally die back, which can provide insulation and protection for the remaining foliage.

Citrus Care

While some plants retreat into dormancy, others, like citrus trees, thrive during the Zambian winter. Ensure their surroundings are kept clean, particularly by promptly removing any fallen fruit and throwing it in your compost. If left to rot, this fruit attracts pests, bacteria and fungi that potentially could move to the fruit tree.

Lawns Care

Its a good time to apply compost or liquid fertiliser onto your lawn. Water it in well to ensure that you dilute it and do not 'burn' the lawn. This is better for lawns like Kikuyu and Simba, which require water all through the year, and will continue developing their growth during this period. Varieties like Richmond which can go dormant if allowed to do so, do not need it if you are not watering.

Winter Flowering Plants

While outdoor blooms may be scarce, there are still ways to inject color and vibrancy into your surroundings during the Zambian winter. Seek out winter-flowering plants that can brighten up your garden, such as pansies, snapdragons, and primroses. Their cheerful hues can provide a welcome contrast to the subdued winter landscape.

Read more about Water-wise Winter Flowering Plants here.

Indoor Color

Indoors, consider focusing on your potted plants to bring a touch of greenery and life to your living spaces. With slightly warmer temperatures indoors, especially if you have air conditioning, many sensitive plants can thrive. If space allows, bring vulnerable potted specimens indoors to shield them from the cooler outdoor temperatures, ensuring they continue to flourish throughout the winter months.

Pest Control

Finally, as temperatures fluctuate, be vigilant against pests, particularly aphids, which are drawn to plants that may be struggling to adjust to cooler conditions. Keep a close eye on your garden and be prepared to intervene with organic pesticides if necessary. By staying proactive, you can help safeguard your plants against potential pest infestations and ensure they remain healthy and resilient.

In conclusion, while June may signal a slowdown in the garden, there's still plenty to do to ensure your outdoor space remains vibrant and thriving throughout the Zambian winter.

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