In the garden this month - August 2021 - by Leone Williams, Petal Faire Nursery

28 Aug 2021
In the garden this month - August 2021 - by Leone Williams, Petal Faire Nursery -

I’m sure any gardener who gets the Sunday Times found Jane Griffiths’ 12 July 2021 article on organic fertilising as fascinating as I did.

Jane is a well-known writer on the subject of growing vegetables and a regular contributor to the Sunday Times’ Home and Garden section. At a time when food gardens are all the rage (and rightly so), I thought I would share some of what I learned from the article in our newsletter.

While there is no difference between a nutritional element from your compost heap and one from a chemical fertiliser factory, manufacturers have zeroed in on the “big three” elements identified as necessary for plant growth – nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. But further research has found more than 60 trace elements in plants, a full 16 of which are essential for growth. If these are not present in your fertiliser, plants must extract them from the soil, and when they are not replaced, the result is soil degradation.

Because well-balanced organic fertilisers (liquid or solid) are made from living things such as manure, bone, or seaweed, they contain ALL the nutrients that plants need to thrive. A well-diluted liquid fertiliser is best applied regularly as a drench or foliar spray. Solid organic fertilisers can be sprinkled on the surface or added to the top layer of soil every four to six months, where they break down slowly and provide a steady supply of nutrients.

Why not take it one step further and grow your own fertiliser? Dandelions, yarrow, comfrey, borage, and a host of other plants are a pleasure to have in the garden (for you and the bees) and tend to have deep roots that only extract nutrients from the soil below where your other plants keep busy. Jane’s article provides details about how you can use the roots, leaves and stems of these “compost plants” to feed your garden the natural way.


Despite the cold, we are pruning as planned and feeding with our chicken manure sprinkle.

This is also a good time for us to tackle our big problem with trees that that have outgrown their allotted spaces. A friend who knows his ways around trees has suggested that we deal with the Combretum erythrophyllum (vaderlandswilg) which is leaning rather ominously over the house by cutting the main branches on the house side. And then there are the branches over the washing line that ensure that we get bird poop on our freshly laundered clothes and sheets, much to Sibongile’s annoyance. At least the City Council has agreed to come and prune the jacaranda on the sidewalk which is blocking the sun from our one and only solar panel.

Our Stihl extendable pruning saw is so precious that we store it in the dining room, but it is being put to good use now. This is NOT sponsored content, but I have to say that this piece of equipment is a must for any garden with trees!


Indigenous plants

Cotula sericea is a fast-growing groundcover with soft creeping silvery foliage and pretty button-like yellow flowers all year round. Evergreen and hardy, this one of the few plants that want dry, sandy soil and HOT sun.

Indigenous to the northern parts of South Africa, Ochna pulchra is a rare and hard-to-find deciduous tree with a rounded shape, distinctive peeling bark, and gorgeous racemes of yellow flower in spring that attract birds and bees. It grows about 5m high and likes full sun. We have plants in 10 litre bags.

We featured Psychotria capensis in our April newsletter, but I thought it was worth introducing the variegated variety. This extremely rare evergreen shrub has large glossy variegated leaves and clusters of yellow flowers in summer followed by black berries much loved by birds. It is semi-hardy and is happiest in semi-shade.

Zantedeschia Marshmallow must be one of our most gorgeous indigenous plants. The bulbs produce large deep pink flower spathes from spring to summer. Native to the colder regions of the country, it is very hardy. It grows about 1m high and likes sun to semi-shade and moist soil.

Exotic plants

The large fragrant flowers of the Easter lily vine, Beaumontia grandiflora, are indeed grand! This robust hardy woody climber grows on average 4m high and wants full sun. It is supposed to flower from spring to autumn, but we get flowers all year round.

Rehmannia elata is an upright evergreen perennial with a mat-like rosette of grey green leaves and tall stalks of two-lipped trumpet-like dark pink flowers from spring to autumn. It is very hardy, grows about 90cm high, and likes sun to semi-shade.

Sisyrinchium palmifolium hails from South America. A clump-forming hardy evergreen perennial with strap-like blue-green leaves and lovely large saucer-shaped yellow flowers in summer, it grows about 75cm high. Plant in full sun.  I love this one.

The tubular mauve flowers of Strobilanthes hamiltoniana are a welcome sight in the garden at this time of year. This fast-growing perennial with attractive waxy serrated leaves has the delightful common name of Chinese rain bell. Evergreen and semi-hardy, it grows on average 1.5m high and is happy in sun or shade.


Many folks have commented that the Petal Faire Nursery newsletter is a ray of light in dark times in South Africa. The recent terrible riots in KZN and Gauteng have dampened even my spirit, and I know I am not the only one who has wept over the devastation and then over the goodwill that is inherent in most South Africans. I hope that, in our small way, we can continue to uplift you when the way ahead looks too gloomy to contemplate.

Happy gardening, and click here to visit our store!


082 482 0257

Petal Faire Nursery


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