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Sound Horticultural Practices
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. Horticultural Practices When one creates a garden, one is creating a specific micro-environment that will respond according to the elements therein. Ideally, gardens should be planned, developed & maintained in such a way that they achieve a balance between plants, animals, micro-organisms, aesthetic beauty, recreation and relaxation at a sustainable level.
. Watering
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Transported plants

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Newly planted plants

. Soils  
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Compost

1) Watering:-
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Lawn Dressing

Plants, like all living creatures, require a correct diet, and their only way of receiving this, in the private garden, is from you. Most plants can not intake food without water. Roots only look for water, therefore finding food on the way is more good luck than good judgment. It is, therefore, essential that watering be given priority attention in the development and maintenance of gardens.
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Tree Soil Nutrition

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Lawn Soil Nutrition

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Bedding Soil Nutrition

. Staff  
. Garden Services One should:-
. Lawn Mowing
  • Plan and design for water conservation
  • Water well – 1 hour once per week is far better than 10 minutes everyday – and preferably, in the evening
  • Select plants appropriate for our climate and group them according to their water needs, baring in mind that some plants require very little water, whilst others can not survive without wet feet
  • Mulch to reduce evaporation
  • Create and maintain ideal soil composition
. Pruning
. Cultivation & Aeration
. Planting
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Trees

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Lawns

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Shrubs

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Transplanting

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Ground Covers

1.1) Transported plants:-
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Vegetables & Herbs

The soil in pots or bags moves when being transported. If you do not intend to plant the plants the same day as being transported, water them well, after transportation, in order to settle the roots back into the soil.
. House Plants
. Pests & Diseases
. Recommended Reading      
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  1.2) Newly planted plants:-  
. Download printable version of this article   In order to ensure good establishment, newly planted plants should be watered every day for the first ten days after planting, thereafter twice per week for a month. Thereafter, as per your normal watering routine. Note that plants with shallow roots, such as seedlings and seasonal colour, will require watering more often than those with deeper roots.  
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. Top of page   2) Soils:-  
.     Good soil is basic to the success of any garden. With good soil pore space, roots spread deeper and reach a larger supply of water and increase resilience to hot dry weather. The soil's texture and structure play a primary role in water holding capacity and water movement. A soil's water holding capacity is the foundation for irrigation management. Soils should drain well in non wet-land areas – no pooling after one hour of a heavy watering. Soils should not drain in wetland areas. Increasing and reducing sand and clay percentages within the soil achieve these specifications. More clay, less drainage. More sand, more drainage. Beware of rock sub-strata that disallow drainage.

Generally speaking, soils should have neutral pH, with exceptions in areas, for example, that have Azaleas, which require more acidic soils.

The majority of plant nutrient requirements come from the soil. It is, therefore, essential that one ensures the plant is provide with well nourished soil that includes not only the basics of Nitrogen, Potassium & Phosphate, but also micro-nutrients such as Molybdenum. Please note that Phosphate does not move in soil, therefore if it is not in the root area, roots can not use it.
All plants need to be fed, and as their roots move through the soil they absorb all nutrients within reach. These nutrients need to be replaced by means of assisted feeding.
Not all plant nutrients are absorbed by the plants, rain leaches some nutrients beyond the reach of the feeding roots. The outer diameter of the plant, known as the ‘Drip Line' is where most available nutrients are being absorbed and this is the area of importance when feeding.

To understand fertilizers it is important to understand plant needs. Three major nutrients constitute the basis of general fertilizers. Their availability is represented by sets of three figures, eg 2:3:2 , 5:1:5
The first figure represents the available Nitrogen (N). The higher the number the more nitrogen is included
Nitrogen is responsible for the visible healthy growth of the plant, promoting good colour, vigorous growth and an abundance of foliage.
The Middle figure represents the available Phosphorus (P). As a separate fertilizer this is known as Super phosphate.
Phosphorus is essential for root development, flowering or fruiting and to ensure ripening of fruit or seeds.
The third figure represents the available Potassium (K).
Potassium develops starches and sugars in plants and is essential for the proper development of flowers, fruit and vegetables. It is also needed to strengthen resistance to disease.
 
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. Top of page 2.1) Compost & Lawn Dressing:-
.   Some organic composts are inconsistent in content & texture. Ensure you use a trustworthy brand, or make your own.
Lawn dressings & top soils may not be what they seem to be. Top soil is what it says it is – top soil. It can not be quarried. Always check the source of these products.
Compost should be filled with beneficial bacteria and nutrients ready to enhance the soil it is to be added to. It is senseless to scatter a little of it over the surface of the shrubberies or vegetable garden and expect it to make a difference to the quality of the soil. The chance is a lot of time and money will be wasted. For maximum effect it is better to apply the compost to small manageable areas one at a time and dig it in well. Don’t allow compost to lie about indefinitely before using it, and try to prevent it from drying out, because it will lose much of its nutritional value.
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. Top of page 2.2) Bedding Soil Nutrition:-
.   There are some very good slow release fertilizers available, but, once one has established good soil conditions, well composted garden refuse, used as a mulch, with the help of small animals, example worms, and micro-organisms, should provide sufficient nutrients for planted beds. Mulching of shrub areas, flowerbeds and vegetable gardens reduces water need by 30 to 50 percent. On reduced or non-irrigated sites, this savings makes a big difference in plant vigour and plant growth. Control weeds to reduce water consumption.
Mulching also helps prevent the soil from becoming compacted by rain or watering, reduces erosion on sloped surfaces and makes it difficult for garden pests, particularly slugs and snails to move from area to area.
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.     Inorganic Mulches:-  
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  • Gravel
  • Pebbles
  • Paving stones
  • Plastic sheeting
 
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.   Organic Mulches:-
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  • Leaves
  • Lawn clippings
  • Rough compost
  • Straw
  • Bark nuggets
  • Nutshells
  • Wood chips
  • Shredded paper or cardboard.
 
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.   Remember most of these have a limited lifespan and will need to be replaced from time to time. Old organics can be dug into the soil and the new material laid on top.
Make sure the mulch is lying on the soil, not on the plants.
When fresh organics eg leaves and lawn clippings are used, extra nitrogen will need to be added to the soil. The reason for this is that they draw nitrogen to assist with decomposition.
When mulching and fertilizing at the same time, apply the fertilizer first and then the mulch on top.
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. Top of page   2.3) Tree Soil Nutrition:-  
.     Tree areas can be specially addressed by using a long spike, such as a fence stay, to apply fertilizers directly into the root areas. The surrounding areas can also be loosened with a fork, to root areas, and applications of compost applied regularly before a good watering.  
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. Top of page 2.4) Lawn Soil Nutrition:-
.   Due to the practice of continuous mowing of lawns, lawns should receive seasonal applications of fertilizers. We encourage the use of fertilizers of organic origin, in preference to inorganic manufactured fertilizers, which have greater potential for leaching and contaminating waterways and ground water.
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. Top of page   3) Staff / Garden Service Contractor:-  
.     Do not use casuals off the street to come onto your property to maintain your garden. In this day and age it is asking for problems from a security and safety point of view, it can also turn out to be very expensive as an inexperienced gardener can cause a lot of damage to plants, lawns and equipment.
Use only reputable gardeners or garden service contractors.
 
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. Top of page   4) Lawns - Mowing & Edging:-  
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  • Use only well maintained, safe equipment. Use safety gear where recommended.
  • Use correct mower for grass type – Reel (Cynoduns) or Rotary (The rest)
  • Do not mow when wet.
  • Mow regularly. Summer twice per week if not using a grass catcher, once per week if using a grass catcher.
  • If no grass catcher used, rake up the grass cuttings using a rubber rake. ( A plastic rake damages the runners). If the cuttings are not raked up they cause ‘thatching’ which will lead to your lawn becoming patchy as the new runners cannot root.
  • Raise mower height in shade areas.
  • Scarify or “shave” biennially.
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. Top of page 5) Pruning:-
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  • Shape for aesthetics & ease of maintenance on a regular basis
  • Remove dead flower heads regularly – these sap energy from the plant
  • Remove dead fruit from base of trees regularly – these give off toxic gasses.
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. Top of page   6) Cultivation & Aeration:-  
.     Use a fork to aerate soil, ensuring no damage to root balls, not more than twice per month in summer, and not more than once per month in winter. This will assist in weed control if weeds are removed at the same time. Aim to use mulch, insects and micro-organisms to do the aeration for you.  
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. Top of page   7) Planting:-  
.   When you plant a plant, you are deciding where the plant is going to live for the rest of its life. This is a big responsibility. Ensure that the plant is placed in an optimum position for healthy growth to a mature state. Things to consider are:-
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  • Shade – now & later when larger plants mature
  • Size when mature
  • Water and drainage
  • Wind
  • Temperature
  • Compatibility with neighbouring plants & nearby recreational areas
  • Aesthetics
  • Traffic
 
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. Top of page 7.1) Ground Covers:-
.     Create a well drained seedbed with a 12mm layer of compost well dug in to 30cm. Space plants evenly apart to mature size. Dig hole twice the size of the plant bag / pot. Mix I desert spoon 2:3:2 & 1 desert spoon Super Phosphate with soil removed from hole. Place plant so that stem base is level with bed surface. Fill in base & sides of hole with soil / fertilizer mix. Press top of plant root ball firmly into the ground to ensure root contact with new soil. Water as per “Watering” above.  
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. Top of page   7.2) Lawns:-  
.     Create a well drained seedbed with a 5mm layer of compost, sprinkling of 2:3:2 at 2kg/100m², sprinkling of Super Phosphate at 2kg/100m², well dug in to 10cm. Prevent fast water run-off areas by contouring or terracing. Lay instant lawn or plant runners. Roll with medium weight roller. Water as per “Watering” above.  
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. Top of page   7.3) Shrubs:-  
.     Create a well drained seedbed with a 12mm layer of compost well dug in to 30cm. Space plants evenly apart to mature size. Dig hole twice the size of the plant bag / pot. Place the top half of removed soil to one side & mix 2 desert spoons 2:3:2, 2 desert spoons Super Phosphate and 5 full handfuls of quality compost. Fill in base with unmixed soil. Place plant so that stem base is level with bed surface. Fill in base & sides of hole with soil / fertilizer/compost mix. Press top of plant root ball firmly into the ground to ensure root contact with new soil. Water as per “Watering” above.  
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. Top of page 7.4) Vegetables & Herbs:-
.   Create a well drained seedbed with a 5mm layer of compost, sprinkling of 2:3:2 at 2kg/100m², sprinkling of Super Phosphate at 2kg/100m², well dug in to 10cm. Dig square hole twice the size of the plant bag / pot. Place plant so that stem base is level with bed surface. Gently loosen base and sides of root ball with fingers to 1cm deep. Fill in base & sides of hole with soil. Press top of plant root ball firmly into the ground to ensure root contact with new soil. Water as per “Watering” above.
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. Top of page   7.5) Trees:-  
.     7.5.1) Bag size less than 20kg / 20l  
.     As per shrubs. Position tree stake and secure to tree with tree tie / strap allowing freedom of movement for growth. Water as per “Watering” above.  
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.   7.5.2) Bag size equal to or greater than 20kg / 20l 
.     Dig square hole twice the size of the plant bag / pot. Place the top half of removed soil to one side & mix 5 desert spoons 2:3:2, 5 desert spoons Super Phosphate and 15 full handfuls of quality compost. Fill in base with unmixed soil. Place plant so that stem base is level with bed surface. Gently loosen base and sides of root ball with fingers to 1cm deep. Fill in base & sides of hole with soil / fertilizer mix. Press top of plant root ball firmly into the ground to ensure root contact with new soil. Position tree stake and secure to tree with tree tie / strap allowing freedom of movement for growth. Water as per “Watering” above.  
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. Top of page   7.6) Transplanting:-  
.     As per above, ensuring:-  
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  • Plant root ball is medium watered first
  • Remove as much of existing root ball as possible
  • Do not use any organic fertilizer
  • Double compost amounts
 
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. Top of page   8) House Plants:-  
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  • Most house plants die through over-watering. Due to reduced light conditions, plant metabolism is reduced, therefore their water requirements are less. When you water, water well. Do not water again until soil is reasonably dry – test with your finger or a small dowel.
  • Avoid moving the plants as this changes the cell position to available light and energy is used to get the cells facing the correct position again.
  • Avoid placing plants in drafts.
  • Keep free of dust by wiping leaf surfaces, top & bottom, with a moist sponge. Use a 10:1 mix of water & liquid dish cleaner.
  • Feed with Multifeed P twice per annum.
  • Transplant into larger containers if root-bound or too large for existing container.
 
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. Top of page   9) Insects, Pests & Diseases:-  
.     Since many of the common insect and disease problems attack only plants under stress, maintaining health with good horticultural practices is the primary management tool. Plants in good health are more tolerant of insect and disease problems. If, however, outbreaks do occur it is essential to use the most environmentally friendly rectification methods available. There are numerous eco-friendly ways of resolving pest & disease problems – an infestation of army worm on the lawn can be cleared by broadcasting bird seed – birds see the seed, come down to eat it &, in this case, every bird gets a worm. Many chemicals are non-specific and destroy the good along with the bad. Do not just rely on the advice of your nurseryman, read the label & always follow the instructions.  
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. Top of page   10) Recommended Reading:-  
.     Attracting Birds to Your Garden  
.     Attracting Wildlife to Your Garden  
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.     (Speech by Eileen Siney - Richards Bay Garden Club - March 2006)  
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