With a moderate and sunny climate, you have the opportunity to have an absolutely stunning garden while living in South Africa, especially if you live in a suburb with lots of space.
But what to plant and where to start? While you might be used to a distinct season where certain plants or flowers are planted at a certain time (like sweet peas every spring in the UK), in South Africa the seasons tend to overlap. Also, with a variety of different kinds of soils, a plant can thrive in one garden but not in a another.
In South Africa it’s common to have a gardener that tends to your lawn and plants one or more days a week, so this could be your opportunity to test out your green fingers and try out some different ideas to make the most of your own space.
Here are some gardening tips for Joburg, and what to plant when, to get you started:
1. INDIGENOUS GARDENS
All kinds of exotic trees were planted in Joburg in the late 1800s to provide shade and make suburban streets more attractive, and many of these historic trees are protected in certain areas. While you might be lucky to have a big shady tree in your garden already, depending on where you live, the truth is that exotic plants are water intensive, so choosing indigenous plants is a more environmentally-friendly choice, and a lot less effort to maintain!
Visit this link to find out more about some ideas for indigenous plants in your garden.
2. SUCCULENT GARDENS
Some ideas of water-friendly plants are succulents, which don’t need a lot of water at all, and actually thrive when left to their own devices. Although they can take a while to grow, they can be planted in pots and then transferred to a different area as they get bigger.
NOTE: Be aware that some succulents may have sap in the fleshy leaves can be poisonous, for example, certain varieties of Euphorbia (which closely resemble cacti).
Some ideas: Stone Roses and Aloes
3. SEASONAL PLANTING
Gauteng, and Johannesburg, has a temperate climate, with hot summers and mildly cold winters. During summer there will also be thunderstorms, and potentially hail, so it can be worth investing in sturdier plants if you’re worried about hail damage. In winter, there can be mild frost, so some more sensitive, ornamental plants will need to be wrapped.
Knowing what to plant in your garden will be dependent on the location of your house, and the kind of soil you have, but to give you a general idea of what to plant according to the seasons in Joburg, here are some suggestions from Life is a Garden, a comprehensive local online gardening resource:
Snapdragons, Lavender, Conifers and Lilies. For more winter planting suggestions visit this link.
Impatiens, Marigolds, Carnations, Petunias and Sweet Peas.
Strawberries, Roses and Vygies
For more winter planting suggestions visit this link.
Namaqualand Daisies, Poppies and Foxgloves
If you’re keen to plant your own vegetables, here’s a seasonal vegetable planting guide too.
Although very much not a natural part of the Gauteng ecosystem, which is historically rocky bushveld, savanna or long-stemmed grassland, lawns are hugely popular in Gauteng, but do require some maintenance.
Depending on the type of grass you use, winter can be a good time to make plans to revive your lawn, while in summer you will need to make sure that it gets enough water and is maintained regularly.
NOTE: As South Africa struggles with prolonged drought, there are strict water restrictions in place, so keep this in mind planting a new lawn, or maintaining an existing one. Hadeda Ibis’ love lawns too, so be aware that you’ll have some noisy visitors coming to dig around in your lawn if you have one.
5. ADDITIONAL TIPS
Once you’ve established an attractive garden, and start to get a handle on what plants work well in your space, you can start to investigate planting trees to attract wildlife. For example, some plants will attract butterflies and some will attract certain kinds of birds.
NOTE: Cleaning and maintaining a pool is a full-time job, so be aware of what trees and plants you plant around a new or existing pool, as plants that shed lots of leaves or seed pods will make cleaning your pool a nightmare!
One of the easiest way to find out which plants to grow in your area is to visit your local nursery. Here are some of the most popular nursery chains in and around Joburg/Gauteng. If you have the budget, it might also be worth getting a landscaper in to come and have a look at your garden.