Just ask JJ

Horticulturist JJ van Rensburg of Garden World answers your gardening questions.

A time and place

Penny Schneigansz writes: When I recently relocated from KZN to the Free State, I brought with me some of my Amaryllis and arum lilies (white and coloured); where and when must they be planted? JJ replies: The best lime to plant Amaryllis and white arums is the middle of July, white the middle of August is ideal for coloured arums. Amaryllis likes shade, with a bit of morning sun, while arums like full sun.

Turning a new leaf

Gert van Wyk of Groenkloofin Pretoria writes: At this time of the year I collect about 9m3 of leaves on my property which I throw in a compost pit (3x3x1.3m). The leaves are from three large white stinkwood trees (Celtis africana), three large kapok trees (Ceiba pentandra), one massive camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora), one huge avocado tree, and four other trees whose names are unknown to me, plus seven or so large shrubs such as hibiscus, magnolia, and so on.

After 6-12 months, I work the leaves into my flowerbeds, and I irrigate my garden regularly according to its needs, but I don’t get the desired results. The soil remains hard and without the growth potential I expect.

Are the leaves suitable for compost-making and what can I do to improve the quality of my compost? Should I check whether my irrigation system is inadequate or have the soil tested?

JJ replies: All the leaves are suitable for compost-making; while certain types will take longer to decompose, six months should be enough. Make sure your compost heap remains active by turning it regularly, keeping it moist and adding about one spadeful of kraal manure and a bit of compost activator per wheelbarrow load. If you wish to analyse your soil, contact Zilmet (Oil 423 2801); they will also be able to advise you on your irrigation system and fertiliser programme.

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