PROPERTY NEWS - Some South Africans will only be able to go back to work on Level 1 and therefore still have time to tackle their garden like a pro.
Outdoor activities that involve being in nature, like gardening, are often praised for being simple, yet highly effective promoters of psychological and physical well-being. In fact, some studies have shown that gardening can play a role in helping to lower cortisol levels which, in turn, lowers stress levels. At a time like this, that's certainly not a bad thing!
So, if you find yourself wondering what to do during the coming weeks, why not get stuck into your garden - expert style?
Keep those used coffee grounds
While coffee might not always be the best thing in excess, there is an upside for your garden to you having "just one more cup". Used coffee grounds are an incredible source of nitrogen when added to soil or the compost heap and can even help improve the overall health of the soil. Be sure to add your coffee grounds to the soil when they are still wet and mix them in with the same amount of leaves or grass cuttings.
You can even add some nitrogen fertiliser at the same time as the coffee grounds to help along the nitrogen extraction process. The addition of the coffee grounds and resultant increase in nitrogen levels go a long way to promote the growth of essential microorganisms in the soil - organisms that are key in the overall function and health of the soil and ultimately, your plants.
Add a little Epsom salts
Epsom salts is another natural garden helper, although it is often better known for its many health benefits. Because of the high magnesium and sulphate content, which is essential for plant growth, a sprinkling of Epsom salts to your garden, and specifically to tomato plants, will stimulate flowering and fruit-bearing.
Epsom salts can also help in the recovery of any plants that are looking stressed and require a much-needed health boost.
Toss in the eggshells
If, like most South African gardeners, you find that your garden has an overeager slug population, fear not! There is an easy and natural remedy right under your nose - crushed eggshells.
That's right; placing crushed eggshells around your plants will go a long way to deter slugs venturing in for a nibble.
This is simply because slugs prefer to stay clear of anything with sharp edges.
More often than not, chemical products have natural, safer equivalents that can be found with a bit of research, so be sure to check the internet for natural treatments and remedies for whatever garden issues or problems you might encounter.
Garlic, for example, can be used as an effective insect repellent:
Put a clove of garlic into a blender with two cups of water and blend until smooth. Pour the liquid into a container, cover and leave to stand for 24 hours. Then filter the liquid through a cheesecloth or strainer and add 12 more cups of water.
Spray this liquid onto affected plants and let the strong odour of garlic do its natural job of repelling insects.
Similarly, baking soda is a great solution for tackling fungal diseases such as powdery mildew or black spot: Dissolve a teaspoon of baking soda in four cups of water and spray this solution onto the affected plants. For maximum effectiveness, try and spray them every seven to 14 days, or after it has rained.
Try wick watering
This final tip is for those who don't have large gardens. If you live in a flat and are growing moisture-loving ornamental ferns or tropical plants, you will know how difficult it is to remember to water them frequently.
An easy way to water these and keep their roots nice and moist is to convert to wick watering.
All you need is an old plastic container with a lid, or a two-litre soft drink bottle, as well as some fabric string or ribbon to serve as the wick. Simply wet the wick, bury one end of it in the soil of your pot and hang the other in the close-by bucket or bowl of water. Due to the scientific principle known as capillary action, water will flow up the wick from the bucket or bowl and into the soil without any fuss from your side. An added bonus - the plant knows just how much water it needs, so it will never under or over-water itself.
In these uncertain times, feeling overwhelmed, stressed and anxious is to be expected. While there is a whole lot more uncertainty lying in wait, there are small positive activities we can focus on each day to make things easier and perhaps, a little less stressful. So tomorrow, why not go outside, take a deep breath and give getting some dirt under those fingernails a try?
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