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gardenyPlanning a colourfully productive winter begins right now for forward thinking gardeners as, despite the heat, there is much to be done.

Start out by taking a long, hard look at the area/s you have available for growing flowers, herbs and vegetables directly in the ground, in pots or other suitable containers on rooftops, balconies and anywhere else you can find space.

Next, decide the kind of artistic impression you desire and the percentages of edible and purely ornamental plants to be grown. Then, head for your local seed seller who should, if prepared, already have a decent selection of offerings in stock.

Slow growing annual flowers (these include popular and versatile petunias, gorgeous antirrhinums and ‘reach-for-the-sky’ hollyhocks) should be started off in seed trays/pots right now. The same goes for vegetables including broccoli, cabbage, endive, giant red mustard, lettuce, mustard mizuna, tomatoes, winter cauliflower, and herbs such as borage, celery, chives, garlic chives, lovage and parsley.

A seed sowing compost comprising 40% sweet earth, 10% river sand/silt and 50% organic compost – all carefully sieved with stones and lumps removed – is an ideal general mix suitable for nurturing most kinds of seeds. The seed trays/pots should be placed in partial shade and care must be taken that emergent seedlings do not suffer from heat stress in any way.

Seedlings will be ready to be transplanted to their permanent growing positions, pots/containers approximately one to two months after sowing, depending on species. Transplanting must be done in the cooler evening hours. It may, especially next month, be necessary to provide them with temporary shade until seasonal temperatures drop from hot to tolerably warm.

Care must also be taken not to overwater seedlings as this results in them ‘damping off’ and dying; light watering in the evening usually does the trick.

– B Khan

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on August 18, 2013.