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Harmattan clean up

By Sereba Agiobu-Kemmer
19 January 2019   |   3:34 am
The harmattan comes with a blanket of heavy dust over everything. The garden gets most of its dry windy onslaught, with dead leaves and twigs fallen on the ground. Dead flower heads and dead leaves on perennials and dead annual plants. Looking around everywhere are the debris of another Harmattan. There’s no point pretending you’re…

Deadheading roses

The harmattan comes with a blanket of heavy dust over everything.

The garden gets most of its dry windy onslaught, with dead leaves and twigs fallen on the ground. Dead flower heads and dead leaves on perennials and dead annual plants.

Looking around everywhere are the debris of another Harmattan.

There’s no point pretending you’re not going to be out in your garden to clean up all the dead fallen branches and debris, and giving the fence too a new coat of paint.

You put a lot into your home and property, so take a weekend or two to roll up your sleeves and get outside to care for your garden.

If you neglect to clean up the garden at the beginning of the New Year, before the rains, you end up paying more for garden care and maintenance for the rest of the year.

So here are some tips for cleaning up your yard and laying a good foundation for a great-looking garden.

Clean up leaves

The first task is removing debris caused by wind and dust. Collect fallen branches, twigs and garbage. Don’t forget about pickinf up any animal waste from your yard.

Remove existing mulch to prepare for the new layer you will add once your new planting is done..Cmpost fallen leaves shed from trees, shrubs and dead annual plants that remain.

This will not return, as any self-seeders will already have done their job. Rake leaves and any escaped gravel from aggregate walkways and patios.

It is important to rake up those leaves and debris to remove layers of leaves that can lead to mold or decay.

If you have compost pile or want to start one! Add those leaves to the pile, they’re excellent organic material for plant beds and mulch.

Rake the ground

Do a deep raking of your garden. Don’t just sweep the surface, rake away thatch and any grass blades that have died you don’t want more than ½ inch of thatch on the ground.


Get rid of weed; time to take action against weeds with some pro-active weeding. Pull weed or cut them away. Pull out young weed seedlings while its easy.

As they grow their roots will strengthen and they will be difficult to pull out. Don’t try to compost weeds. They will come back to haunt you.

Most of what you clean up can go into your compost pile. It’s best to start a new pile during the harmattan season and leave your old pile to flip and use.

Dispose of any plant material that shows signs of disease and dead seed heads, weeds or otherwise that could become a problem.


Woody flowering perennials and plants

Some shrubby plants with woody stems ( hibiscus, bougainvillea, buddleia, lavender) need to be pruned annually because they only bloom on new branches.

Most of these woody perennials will let you know when it is time to prune them by showing signs of opening bud on the lower stem portions or new growth at the base of the plants.

Prune away bushes, hedges and ornamental grass that are overgrown to allow new growth.

Harmattan season is the time to trim back tattered foliage and encourage new growth to come in.


Damaged tree limbs and branches that you can easily reach, and/or make arrangements for a professional tree trimmer to trim the rest.


Roses benefit from a good pruning and the removal of majority leaves, to shock the rose into thinking it was dormant and needs to start growing again. Prune roses in order to have a prettier garden and healthier plants this year.


Deadheading is necessary because dead flowers hang on and look ugly.

Deadheading is the garden term used for the removal of faded or dead flowers from plants.

Deadheading is generally done both to maintain a plant’s appearance and to improve its overall performance.

Loosing the soil

Does your property have flowerbeds?

The soil may be dry and completely compacted. It’s important to loosen the soil to help oxygen reach the plants roots.

You can use hand tools for small areas, but large areas may benefit from a tiller. Some lawn trimmers have tiller attachments.

Soil and fertilizer

It’s always wise to test your soil before you start adding things to it.

If you amended your soil last year, check to see how balanced things are. Most plants enjoy feeding in the dry season for sustaining growth.

If you have healthy soil, all you need to do is a bit of top dressing with compost, manure or a complete slow release organic fertilizer.

If you prefer using synthetic fertilizers, you can start applying it once your plants show signs of new growth.

Dividing and transplanting

Harmattan season is also an ideal time for dividing or transplanting.


Staking is one of the most tedious gardening tasks. It is tempting to procrastinate, but the sooner you stake, the easier it is on your plants.

Sure they look ugly for a few weeks, but think of the headaches you will avoid by letting your plants grow into the stakes rather than trying to squeeze the plants into them later.

Mulching and edging – the finishing touches

Mulch does many wonderful things for your garden: conserves water, cools plant roots, feeds, the soil, smother weeds.

There’s no question that every garden deserves a layer of mulch.

Be sure to keep it away from the stems and crowns of your plants and, if you’re hoping for some self-seeding volunteers, give them a chance to germinate before you cover the bed with mulch.

Edge garden beds

Nothing finishes a garden like a crisp edge between a sidewalk and the lawn. If you’d like to create that perfect manicured look, consider using an edger.

You may also want to redraw the boundary between your garden beds and the lawn. Wider beds mean less lawn care, too.

Here’s how to do it: use a garden hose to mark out a nice line for your garden beds.

Then, along this bed line, take a sharp metal edger and drive it into the ground as deep as it will go. Dig along the hose line and then remove the grass that’s there, creating a nice bed.

Once done, fill up the bed with 2 to 3 inches of mulch (pine bark is a good choice) or you’ll just get a bed of weeds! Now transplant or plant some flowers!

The finishing touch in the garden is edging. A crisp edge makes a garden bed look polished.

It also helps prevent the lawn grass from crawling into your flower bed. Don’t underestimate the power of a clean edge.

Alternatives to the lawn

It is important to mow your lawn regularly, as it’s difficult to cut grass if it gets way too tall (as many have experienced firsthand).

Of course, one has to mention there are alternatives to lawn and grass as well.

What is trending now is to use more ground cover plants (such as potulaca, sedum), walk ways, and wider flower beds.

There’s also a growing trend ,edible landscaping, which is to add vegetable garden beds or to integrate edibles ( herbs, vegetables, fruits ) into your front garden. More about edible landscaping another time!