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Unicorn Cafe November 2017 Update

The drought lingers on and water restrictions in the Cape are getting tighter. This still does not mean you cannot grow your own food. Some of you may have harvested rainwater like us which is essential when you are making your own compost and feeding a worm farm as municipal water is not good for these tasks. You can also filter and use grey water for the garden. Adopting more plants into your diet and eating less meat is a huge save on water resources. As the plants in my garden give me so much joy, I skip a few showers in the week, wear clean clothes twice before washing and use an eco loo which does not flush but instead, is a beneficial ingredient to my own compost heap.

We have had our eco loo for a couple of months now and our first compost heap has been turned twice and by the looks of the dark brown colour coming through, it will be ready soon, to use. The second compost heap should be ready by the time we have used the first and we are already building a third. This is such a rewarding process as I may never have to buy compost again. In our garden with our terrible soil, I buy boot loads of it almost every season which can be an expensive restoration process.

We have been adding many more products onto our website. We have a full range of essential and carrier oils and are adding gardening supplies too including, straw bales, acid compost and the best seedling mix I have ever used recommended by the lovely ladies at Oude Molen. With all the new stock being added to our website, we may not have ordered it in yet. As holding vast quantities of various stock items is capital intensive, we order in when we get the first order for that product. Please note that your order may be the first order for new stock and we ask that you give us some time to source it and get it to you.

We are very excited about our growing range of products and from your continued support, we will provide you with a one stop shop for all your eco conscious needs.

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Gardening Tips for October

October is the time to plant :
– Amaranth seeds
– Angelica seeds
– Asparagus seeds
– Basil seeds
– Beans – Dwarf/Bush/French seeds
– Beans – Pole/Runner seeds
– Beetroot seeds
– Borage seeds
– Broccoli seeds
– Bronze Fennel seeds
– Cabbage seeds
– Cape Gooseberry seedlings
– Capiscu,/Sweet Peppers seeds
– Carrot seeds
– Cauliflower seeds
– Celery seeds
– Chicory seeds
– Chives seeds
– Coriander seeds
– Corn Salad seeds
– Corn Maize seeds
– Cucumber seeds
– Dill seeds
– Eggplant seeds
– Florence Fennel seeds
– French Tarragon seeds
– Ginger
– Leeks seedlings
– Lemon balm seeds
– Lettuce seeds
– Jerusalem Artichoke seeds
– Leek seeds
– Lettuce seeds
– Luffa seeds
– Melon/Cantaloupe seeds
– Mustard greens/Cress seeds
– NZ Spinach seeds
– Okra seeds
– Oregano seeds
– Parsley seeds
– Parsnip seeds
– Potatoes
– Pumpkin seeds
– Radish seeds
– Rocket seeds
– Rosemary seeds
– Sage seedlinss
– Salsify seeds
– Spinach seeds
– Spring onion seeds
– Squash seeds
– Strawberry seeds
– Strawberry plants
– Summer savoury seeds
– Sunflower seeds
– Sweet Marjorum seeds
– Swedes/Rutabagas seeds
– Sweet Potatoes
– Swiss Chard seeds
– Thyme seeds
– Tomatillo seeds
– Tomato seedlings
– Turnip seeds
– Watermelon seeds
– Winter savoury seeds
– Yam seeds
– Zucchini/Courgette seedsA solution to dealing with pumpkin flies should be initiated as soon as the first flowers appear on cucurbits. Any plants showing lead symptons of mosaic should be removed and destroyed. It’s a good idea to sow the seeds of pumpkins, sweetcorn, dwarf beans and runner beans this month and continue sowing beets, carrots, lettuce, radishes and spring onions. Aphids also start becoming a problem as the the weather warms up. Some gardeners will advise on spraying however others will advise on leaving some plants to the aphids to attract ladybugs. Our gardening methods are about providing balance in the ecosystem of the garden. A few bugs are ok and sometimes it takes a while to restore the balance.

Plant to encourage beneficial predatory insects like ladybirds and hoverflies. You can also set up habitats, homes and other food for insect-eating birds (wrens etc.) in your garden. You can also discourage aphids by planting alliums and other repellent plants. Plant aphid attracting ‘trap crops’ of cosmos, dahlias and other flowers loved by aphids far away from the crops you want to protect.

Achieving a successful and balanced garden ecosystem will result in having a less likely chance of one type of insect, such as aphids, or any other pests, getting out of control.

The A – Z of Vegetable Gardening in South Africa by Jack Hadfield

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Events Calender

5 October
Lions Head Full Moon Hike, Signal Hill from 6pm to 9:30pm. Entrance free. Essential information here

6 October
Forks over Knives Film Screening at Cape Town Hollow Boutique Hotel from 7pm to  11pm Price R80 Tickets here

7 October
Vegan Goods Market at Kanyisa Waldorf School in Plumstead from 10am to 2pm. Entrance is free

11 October
Vegan on a Budget Cooking Class at Chez Gourmet, 36 Palmyra Road from 7pm to 10pm Price R300 Tickets here

A Compassionate Footprint at Ubuntu Wellness from 6pm to 9pm.  More information can be found here

13 October
Cowspiracy Screening at Cape Town Hollow Boutique Hotel from 7pm to 11 pm Price R80
Tickets here

14 October
Vegan Goods Market at Kanyisa Waldorf School in Plumstead from 10am to 2pm. Entrance is free

Mother City Seed Community Swap & Picnic in Hampstead Road, Cape Town from 10am to 3pm Entrance is free. Link to event here

15 October
Day visit to Farm Sanctuary in Dirkie Uys Street in Franschhoek from 2pm to 4pm. Entrance is free but space is limited to 30 people. For more details on how to attend, click here

Souper Troopers #EndHomlessness at The Carpenters Shop, 14A Roeland Street from 11am to 5pm. More information here

18 October
Hope for All Film Screening at Cape Town Hollow Boutique Hotel from 7pm to 11pm. Price R80. Ticket information here

20 October
The Cooking Experience with Frys at Chez Gourmet, 36 Palmyra Road from 6pm to 9:30pm. Price R250. Tickets here

21 October
Vegan Goods Market at Khanyisa Waldorf School, Plumstead from 10am to 2pm. Entrance is free. Information here

25 October
I can’t believe its Vegan Cooking Class at Chez Gourmet, 36 Palmyra Road from 7pm to 10pm. Price R500. Tickets and information here

27 October
Speciesism Film Screening at Cape Town Hollow Boutique Hotel from 7pm to 11pm. Price R80. More information here

28 October
Vegan Goods Market at Khanyisa Waldorf School from 10am to 2pm. Entrance is free. More information here

29 October
Vegan Braai at a venue to still be determined from 1pm to 4pm. Entrance is free. More information here

30 October
Vegan Feast and Quiz Night at The Sorrows, 16 Kloof Nek Road from 7pm to 11pm. Price R160. More information here

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Soil Tests

All good soils may be alike but each type of poor soil is poor in it’s own unique way. Some plants thrive in poor soil but what kind of plants thrive in what kind of poor soil is worth investigating when you know what kind of soil you are dealing with.

If you are struggling to grow a variety of plants, it’s a good idea to get your soil tested and understand the pH, type of soil and whether you have an imbalance of nutrients.

Bemlab in Strand will do a soil test for about R250 and assist by also giving an analysis interpretation.

If you have a small yard like me, you only need one soil sample. If you have stoney soil, you will need 1kg. For other soils, 500g will be sufficient. Using a spade, dig out a sample of soil going the length of the spade (about 30cm deep).

I knew our soil wasn’t good but I wanted to see specifics so I have an idea of where I am starting from. Although I have been adding compost, liquid fertiliser and mulch over the past year, I decided to take a sample from soil that I haven’t treated.

The first thing Bemab analyzes here on this test is the type of soil texture class which is either sand, loam or clay. The ideal type being loam. Here, my soil type is sand which means it is well aerated, well drained and fairly easy to work with however water tends to flush through sandy soils and so it makes sense to to try gardening with sunken pits as I have done in our time of drought. The best advice I can give to sandy or clay soil is to add lots of organic matter.

The second part of the test is the pH. The perfect pH for most garden soils is a pH between 6 and 7. Unless you are growing plants which like acidic soil like blueberries and azaleas, a pH of less than 6 will be an issue for plants and a pH of above 7.5 will also be an issue. My analysis states we have  a pH of 7.6 which means our soil is too alkaline. We will most likely have a boron deficiency due to our high pH. The picture below illustrates availability of nutrients to plants based on pH.

If your soil is too acidic, you can ‘sweeten’ it or increase the pH by adding lime however lowering the pH is more complicated. The gardener can add sulfur which can be costly and takes a while to work. Most soil scientists only recommend adding sulfur to a garden if you are planting crops that like an acidic soil like blueberries. Again, adding lots of organic matter increases the availability of all nutrients.

The next block on the test is the soil resistance which is an indication of soil salinity. Anything less than 300 ohms is regarded as saline.

The next part measures the percentage of stone in the soil and stone reduces the reactive volume in the soil.This percentage must be taken into account when gypsum and lime requirements and P fertlisations calculations are done.

We now look at how much phosphorus is available to a growing plant in milligrams per kilogram. There are two tests that Bemlab uses and each test is specific to the type of region where the soil sample was taken. If you come from an arid region where the pH is 7 and above, the phosphorus is mostly bound to calcium and if your pH is low, then the phosphorus would be bound to iron and aluminum. The Olsen test would be for high pH soil level and the Bray method would be for low pH soil levels. This test uses the Bray II method which tests for total phosphorus which is available in this year’s crop and also what is left in reserve which won’t be available for this year’s crop.

If we are using the Olsen method, we would want our phosphorus levels to be between 15 and 20. Our score of 14 is on the low side meaning our soil needs some TLC with compost and organic matter.
If you are using the the Bray test, you would want to do the Bray I or weak Bray to see how much phosphorus is available and you would want your levels to be between 20 and 30 with anything between 25 and 30 to be a good result. The Bray II or strong Bray is usually double the Bray I unless there are special conditions.

Phosphorus is essential to plant growth and is involved with energy transfer, photosynthesis, transformation of sugars and starches, nutrient movement within the plant, and transfer of genetic characteristics from one generation to the next. Phosphorus is also critical in root development, crop maturity and seed production. Phosphorus is an immobile nutrient meaning that it doesn’t move readily with water.

Potassium is then measured and our score of 94mg per kg is very low. Good postassium levels are around 200mg per kg however these numbers vary depending on the cation exchange of the soil and the ability of soils to hold onto these nutrients. You would want a higher number for heaveir soils (220 – 250mg per kg) and a lower number for lighter soils. As our soil is sand with a high pH, a good number would be 170 – 180 mg per kg.
Potassium is very mobile in sandy soils but binds to exchange sites of clay. Potassium increases crop yield and quality. It maintains turgor, reduces water loss and wilting.

Sodium is a basic cation that is a non-essential nutrient that destabilises soil structure.

Potassium as mentioned above increases quality and yield of crops and binds to clay exchange sites. A reading of 0.510 cmol per kg or 200mg per kg is considered very high.

Calcium (Ca) stabilises soil structure. Plants can tolerate very high concentrations of calcium in the soil. The role of calcium in plants is quite similar to that in people; it is essential for good growth and structure. Insufficient calcium levels lead to deterioration of the cell membrane; the cells become leaky resulting in the loss of cell compounds and eventually death of the cell and plant tissue.

Magnesium (Mg) is an essential element that, if it is in a ratio higher than 1:4 with calcium, can destabilise soil structure. Many critical physiological and biochemical processes, especially photosynthesis, in plants are adversely affected by Magnesium  deficiency, leading to impairments in growth and yield. Ideally, we would like 12 – 15 mg per kg.

Moving down the page there is a small table with a heading called Base Saturation. These cations are expressed as a percentage of the total exchangeable cations. The first result is 2.21% of soduim (Na). You don’t want this percentage to be higher than 15% and if it is higher than 1%, it might be a good idea to keep an eye on this reading if you test your soil again at a later stage.

Potassium (K) saturation can change rapidly in sandy soils. In clayey soils a 4-5% saturation is regarded as optimal, except if free lime or salinity occurs. Between 3 and 6% is also good. Our score of 1.91% is not satisfactory.
Calcium (Ca) stabilises soil structure. Between 65 and 75% is the optimum range and is beneficial for soil structural stability, especially in loamy or clayey soils.

Magnesium (Mg) can destabilise soil structure. A high ratio compared to calcium (Mg:Ca ratio > 1:4) indicates to the possibility of poor internal drainage and subsoil salinity.

The T-value is the sum of all the exchangeable cations in the soil, including soluble (free) and those on the exchange sites. It is not equivalent to the S-value, which is the sum of only the basic cations (Na, K, Ca & Mg) while the T-value also includes exchangeable H+ . Neither is the T-value similar to the cation exchange capacity (CEC) since the first mentioned includes all cations in the soil, those on the exchange sites and the free nutrients – the T-value is therefore often larger than the CEC.

Copper (Cu) is an essential metal for plants. Its availability for plant uptake is affected by soil pH, being lower at high soil pH. At excessive levels in soil, micro-organism activity is adversely affected. In plants, copper plays a key role in photosynthetic and respiratory electron transport chains, cell wall metabolism and stress protection.

Zinc (Zn) is an essential micro-nutrient for plants. Usually, a zinc deficiency is expected in calcareous (high pH) soils, sandy soils and soils with a high phosphorus concentration. Zinc deficiencies in plants leads to stunting of growth, chlorosis and smaller leaves, increasing crop maturity period, sterility and inferior quality of harvested products. A good number is 1.5 – 2mg per kg. Our score of 7.9mg per kg for our sandy soil with a high pH is a strange reading and before it is brushed off that we have enough zinc, another soil sample should be taken. I’m nervous to remineralise our soil on my own without a consultant and I shy away from chemical fertilisers as I want to encourage effective microorganisms and earthworms so I am adding as much organic matter and compost as I can. I have already noticed a huge difference since I added my first mulch layering last year.

Manganese (Mn) is an essential micro-nutrient for plants. Manganese reaction in soil is quite complex. The amount of available Manganese is influenced by soil pH, organic carbon content, moisture and soil aeration. Manganese availability increases as the soil pH decreases, with toxicity being common in soil with pHKCl < 4.5. In plants Manganese plays a direct role in photosynthesis because it is involved in chlorophyll synthesis. Ideally we would like a scoring of 12 – 15mg per kg.

Boron (B) is an essential micro-nutrient for plants, but the range between deficient and toxic boron concentration is smaller than for any other nutrient element. One of the most important factors affecting the availability of boron in soils is pH. With increasing soil solution pH, boron becomes less available to plants. Therefore, excessive application of lime to acid soils can result in boron deficiency symptoms in plants. The main functions of boron in plants relate to cell wall strength and development, cell division, fruit and seeds development, sugar transport and hormone development. Between 1 and 1.5mg per kg is good. We definitely have a boron deficiency and that is also indicated by small holes in our radishes and beetroot.

Iron (Fe) is also an essential micronutrient for plants. It is very abundant in soil, but that does not mean it is available for plant uptake. Availability of iron decreases as soil pH increases, with deficiencies starting to occur at pHKCl > 6.0. We would like to target for 20 – 25mg per kg. Excessive concentrations of phosphorus in soil also result in reduced iron availability. In plants, iron acts as catalyst to chlorophyll production and is essential for protein production. Yellowing of young leaves are therefore typical of iron deficiency

Organic carbon (C) in soil is an indication of the organic material content of the soil. Organic matter in soil improves microbiological activity, soil water holding capacity and fertility (cation exchange capacity) as well as soil structure. Less than 0.5% is low, between 0.5% and 1.5% is medium, 1.5% – 3% is high and anything above 3% is very high although I have read that your goal should be at least 5% organic matter.

The Ultimate Guide to Soil by Anna Hess

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Making a Worm Farm


What you need:
3 stacking boxes that don’t let in any light and one lid that fits on top
A drill with a 6mm drill bit
4 bricks
Permanent marker
Rainwater or chlorine free water (let water to stand for one day so chlorine can evaporate)
Food scraps – Information about what worms like and don’t like can be found here and here

Lets get started! The bottom box does not need to be drilled. This is where you will collect worm tea which when diluted with water will act as a liquid fertiliser for your plants.
Put 2 bricks in the bottom box so that when the second box goes into the first box, it is slightly raised.

Put the second box into the first box and let it rest on the bricks. Draw a line around the second bin on the outside where the two boxes meet. This is to guide you when drilling holes.

Take the second box out and drill a pattern of holes about 50mm apart from each other all around the box including the base. Don’t drill holes above the line that you drew. Repeat the same process for the third box.

Stack the second box into the first undrilled box and let it rest on the bricks. Put 2 bricks into the second box and stack the third box into the second box.
Fill your third box about halfway with shredded newspaper/carboard/paper (avoid glossy paper or glossy cardboard) Add some kitchen scraps and compost that has been soaked in rainwater and add your worms. Tuck your worms in with wet newspaper and roll up some damp newspaper to seal the sides of the box all the way around. This will avoid a flies coming in and interfereing with your worms.

Lastly, put the lid on top as your worms like the dark.

The worm tea will drip to the bottom box. You can harvest this when it is sufficient to collect. You can even install a tap to the bottom box if you like to make this process easier and rasing the whole structure on more bricks. The second box collects the worm castings which you can use for your garden. When you empty this out, you move this box to the top and add bedding, compost and kitchen scraps. The worms will migrate to the top box and follow the food

Have fun 🙂

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Natures Tickle Spot

Natures Tickle Spot

“How does a flower move”
When wind does not blow,
Released, sprinkled
Upon the ground below,
Does it dance for the sun
From above and below
People ask
“How does a flower move”
“When wind does not blow”
Its worms tickling its
Gentle roots, many tickling in one go,
Its pollen falling is its laughter
Seeding the floor below
So when you see
Gyrating, moving with out wind,
Know its those naughty playful worms
Slithering, tickling there sensitive roots below..
Poetic T Oct 2014

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Worm farm

I never thought much about worms until I started gardening and have learnt that worms have an amazing ability to bring enormous fertility to the ground. These little invertebrates mix soil by moving up and down and wherever they go, eating organic matter like rotting plant material, manure, and deceased bodies and then depositing nutrient rich worm poo into the soil known as castings. Castings contain five times more nitrogen, seven times more phosphorus and eleven times more potassium than ordinary soil. While these blind but light sensitive worms squirm around, they loosen and aerate the soil which allows better penetration of water and also allows aerobic bacteria and oxygen to get to plant roots. Looser soils allows plants roots to penetrate deeper and access more resources as well as provide more draininge.

Earthworm’s bodies are coated with a sticky mucuous called coelomic fluid and this fluid mixed with the bacteria in their castings bind soil particles together forming soil aggregates. This prevents soil erosion and retains water. Healthy soil means healthy plants which are more resistant to diseases and garden pests. Worm castings hold nutrients so they are released slowly to plants and the nitrogen is also readily available.

One way to encourage these hard working composters is to mulch well, avoid herbicides and fungicides, and keep the soil moist. The thick layer of mulch will help loamy soil retain water well.  Worms don’t like acidic soil so ensure your soil pH is above 4.5 and avoid compacting the earth by providing walkways around your plants and keep tilling to an absolute minimum unless you really have to.

Another great idea is to start a worm farm and we will show you how to build a simple structure below. Worm farms turn kicthen waste into super compost without letting off greenhouse gases which saves the landfill and ultimately benefits the planet. There are some things to know before you provide a home to red wrigglers (Eisenia fetida) or redworms (Lumbricus rubellus). They are top level worms meaning they live in the top 30cm of soil. This means they will live near the top of your worm farm making them easier to feed.

They eat the equivalent of their body weight in a day thus providing the same amount of worm castings. Their environment should be kept withiin 15 degrees and 30 degrees. They can double their population every 6 – 8 weeks and they need bedding made from wet newspaper or wet shredded paper and cardboard. It’s also good to know that worm bins don’t smell so you can keep them indoors as well.

Did you know that the largest earthworm was found in South Africa in 1967 on the side of the road near King Williams Town and was close to 7 meters long?

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That Mayo

Vegan Mayo
When you taste That Mayo, you will know why it’s called That Mayo because That Mayo is in a complete class of it’s own. It’s not this mayo or merely a mayonnaise, it’s that mayo because it will be the best mayonnaise you will ever taste.

Once you try that mayo, no other mayonnaise will compare. Delicious is just not a good enough word to describe it so all we can say is try it for yourself and you can come up with your descriptive word for That Mayo.

Every lunch roll, picnic dipped veggie, hamburger and baked potato will be a gourmet’s treat with this condiment.

It’s outstanding, extraordinary and well… perfect in every way.