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Gardening Tips for September

September is the time to plant :

-Amaranth seeds
– Angelica seeds
– Basil seeds
– Beans – Pole/runner seeds
– Beetroot seeds
– Borage seeds
– Bronze Fennel seeds
– Cape Gooseberry seeds
– 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 seedlings
– Eggplant seeds
– Endive seeds
– Florence Fennel seeds
– French Taragon seedlings
– Ginger
– Jerusalem Artichoke seeds
– Leek seeds
– Lemon Balm seedlings
– Lettuce seeds
– Luffa seeds
– Melon/Cantaloupe seeds
– Mustard greens/Cress seeds
– NZ Spinach seeds
– Onion seeds
– Oregano seedlings
– Parsley seeds
– Parsnip seeds
– Potatoes
– Pumpkin seeds
– Radish seeds
– Rhubarb seeds
– Rocket seeds
– Rosemary
– Sage seeds
– Salsify seeds
– Shallot seedlings
– Spinach seeds
– Spring onion seeds
– Squash seeds
– Strawberry seedlings
– Strawberry plants
– Summer savoury seedlings
– Sunflower seeds
– Sweet Marjorum seedlings
– Swedes/Rutabagas seeds
– Sweet Potatoes
– Swiss Chard seeds
– Thyme seedlings
– Tomatillo seeds
– Tomato seeds
– Turnip seeds
– Watermelon seeds
– Winter savoury seedlings
– Zucchini/Courgette seeds

The summer seed list is long and now is the time to plant as much as you can. Water only when necessary and give moderate amounts to directly sown crops especially in heavier soils. If crops are overwatered, large seeds will rot before germinating and thickly sown crops could be victims to damping-off. You may loosen the soil carefully around perennial crops like globe artichokes, asparagus, rhubarb, and pole lima beans. Generous dressings of compost will prepare your plants for the summer ahead.

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WHY GROWING YOUR OWN FOOD IS THE MOST NOBLE, SATISFYING, WORTHWHILE, DIVINE, MERITORIOUS THING YOU CAN DO

Growing food

That’s a mouthful but there are so many other words that could be easily slotted into this title. We will expand by explaining how growing your own food will shine your green halo so brilliantly, it will light the way for others to be inspired. I am not surprised that many religious texts and spiritual writings refer to planting and growing. One experiences a little piece of magic when you enjoy the fruits of your own labour from seed to plate.

I cannot think of a more meaningful workout than gardening. Not only does it exercise and build muscles but it is good for your brain and the rest of your body too. Planting greenery brings you out into the fresh air where vitamin D doesn’t need to be swallowed. It stimulates learning and a deeper connection with nature and it has bountiful therapeutic qualities.

The garden is a superb environment to reconnect with nature from the tiniest microscopic organism to the largest wildlife you can accommodate. It doesn’t matter whether you have a large piece of land or just a balcony or enclosed flat, you can still enjoy the healing properties. It relieves stress, it is often a meditative process improving concentration, increasing self awareness, happiness, acceptance and overcoming pain. With some care and attention, your efforts will also bless you with a sense of pride and gratification. It’s a marvellous creative outlet with endless ways to create beauty and self expression and it can also introduce new interests like botany, landscape architecture, nutrition, photography, naturalism and farmers markets to mention a few of many.

Add to the already impressive benefits above, it is purposeful way to spend quality time with loved ones and create a sense of community by connecting with others close by to bulk buy, share information, advice and accomplishments.

Home grown food tastes better and if you grow heirloom (non GMO/non hybrid) varieties in a biologically diverse environment in soil fed with nutrients, your food will be more nutritious.You will also be able to save some seeds from your crops to use for next year. Ta dah! When you save the seeds, you can also swap them for different varieties that you may not have. This is a very important aspect and a right to which we must cling on to for dear life. To read more about why – you can read our previous story about seed biodiversity here.

Growing your own food becomes cheaper and cheaper as you learn more and practice sustainable gardening. As explained above, you can save heirloom seeds for re-use or to swap or gift which means you buy less seeds as your collection grows. There is huge potential to be grow a wide variety of fruit, vegetables and legumes that your local grocery store has never stocked. There is no fresher vegetable than one that is still growing in the ground which means less fridge space and obtaining food is a walk through the garden. This act inspires us to take an interest in the origins of our food and make better choices about what we put on our plates which is a part of conscious eating. Eating more fruit and vegetables can only be a good thing when it concerns your health and the sense of security of knowing whose been near your delicate spinach leaves is invaluable.

The blooms of flowers that will turn into fruit are gorgeous to look at and one can enjoy the sweet  perfumes they emit. There is something very special when you are relaxing in your garden and nearby are hanging grapes or crisp cucumbers, striking red leaves of beetroot or even the flowers from potatoes reminding you of the treasures below. Imagine sitting in the shade of a fruit tree whilst reading a book or watching your loved ones play.

You have been showered with the benefits of gardening for you but let us take a closer look as growing your own food solves many other environmental concerns.

You cut out many carbon emissions by not supporting trade where food is transported to the grocery store by trucks and planes and the fuel you would use driving to the grocery store and driving back again.

By growing organically and maintaining biodiversity in your garden, you can combat soil erosion, cut out pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilisers. That means less air pollution, less water pollution, less body pollution and less pretty birds and other animals dying. You also create less of a demand for monoculture which is a monopoly of bad farming practices designed for maximum profit and not for the health of those consuming these products or for the giving soil that gives up it’s nutrients for these crops. The seeds these corporate giants use are usually genetically modified and their farming practices rely heavily on machinery, water, chemical fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and as a result reduce biodiversity and deplete the soil of nutrients. Geoff Lawton explains this process simply and visually in this informative video below this article

 

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GARDENING TIPS FOR AUGUST

 

August is the time to plant :

– Beetroot seeds
– Borage seeds
– Cape Gooseberry seeds
– Capiscu,/Sweet Peppers seeds
– Carrot seeds
– Cauliflower seeds
-Celery seeds
– Chicory seeds
– Corn Salad seeds
– Corn Maize seeds
– Dill seedlings
– Eggplant seeds
– Endive seeds
– Jerusalem Artichoke seeds
– Leek seeds
– Lemon Balm seedlings
– Lettuce seeds
– Mustard greens/Cress seeds
– NZ Spinach seeds
– Onion seeds
– Parsnip seeds
– Pea seeds
– Potatoes
– Radish seeds
– Rhubarb seeds
– Sage seeds
– Shallot seedlings
– Strawberry seedlings
– Strawberry plants
– Swedes/Rutabagas seeds
– Sweet Potatoes
– Swiss Chard seeds
– Tomatillo seedlings
– Tomato seeds
– Turnip seeds
– Zucchini/Courgette seeds

August is a busy sowing month for early summer crops.
Fresh seeds are better for early sowings if conditions are not ideal. Sowings should be made shallow especially with cucurbits. Pay attention to the soil moisture as the ground is still cold. Cucumbers, squash and marrows can be grown under protection or towards the end of the month, directly outdoors. Slugs and snails will be active so be on the look-out.

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MAKING YOUR OWN COMPOST HEAP

MAKING YOUR OWN COMPOST HEAP

In a natural system, living things die and their deaths allow life to be reborn. Plants and other living things die on forest floors and in meadows, and are broken down over time by water, microorganisms, sun and air.

Compost has two main functions. It improves the structure of the soil, which makes the soil easier to work, providing good aeration and water retention characteristics. It also makes the soil more resistant to erosion. Compost also recycles and provides nutrients for plant growth. In addition,  its organic acids make nutrients in the soil more available to plants. Carbon, nitrogen, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, phosphorus, potash and trace minerals maintain the biological cycles of life. Fewer nutrients leach out in soils with enough organic matter.

If soil only consisted of rock meal, it would be infertile. The fertility depends on the amount of organic matter or humus present in the soil as well as the effective micro-organisms and soil nutrients.

Healthy soil means healthy plants and healthy plants are more resistant to diseases and insect attacks. Ensuring you have fertile soil is a far better way to grow food than using poisons that kill beneficial soil life.

Composting is simply speeding up the processes that occurs in nature and it involves some fundamental principles. These principles are the provision of air, moisture and warmth in order to create an ideal environment for the fungi and bacteria that are responsible for the decomposition and breakdown of the raw materials.

There are many methods of making compost heaps and different recipes for layering your pile. Spring and Autumn are ideal times to make a compost heap as biological activity is high during these periods and it should not be too hot nor too cold for microbial life in the pile. We thought it would be a good idea to include this article to give you time to make before the onset of Spring.

Many households throw away things that can be turned into this black gold and this is why we are about to explain how to build a simple and effective compost heap.

You don’t need any fancy equipment or containers, however you may use them if you wish. It is also a good idea to build a compost pile on an unused growing bed so the next crop grown in that bed will pick up and utilize any nutrients that leached out from the pile and into the soil. When the next season comes, you can build a compost pile on another unused bed.

Here’s the process step by step:

1. Loosen the ground, where the pile will be, to about 30cm deep with a fork or hoe.

2. Lay down brush, woody materials and other roughage for air circulation.

3. Add about 5cm of mature material like dry weeds, leaves, straw, hay and old garden wastes. Water it thoroughly.

4. Add about 5cm of immature material like fresh weeds, grass clippings, hedge trimmings, green cover crops and kitchen wastes you have saved. Water well.

5. Cover lightly with  about 1 or 2cm of soil to prevent flies and odours.You will want to do this straight after adding the immature material. Moisten the soil.

6. Add new layers of mature vegetation, immature vegetation and soil. Water the pile regularly until it is ready for use. You can also cover your compost heap to protect it from too much rain or too much sun.

7. Let the pile cure for 3 – 6 months while you are building a new pile. Turn the pile once for faster decomposition. A 1.2 meter pile will reduce to 30 – 40 cm when it is ready to use.

When you turn the compost pile, make the base of the new pile smaller than the original base to give the turned pile more internal volume and less surface area.

If you are not ready to use your compost when it is fully cured, stop watering it and spread it out to dry.

Always be sure to add at least 3 different kinds of crops to your compost piles. Different microbes flourish in specific kinds of crops. The result of this crop diversity is microbe diversity in the soil, which ensures better soil and plant life.

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Gardening Tips for July

July is not really a planting month for vegetables, but you can still plant :

– Beetroot seeds
– Cape Gooseberry seeds in seed trays
– Cauliflower seeds
-Celery seeds
– Mint seeds
– Mustard greens/Cress seeds
– Pea seeds
– Potatoes
– Radish seeds
– Shallot seedlings
– Swedes/Rutabagas seeds
– Tomato seedlings
– Turnip seeds

Now is a good time to start planning your summer garden early in the month so you have enough time to source and purchase open pollinated seeds for early sowing.

Carry out soil tests, particularly on land where growth for one or more seasons has been poor.

After winter crops have been removed, dig the ground well over and incorporate dressings of organic matter.

Broad beans can be side dressed, earthed up and given support with string or wire if required.

In mild conditions, tomatoes can be sowed in seed boxes.

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Collecting Rainwater

If you have a corrugated metal or tiled roof, you can harvest a great deal of water. To give you an example, a 100m2 roof can collect 450 litres of water in 5mm of rainfall. Cape Town receives on average about 788mm of rainfall a year. When we put that number into the calculator for our little 100m2 roof, that amounts to 70,920 litres of water. The numbers are huge – why miss out on such an opportunity? There are rainwater collection calculators on the web, one of which can be found here.

The first place to start, is to buy the tank or tanks.The bigger the better, but affordability and space should influence your decision as well as how much water you consume and what you will be using the rainwater for. You can buy cylindrical tanks, both thin or wide. Some go underground and some are rectangular and would fit snugly against a wall. We came across three easily available brands, Eco tanks, Jojo, and Nel. The prices and quality differ. We picked 2 x 2500 litre beige Eco upright tanks.

The next thing to consider when installing the tank, is where the downpipe leads from off the roof gutters. It will be easier to install if the tank can stand there safely and not obstruct anything. If it is not the ideal spot, you may want investigate the option of diverting the water down a new downpipe in a better position.

All you will need is piping to the tank. When the tank fills, it will become very heavy. A 2500 litre tank will weigh 2.5 tons when it is full, so making sure you have a proper foundation is necessary. We luckily had paving in our spot so we did not need to build a foundation. However, a foundation can be built easily enough with the right tools.

To make the foundation you will need to know the size of your tank. By sketching a diagram of your tank to scale, you will be able to determine the size of the square foundation beneath it by drawing a square or rectangle with the tank’s shape inside. This will lead you to the length of four wooden planks that must be bought to hold the cement mix you will make. Start by levelling and compacting the ground where the tank will be. Once complete, assemble the boards  to make a square or rectangle to contain your cement slab.You will need to get a bag of cement mix and sand, and mix it up and fill the slab container. Scrape it out evenly using a level and ensure that it is in fact level. The cement will dry and you can remove the boards or not. You can place your tank/s on the slab. Secure your tank by tying it to the ground with wire. Don’t make this too tight as the stability of your tank may be compromised. As big as tanks are, they can blow about in the wind. We have not tied ours down, we just make sure there is enough water inside to keep them from moving. Connect the downpipe to the tank. You may want to put a fitted filter at the opening or into a catchment pipe as shown in these pictures.

 

This picture has a fancy split which is not necessary. You could even use netted fabric and secure the fabric to the opening with elastic or rope. A filter will keep out leaves and other debris and also keep mosquitos from entering the tank and breeding in the water. Remember that installing a tank doesn’t have to be a fancy affair. If you are harvesting rainwater, you are doing it right. Look at the extras as frills.

Here is another picture to give you ideas.

The next thing you need is a tap or ball valve, some connections, plumber’s tape, and piping to divert the overflow to a place of your choice. You can divert the overflow either into the stormwater drain or even better, into another tank. We went to the hardware store and gave them the fitting size of the tank, and the store assistant helped us get all the fittings to connect to the ball valve we used and the fitting from the ball valve to the hosepipe. It’s all a bit like lego, finding what fits on what. You basically want the water outlet to also connect to a hosepipe. This picture will give you some dos and don’ts on how to assemble piping if you choose to use your water elsewhere, or put it in an irrigation system.

The system we installed, as explained above, is called the dry system, and water comes from the downpipes and straight into the tank. When the rain stops, the pipes will run dry.

There is also the wet system, which allows for the tank to be positioned further away from the roof gutters and uses the principle that water will always find a level.The pipes remain ‘charged’ so that when it rains, water will flow into the tank.

COLLECTING RAINWATER

If you have a corrugated metal or tiled roof, you can harvest a great deal of water. To give you an example, a 100m2 roof can collect 450 litres of water in 5mm of rainfall. Cape Town receives on average about 788mm of rainfall a year. When we put that number into the calculator for our little 100m2 roof, that amounts to 70,920 litres of water. The numbers are huge – why miss out on such an opportunity? There are rainwater collection calculators on the web, one of which can be found here.

The first place to start, is to buy the tank or tanks.The bigger the better, but affordability and space should influence your decision as well as how much water you consume and what you will be using the rainwater for. You can buy cylindrical tanks, both thin or wide. Some go underground and some are rectangular and would fit snugly against a wall. We came across three easily available brands, Eco tanks, Jojo, and Nel. The prices and quality differ. We picked 2 x 2500 litre beige Eco upright tanks.

The next thing to consider when installing the tank, is where the downpipe leads from off the roof gutters. It will be easier to install if the tank can stand there safely and not obstruct anything. If it is not the ideal spot, you may want investigate the option of diverting the water down a new downpipe in a better position.

All you will need is piping to the tank. When the tank fills, it will become very heavy. A 2500 litre tank will weigh 2.5 tons when it is full, so making sure you have a proper foundation is necessary. We luckily had paving in our spot so we did not need to build a foundation. However, a foundation can be built easily enough with the right tools.

To make the foundation you will need to know the size of your tank. By sketching a diagram of your tank to scale, you will be able to determine the size of the square foundation beneath it by drawing a square or rectangle with the tank’s shape inside. This will lead you to the length of four wooden planks that must be bought to hold the cement mix you will make. Start by levelling and compacting the ground where the tank will be. Once complete, assemble the boards  to make a square or rectangle to contain your cement slab.You will need to get a bag of cement mix and sand, and mix it up and fill the slab container. Scrape it out evenly using a level and ensure that it is in fact level. The cement will dry and you can remove the boards or not. You can place your tank/s on the slab. Secure your tank by tying it to the ground with wire. Don’t make this too tight as the stability of your tank may be compromised. As big as tanks are, they can blow about in the wind. We have not tied ours down, we just make sure there is enough water inside to keep them from moving. Connect the downpipe to the tank. You may want to put a fitted filter at the opening or into a catchment pipe as shown in these pictures.

This picture has a fancy split which is not necessary. You could even use netted fabric and secure the fabric to the opening with elastic or rope. A filter will keep out leaves and other debris and also keep mosquitos from entering the tank and breeding in the water. Remember that installing a tank doesn’t have to be a fancy affair. If you are harvesting rainwater, you are doing it right. Look at the extras as frills.

Here is another picture to give you ideas.

The next thing you need is a tap or ball valve, some connections, plumber’s tape, and piping to divert the overflow to a place of your choice. You can divert the overflow either into the stormwater drain or even better, into another tank. We went to the hardware store and gave them the fitting size of the tank, and the store assistant helped us get all the fittings to connect to the ball valve we used and the fitting from the ball valve to the hosepipe. It’s all a bit like lego, finding what fits on what. You basically want the water outlet to also connect to a hosepipe. This picture will give you some dos and don’ts on how to assemble piping if you choose to use your water elsewhere, or put it in an irrigation system.

The system we installed, as explained above, is called the dry system, and water comes from the downpipes and straight into the tank. When the rain stops, the pipes will run dry.

There is also the wet system, which allows for the tank to be positioned further away from the roof gutters and uses the principle that water will always find a level.The pipes remain ‘charged’ so that when it rains, water will flow into the tank.

There is also the transfer system where the tank can be situated anywhere on the property and uses a pump to pump water from an underground pit into the tank.

We hope we have given you some good ideas on how to collect your own rainwater. The dry system is really easy and you will be able to do it yourself.

Here are some other tips to remember when collecting rainwater:

Check your leaf eater or filter regularly and if you have tall trees close to the house, you may need to clean the roof gutters every now and then.

Ensure that the overflow is away from the base – you don’t want your foundation compromised.

Make sure that the opening is sealed or that you have a filter in place so bugs can’t get in.

To stop anything from growing inside, the tank should not allow any light inside.  Algae are little plants and with light, they will grow in your container.

Your rainwater system does not need to be expensive. You can even use old jacuzzis, water barrels, or any big container you can find. Don’t be put off by underground systems and cisterns etc. Make a start and if you really want the fancy frills, you can add them later. It is better to harvest cheaply than not to harvest rainwater at all.

Don’t choke the flow. It may be a better option to get a big ball valve rather than a small insipid tap. Trickling water can become annoying when you are trying to water the garden.

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GARDENING TIPS FOR JUNE

It is the time to plant:

– Broad Beans seeds
– Cauliflower seeds
– Celery seeds
-Mint seeds
Mizuna seedlings
– Mustard greens seeds
– Onion seedlings
– Pak Choy seedlings
– Peas
– Potatos
– Radish seeds
-Rosemary seedlings
– Shallot seedlings
– Swedes/Rutabagas seeds
– Turnip seeds

We recommend starting a gardening diary or, better yet, a gardening calendar. This will help you keep track of what you planted where. You can add notes on whether your veggies are doing well or whether they aren’t doing so well, and why. A calendar can also be used to indicate when it’s time to pull veggies out the ground, or when to harvest them.

You can also add moon phases, mark which spots receive morning sun, which receive afternoon sun, which are the sunniest spots, and which  spots have the most shade. Gardening is something learnt over time through experience, and this is a great way to track your performance and record your triumphs.

There is not much to plant in June, so it is a good time to clean, sharpen and repair garden tools.

You can also construct permanent cropping beds and make a cold frame or two. This allows early sowing and planting to occur in a more sheltered environment

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Gardening Tips for May 2017

It is the time to plant:

– Angelica seeds
– Broad Beans seeds
– Beetroot seedlings
– Cabbage seedlings
– Carrots seeds
– Cauliflower seeds
– Celery seeds
– Chinese Cabbage seedlings
– Chives seeds
– Collard seedlings
– Dill seedlings
– Horseradish seeds
– Kale seedlings
– Lettuce seeds
– Mint seeds
– Mizuna seeds
– Mustard green seeds
– Onion seeds
– Oregano seedlings
– Parsley seeds
– Peas
– Potato seeds
– Radish seeds
– Rocket seeds
– Spring Onion seedlings
– Swedes/Rutabagas seeds
– Sweet marjoram seedlings
– Swiss Chard seedlings
– Thyme seeds
– Turnip seeds
– Watermelons

Support peas with twigs, branches or twine and give a light side dressing or liquid fertiliser.

Not Crazy about using Bone Meal or Blood Meal?

There are various alternatives to enrich your soil with phosphorus.

Make your own compost: This is the cheapest and easiest way to feed your plants and it’s a great way to recycle kitchen scraps.

Alfalfa Meal, Flax Seed Meal, Cotton Seed Meal and Soy Meal are all packed with nitrogen.

Kelp extract – It’s packed with micronutrients. (You may want to double-check the ingredients before you buy as some companies mix this up with other products like fish.)

Green manures/nitrogen-fixing plants – Wheat, oats, rye, vetch, or clover are fast growing plants and can be grown and worked into the soil before planting your seeds/seedlings. These crops can absorb nutrients that would otherwise be leached, and these nutrients are then returned to the soil when the crop is tilled under.

Epsom salts : An excellent source of magnesium,  it encourages green foliage.

Seaweed – Fresh, liquid or meal , it has lots of potassium and other trace elements.

Beneficial Microorganisms – Beneficial microorganisms work harmoniously with plants to increase nutrient availability in the soil, root formation and insect resistance.

Vermiculture or Vermicastings – Worm castings increase soil fertility and structure.

Mulching suppresses weeds and creates an excellent environment for worms. It also feeds the soil as it breaks down.

Compost teas are nitrogen rich.

Organic Planting Recipe

When planting anything from annuals to trees, you can use this recipe made in a bucket.
Briefly dip the roots of each plant into it, or spray it onto the root ball.
Mix the first 3 ingredients in one pail and after dipping the plant, rub the fungi onto the roots separately.
Amounts will change depending on the product you buy. Make sure you get products allowed in organic gardening and follow the instructions on the label.

Water – 3.8 liters
Sea Minerals – 5 Tbsp
Liquid seaweed – 5 Tbsp
Endo/Ectomycorrhizal Fungi – 5 ml per plant