Tips for More Successful and Cheaper Gardening
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Tips for More Successful and Cheaper Gardening

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Tips for More Successful and Cheaper Gardening

Tips for More Successful and Cheaper Gardening

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Tips for More Successful and Cheaper Gardening Tips for More Successful and Cheaper Gardening Document Transcript

  • SOIL FOR LIFE Build the soil, harvest the plants, feed the people, heal the planet To all who must eat to live, there is hope. Grow your own food. It’s the simplest (and cheapest) way to good health Sponsored by the Soil for Life organisationSoil for Life is a Cape Town-based NGO which teaches people to grow their own food. For moreinformation about Soil for Life membership, and organic methods for growing vegetables, herbs andfruit, please phone Pat on (021) 794 4982Spring has sprung and, after the winter rains in the Western Cape, one’s garden is looking green andlush. The days are growing longer, and the nights shorter. The soil temperature is rising slowly andthere is plenty of moisture under your layers of magnificent mulch, and it’s time to plant seeds andseedlings for a bountiful summer harvest. Here are a few tips to make your life easier, your gardenmore productive, and that will also make use of what you have lying around your home, and to addinterest to your plate of food at the end of the day. 1
  • TIPS FOR MORE SUCCESSFUL (AND CHEAPER) GARDENINGMake the best use of your garden space – no matter how small it is – to produce lots of high qualityvegetables all year round by following some simple guidelines:• Start your crops off in seed trays or beds and transplant them into the garden when they are about 10cm high. This means that the plants spend less time in the ground; you do not have to wait for one harvest before you sow the next. Therefore, you can grow more crops each season. It also means that frost-sensitive crops can be started off in a protected spot long before conditions are right for them outside; it gives them a head start.• Practise succession planting – crop after crop. Rather than planting all your seeds at one time and then having a glut of vegetables that will never be used, or nothing to harvest at all, space the plantings at intervals of three to four weeks. While some of the crops are ready to eat, others will be coming along in different stages of growth.• Plant cut-’n-come-again crops like spinach, bush and climbing beans, non-heading lettuces, Chou Mellier Kale, parsley, rocket and baby marrows. One sowing may give you a year or more of harvesting, with no gluts or shortages. The more your pick, the more the plants produce.• Pick the food from your garden when it is young and tender. Not only is it healthier for you, but it will increase the productivity of your plants. Whenever possible, eat it raw (cooked only by the sun; this will save on your electricity bills).• Companion planting helps to get the most out of your garden by planting different vegetables together so that they can make the best use of available sun, nutrients and space. So, either plant fast-growing plants in between slow-growing ones, or take a look at the shape of the plants. Large, bushy plants like tomatoes can provide protection from scorching sun for low-growing, shade- loving plants like lettuce and spinach. It also means that you use all the space in the beds to maximum advantage.• Staggered spacing – with seedlings being planted out at equal distances from each other – is the best spacing pattern particularly for large plants like cabbages, tomatoes and broad beans. This simply means that every plant is the same distance from its neighbours in all direction and no space is lost by the gap between the rows. 2
  • Don’t waste…One man’s waste is your wealth (and health); grow your own baby greens.Turnips, beetroots, radishes and carrots are usually grown for their roots, but their leaves (especiallythe young ones) are delicious. Next time you buy any of these vegetables, cut away thecrown, about 1cm from the top. Eat the roots, cooked or raw,and save the crowns. Put the crowns in a shallow tray with water (or plant them in composted soil) with the tops showingand place in a sunny spot. Water, and within a week the first new growth will start to show. Pick theleaves when they are still small, about 10cm long, and use them in salads or sautéed like spinach. Theylook great in a salad and they’re delicious to eat. Carrot tops have the same texture and taste like across between coriander and parsley. They make an unusual addition to your food.And while we’re looking at growing veggies in a rather unusual way, try growing sunflowers andlentils in discarded polystyrene trays on a sunny windowsill. Half fill the trays with compost or soil, sow the seeds and cover them over. Water them lightly andmake sure that the soil remains damp. The seeds will germinate and produce young green shoots readyto eat in a week to ten days (longer when the weather is cold). Snip near the surface with a pair ofscissors when they are ready to harvest. The lentils will re-grow two or three times. Enjoy.Nettles - your garden’s miracle worker. Don’t waste them either.They grow best in cool, shady places and do well in the Cape winters. Harvest them now and use themto control pests, feed your soil and your family.Stinging nettles (brandnetel) are delicious to eat and rich in vitamins A and C. Theycontain protein, phosphorus, sulphur and traces of iron. They are used as fodder forlivestock, and a source of fibre for making cloth, rope and paper, for preparing greenand yellow dyes for paper, for the preparation of homoeopathic remedies, and as ahair tonic. The juice from nettles can be used in cheese-making as a substitute foranimal rennet. In the garden, sprays made from nettle not only give plants some of thenutrients they need but also help to control pests and diseases. So save seeds from the nettles you find! Nettles grow best in cool, shady places and do well in the Cape winters. They are setting seed right now andstarting to look straggly. Cut back the plants and lay them on newspaper in a warm place. Once they are dry,shake them over the paper to release the seeds and store them in an airtight container ready for sowing nextautumn. 3
  • Here is how to prepare two useful nettle sprays:Nettle tea – a natural fertiliser for your gardenSoak stinging nettle plants – roots and all – for up to twenty-four hours, no longer. Mix one part tea toone part water and apply to the leaves and roots of plants.Nettle pest control spray – good for controlling snails and slugs as well as black spot and other fungaland viral diseases.To make this spray, pack the nettles loosely into a large bucket. Cover it with water and a lid (it gets a bitsmelly) and let it stand for two weeks. Dilute one part of the resulting concoction with four parts of water;strain through a piece of old pantyhose or a sock and use as a general spray.Save money, save your own seeds.This is a good time to collect seeds from your winter crops for sowing next autumn. Some of theeasiest seeds to collect are peas, broad beans, spinach and beetroot. You can even save seeds frombroccoli and cauliflower although your may get a few surprising results. A few tips to help you on theway:• Save seed from the healthiest plants only.• Allow the seeds to mature on the plant for as long as possible, so that the mother plant finishes her job. Watch carefully and when they look dry enough and the plant is starting to ‘let them go’, start collecting them.• The first pods produced by bean, pea and broad bean plants are the best for future cultivation. Mark them with a piece of string and let them mature on the plant. Once the pods are mature, pull up the whole plant and hang it in an airy place, out of the sun.• More delicate seeds of plants like rocket and lettuce are collected by cutting off the flower head and hanging it upside down in a brown paper packet, or over a container of some sort. Gently shake or rub the seeds into the container.• Always collect seeds on a dry day, and store them in a cool, dark, dry place in an airtight container.And when you get to the end of summer, you can also collect seeds from your tomatoes, beans,baby marrow, cucumbers, pumpkin, butternut and gem squash, rocket, fancy lettuces and much more.Some seeds like those from tomatoes, granadillas, and the cucurbit family are treated slightlydifferently: 4
  • • Once the fruit (containing the seeds) is over-ripe (very soft and mushy), cut it open and scoop out the seeds into a container of warm water.• The water will go murky and smelly after a few days. Pour the pulp into a sieve and wash well with clean water to remove all the pulp from around the seeds. Put them onto a piece of cotton cloth, newspaper or cardboard plates, and let them dry before storing. 5