Urban gardening, why it is my new fetish and some tips to get you going.

Image from www.seedsforafrica.co.za
Image from www.seedsforafrica.co.za

For many years I have fancied the idea of an urban vegetable garden, the kind you see on-top of buildings that are in large cities. If you go looking on the internet it won’t take very long before you see an image of what I am talking about.

I have this vision of sending my kids out with a basket on a summer evening to collect some Corn on the Cob, a few carrots and some Beans to make us dinner, I don’t know if I will ever get there but I am trusting that by constantly visualizing it will become a reality.

You don’t have to live on a plot or farm to have a great veggie garden anymore.

WHY AM I DOING IT?

My very main reason for wanting this garden is as a healthy controllable food source for my family as well as the possibility of providing extra food for my wonderful Maggie who works so very hard to care for my kids and home.  I would dearly love to say to her each day, there you go Mags, go see what you would like to take home for dinner and take some extra for a friend.

I also love that I can involve my kids in this and provide them with a sense of accomplishment and excitement as they wait for seeds to grow and when we get to harvest for the first time it is going to be a wonderful day.

This is my hearts desire and I finally am at a point where I am about to see it come to fruition.

We have never really lived in a place that had enough space to do it properly. We did do some containers with herbs and spinach but that was really small-scale.  I am in it for the long haul here and I want a nice big productive and useful space that brings lots of joy and happiness to me, my children and others.

Last year we moved into such a space and now I have my garden and I am loving it.

I have never thought that I had the greenest of fingers but I am excited and passionate and I really want to make this work.

WHAT AM I GROWING?

A few weeks ago I posted about starting the space out and getting it ready for the bigger plans I had.  You can read about that here.  I already had a small Swiss Chard that survived from the ones I had going in pots and I planted some Beetroot seeds that I had and haphazardly strew some dry lettuce seeds into the ground from a 6 month old dried out and bolted lettuce plant I had taken over from a friend.  Well, little did I know that by the following week I would be reaping the wrath of my scattered sowing by having to separate and re-pot 100’s of mini lettuce plants into seedling trays and have them housed in my kitchen.  I have also left some in the ground to see how they will survive.  They are doing well but what a job.  When I have them at a reasonable size I will plant them into the garden and share any extra’s with anybody that is willing to adopt them.

Heaps and Heaps of lettuce
Heaps and Heaps of lettuce
My little lettuce colony.
My little lettuce colony.

The Beetroot has started coming up and I have also planted some spring onions and Fennel that I let re-root and some Fenugreek seeds.  The Beetroot is slow but I have some other’s doing better in the seedling trays and I might find myself having to nurture them this way rather than direct sowing into the ground while it is so cold here in Cape Town.

The Fenugreek seeds are shooting up and will be ready for harvest in about 2 weeks.  I am very excited about these which when left to grow become a great leafy green that you can use in salads or on sandwiches and even in stir-fries or soups. They have a really great turn around time and all they cost me was R5.75 for a pack of Fenugreek seeds by Whole Food Connection which I found at our local health shop. I only used a quarter of the packet so there are many more to use when I want to sow again. They grow neatly so you can dedicate a small area and have nice healthy Fenugreek every month.

I certainly do not know very much about gardening but the internet and You Tube again are proving to be a great resource and I am very lucky to be able to work right next door to the University of Stellenbosch Botanical Gardens and have been connecting with some of the people there and having great conversations and learning a lot.

I have even found they sell a really lovely Organic Mushroom Compost which I bought and used this weekend.  It seems really to have done wonders for my soil so far. I plan on starting my own Bokashi Compost system which is an anaerobic system meaning it does not need oxygen to break down but rather fermentation using good bacteria to do the job.  I am looking into a few options on the topic of compost and will post about that at a later stage.

HERBS

I have also laid out a patch dedicated just to herbs and I did that this past weekend.I bought some lovely herbs at the Botanical gardens Bio Shop. I have planted Parsley, Coriander, Thyme, 2 types of Origanum, 3 Celery Plants & Sage.

Herb garden finished
The Herb Garden

I also have a cutting from my Giant Basil that I rescued and hope to get it rooting soon that I can add it to the patch.  I have a Rosemary that got some kind of a pest which has been a bugger to get rid of but I finally seem to have done this and it is starting to recover now. My intention is also to have smaller indoor kitchen herb garden that I will be planting in an old Bashews cool drink bottle crate that I have, I need to wait for my outside herbs to grow a little so I can transplant some into the box. This little patch is already looking stunning though which a lot more than I can say for my veggie patch at this stage.

Veggie Patch week 1
The Veggie Patch end of Week 1

I have been looking into various option of seeds that I can buy online which are either Heirloom (Meaning seeds coming from plants that have been growing since before World War 1 and in their most organic state) and or Open pollinated GMO free seeds that are more readily available.

There are a few local places where one can order but being the kind of girl that only likes to order once I have settled on a bulk package from Seeds for Africa.  You can find it here I selected to take the extra add on pack with that and now I think I have everything I will need to grow what I need for a very long time.

I might order a few extra more unique things like Heirloom purple cosmic carrots for instance and perhaps some beans but for the most part I think I am sorted.

Other places online to buy Organic and Heirloom seeds are listed on this page  called Urban Freedom which sums the list up very nicely.

As far as things I really want in my garden, I am after a particular vegetable that my Dad used to grow in our garden in my childhood home.  It’s origin is Mexico and it is very hard to come by.  It is called a Chayote and I am busy checking out any possibilities of getting either a plant or some seeds to get it growing in my garden.  This is vegetable must in any veggie garden. It’s nutritional and health benefits are outstanding. I remember it fondly.  It is from the Gourd family and is a kind of Squash which can be eaten raw or cooked and is very prolific once you have it growing.

chayote-ou-chuchu-2_21206671
Chayote or Vegetable Pear.

WHAT ABOUT PESTS?

I don’t believe in Chemical pesticides so I am going to be doing my best to do companion planting where I can and have also discovered that Organic Neem Oil available at Faithful to Nature online as well as other places mixed with something like GNLD LDC/ Liquid Castile Soap or even Sunlight Liquid is a very good natural pest repellent.  I am trying it out and it does seem to be working for the pests, besides my cat of course, I still need to figure out a way of keeping her away from the veggie patch. This is where I learnt that this works.

My Husband wont let me get Chickens because of the Cat and Dog and because he knows he will be the one that has to clean the chicken coop. That is of course another great way to keep pests at bay but then you also run the risk of having the chickens wreck your veggie harvest.

Any tips would be appreciated from those in the know.

RESOURCES

Some of the resources I have found helpful online on You Tube are:

https://www.youtube.com/user/growingyourgreens

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_eVg568w02BmZWDCrgunvg

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcKbcTNOr-wl_k4IeRIeqbg

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfJl4Yf0MrI2RIkqnoHe8rA

Other Local and international online places I found to be a great help are:

Urban Food Gardens on Facebook They also have a Website and Blog

Vegetable Gardening on Facebook and on the Web

A good book resource I am aiming to get for South African Veggie gardening is:

Growing Vegetables in South Africa by Darlene Roelofsen and is available online in PDF for R139.00 on Gardening in South African

WHATS IS TO COME?

So keep your eyes peeled(no pun intended) for some new posts as the garden progresses.

We have plans to dig out another space next to the current one to increase the size, and also keep a look out for an upcoming post on the composting options I have in mind as I make up my mind between A Worm farm, anaerobic Japanese Bokashi and a traditional compost heap.

I hope this has inspired some of you to also think about starting your own gardens to help with a sustainable living food source for your family, free from nasties and hefty prices.

TALK TO ME

If you have your garden going I would like to hear all about it and encourage you to share your knowledge with others where you can to instill a sense of empowerment into them that anybody can do it if they want to.

Happy Growing

Supermama

xx

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