Indigenous Gardens for the South Peninsula or fynbos for fine gardeners.

A healthy and thriving indigenous fynbos garden is not just waterwise and an investment in local biodiversity.  It is a wildlife adventure right outside your front door.  Amongst the Chameleons, Leopard Toads, Cape Sugar birds and Co, you could be hosting your own `Big Five’!!!   Local nurseries are stocking more and more indigenous plants. Click here to see our list of indigenous plants adapted to the South Peninsula and recommended by the SA Biodiversity Institute as a guide.  Follow the tips on how to plant and look after newly acquired indigenous plants for success.  

SEND US YOUR RECOMMENDATIONS, with photos, if possible, and help grow the recommended list and local knowledge.

Household Cleaning Agents & Freshners that don’t Pollute our Water. 

Acknowledging the link between the commercial cleaning agents I buy and, through them, my contribution to polluting precious water resources resulted in me investigating other options.  With a few spray bottles, 5 basic `cleaners’, your favourite essential oils blended with a positive value that Nature matters and you are set to clean your home with minimal consequences for the natural environment.  More good news is that it is cheap and effective.  Click here to read about eco-friendly household cleaners you can make yourself.  Your tips and solutions are welcome. Email them to kim@scenicsouth.co.za. 

Grey water systems and rain water harvesting for your home.

Water is already an issue in the Western Cape and especially the Scenic South Peninsula, situated as it is at the end of the water pipeline. With the growing population and limited water resources there will come a time when water restrictions and penalties will be permanently in place in Cape Town.  Grey water & rain water harvesting can be used in addition to planting water wise plants. Click here to read about some simple and effective ways of water management for average households

New Look at Veggies: Plant Tops and Sprouts.  

One of the least expected but fun outcomes of my husband doing the Soil for Life organic gardening course was discovering sprouts and that many vegetable `tops’ are also edible. Not only have we started experimenting by stir-frying the leaves we used to feed to the compost heap, but we also pick baby vegetable leaves and a range of flowers for salads. 

Have you ever sprouted sunflower seeds in a shallow dish of soil on the windowsill?  Read more at:  http://scenicsouth.co.za//2011/03/new-look-at-veggies-plant-tops-and-sprouts/

Nasturtiums

If puppies could choose to be flowers, they would be nasturtiums romping and tumbling through your garden just as nasturtiums do.  And when you scolded them for smothering less energetic plants, they would smile up at you with bright open faces and an expression of “this is what I was born to do”. 

In spite of their vigour, and ability to cover those difficult corners of the garden in a riot of green and glowing orange and yellow flowers, Nasturtiums are strangely underrated.  The fact that all parts of the plant can be eaten, taste refreshingly peppery and contain high amounts of Vitamin C needs to be rediscovered.  And what better way to do so than to share some of these recipes.

Ever heard of Poor Man’s Capers!  Nasturtium Seeds make a crispy and tangy version of capers which are made from the soft buds of the caper flower.  Poor Man’s Capers are made from the firm still green seeds of the nasturtium.  Basically you pick, wash and bottle them in boiling spicy vinegar and leave for at least 3 weeks to mature.  The recipe which I tried recommends soaking them in a brine solution for 24 hours.  I look forward to tasting them in a few weeks.

The leaves have long been used in green salads to add a peppery tang.  Alternatively they can be chopped into mayonnaise to add something really different to egg mayonnaise, chicken mayo or potato salad. Wash the leaves well as snails love them and choose the smaller, younger leaves.

Saving the flowers, the best I think, for last I confess that I still have to try this recipe for nasturtium flower starters.   Pick a selection of large firm flowers of different colours and stuff them carefully with a teaspoon of savoury cream cheese.  Carefully fold the flower closed around the cream cheese to form a bright pouch.  Arrange on a plate decorated with leaves and place in the fridge for an hour to draw in the flavour.   Enjoy!!!  If you have nasturtium recipes which you would like to share, or in fact any other flower delicacies please contact Kim.

KimK

Detering Aphids (Plant Lice)

 The lush plant growth of Spring is all too often accompanied by a veritable explosion of  insects.  Now is the time to keep a close watch on young veggie crops for aphids. 

Aphids are tiny green or black insects that cover the buds, stems or leaves of plants. They not only suck the life out of plants, but also spread viral diseases.  You may have noticed bunches of small sticky insects at the tips of plants causing wilting or leaf curl and the telltale scurrying of ants that milk the aphids for the plant sap they find so delectable.

The key to success in controlling aphids is, first, to keep a watchful eye on your plants for the first sign of attack and then do something about them.  The second is to understand a little about their life cycle. You can control them in different ways:

First try washing them off with water.  If that doesn’t work then spray soapy water onto them.  Green bar soap is good, or keep all your little bits of soap and put them in a jar with water to make soap jelly.   Take two big spoons of this jelly and mix with five cups of water.  Spray this mixture onto the aphids.  Remember to spray again two weeks later.

Act as soon as you find them or expect disaster as aphids breed very quickly.  Most of the aphids are females and they can give birth to two or three offspring every day until they each have a family of one hundred.  When there are too many of them on a particular plant, some individuals grow wings and fly from sick to healthy plants, carrying diseases with them.  Soon your entire crop will be infested. 

Let Nature Help:  It is a good idea to leave some aphids on one or two of your plants because they attract some birds, especially the White Eyes.  While in your garden, these birds will they eat other insect pests as well.  Alternatively, plant `sacrificial plants’  amongst your veggies which attract aphids and by so doing keep them off your crops.    I had success with borage planted in between green peppers.  The borage attracted the aphids which I sprayed when the level of infestation got high.   This really worked to keep the abutting green peppers almost aphid free. 

Have fun. Growing your own veggies is amazingly satisfying.    

Soil for Life  & KimK

Grow your seedlings in toilet rolls –  you’ll be astonished at your success 

It’s simple. Take discarded toilet roll tubes and arrange them side-by-side in a plastic container with holes punched in the bottom. Fill the toilet tubes with a good seedling mix – half garden soil and half compost (add a little vermi-compost if you have a worm bin) – and plant one seed in each tube. Water.  When the seedlings are ready to be transplanted (about ten centimeters high) remove the tubes, one by one, and transplant into a prepared vegetable bed.

Because the tubes are grouped together, they retain water and seedlings are protected from drying out.  As there is plenty of room for root development, transplant shock is prevented because the roots are protected by the straight walls of the tubes and, once in the soil, will grow straight out of the bottom.  The toilet tube will break down, improving the soil texture and water-holding capacity.

There are many seedlings that do not like to be transplanted. Beans, peas, pumpkins and the squash family are examples. This way, you can get the seedlings to a good start before carefully planting them out.  An added bonus is that you have an automatic cutworm collar and reduced the burden on our landfill sites!   Dez of Soil for Life

We have used this method for peas and beans and its great.  KimK 

 

RIDDING YOUR TURF OF RODENTS

 A city without owls is fit for rats – unless Jack Russells abound.   But there are easier ways!!  And they reputedly also deter the neighbour’s cat from using your veggie patch as kitty litter.

Soak a rag or cotton balls in oil of peppermint (found at most health food stores), and place in areas of rodent activity. Place under an eve or under a cover that will keep the rain from diluting the peppermint. Rodents are allergic to peppermint and will avoid it.  Grow loads of peppermint and hang it from your rafters.   Don’t put cooked food in your compost, and don’t leave uneaten dog or cat food overnight – it attracts rats.

 To deter unwanted cats, save used tea-bags, `lace’ well with eucalyptus oil and put in strategic places. 

 I am going to try both the peppermint and the eucalyptus remedies on squirrel raiders.

We are plagued with them. They strip our fruit trees while the fruit is still green and have no notion of sharing. If they were indigenous, I might be tempted to think of them as `Nature’s hoods’ getting their own back.  It is too late for the guavas which the squirrels have buried all over our property thinking they were green acorns.  But come Spring and our strawberry patch and the grapevine will be festooned with teabags of eucalyptus and bushels of peppermint.

Hummm!!!  Anyone have a recipe for sauté squirrel with soupcon of mint.  If you have any eco-friendly solutions keep us posted.   

KimK 

THE BEST (AND CHEAPEST) COMPOST ACTIVATOR EVER

Why spend money on buying those little packets of microbial spores to get your compost heap going, or searching for manure from non-existent chickens and cows?

Why waste water flushing the loo every time nature calls? Apart from anything else, the City is warning Capetonians to use water sparingly and it costs us more and more as time goes by.

Catch the golden liquid and pour it onto your compost heap. Its high nitrogen content will get the heap ‘cooking’ before long and you’ll speed up the rate at which compost is made.  After all, the Chinese recognized the value of urine and have used it in agriculture for the last forty conturies. In fact, some people refer to this household liquid activator as Chairman Mao’s Special.

Urine is also a useful garden fertilizer. Dilute it in a bucket of water and water the soil around your plants. A great way to save water and money. Just look at what the average adult produces in 24 hours:

13.2 g of nitrogen, 2.5 g potassium, 1.0g phosphorus, 1.0g sulphur and 5 g sodium.

Should you still feel squeamish, next time you’re at the nursery, take a look at the contents of a bag of expensive fertilizer – 2:3:2 or 3:1:5!

Submitted by Dez Mynhardt of Soil for Life

http://www.soilforlife.co.za/

DON’T WASTE WEEDS

Exploring the world of ‘weeds’ opens a profusion of new culinary and medicinal experiences. Start searching for ‘weeds’ you can eat – those that are coming up between your veggies, in your lawn and on other people’s verges. They add a whole new experience to your gardening activities.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is often thought to be a troublesome weed, yet it is one of the world’s most important medicinal plants. Growing in profusion wherever you look right now, its young leaves make a nutritious addition to any salad or sandwich, soup or stew. Three leaves a day to keep the doctor at bay. Pick some and give it a try – even if it is simply making an infusion of the leaves in boiling water to make dandelion tea. Add honey and lemon – and there you go.

The plant is rich in potassium, iron and magnesium, and vitamins A,B,C and D. It is an excellent liver tonic for the digestive system, and stimulates waste removal from your body mainly through the kidneys. It is also known to fight the ageing process.

Right now the sunshine yellow flowers are giving way to puff-balls of tiny parachute seeds. Allow them to float around your garden and settle in your flower beds to ensure more dandelion plants for your future health.

Gardenwise, dandelions, with their deep tap roots, break up the soil so that following plants can take root in the ground. At the same time they bring up iron, enriching the ground when decaying. Info from SOIL FOR LIFE

MULCHING

With the harsh hot south-easter crisping our gardens, mulching has become more important than ever. A lack of water can make plants more attractive to pests because they take up nitrates much more quickly than the leaves can deal with them. This imbalance can attract mites and aphids (plant lice), which, of course, cause devastation of your crops, particularly the soft leaves of cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower.

What can you do to counteract this? Dig plenty of well-rotted organic matter or humus into the soil; this is the best way to protect against drought. Humus acts as a sponge and soaks up water during rains, holding it, and letting it out slowly in dry spells.

Sawdust: good news and bad news

Sawdust can work for you and your soil. It is an excellent soil-builder, capable of making heavy clay earth loose and fluffy and increasing the moisture-holding capability of sandy soils. It makes an excellent mulch and, best of all, it very often costs nothing. However, it rots down very slowly and does little to increase the fertility of your soil.

So, how do you work with it?

  • Mulch with it. However, if you dig it into the soil, you will need to add a nitrogen boost in the form of manure. Watch your plants for signs of yellowing leaves or stunted growth, which are both signs of nitrogen deficiency. If this does happen, give your plants a dose of compost or manure tea.
  • When planting vegetable seeds apply a half centimeter layer of sawdust between the rows to prevent the soil from crusting. It will also prevent weed growth.
  • Compost it. Simply dump a heap of it in a spot that you will not be needing for a while; water and turn it every month or so. After a year or so it will have turned into soft, dark brown humus. If you cannot wait that long, try adding chicken manure which will speed up the rotting process.

Source your sawdust from stables (with horse manure, an added advantage) or your local sawmill. Ensure the timber you got the sawdust from has not been chemically treated.

Happy mulching!

Supplied by Soil for Life