Two weekends ago we had our very first Veggie Garden Club meeting here at Good Hope Gardens Nursery. The goal is to come together as growers from the area and to discuss ideas, problems we encounter in our gardens, share seeds and recipes. There are a lot of food producers locally as well as those who would like to learn, and I thought it would be great if we could get together and share knowledge and inspiration. We had a nice turnout for the first meeting, some people could not make it, but we filled the big wooden table in the Forage and Harvest classroom where the first meeting was held. The meetings will happen once a month at different gardens each time. Lucky for us, Kate Higgs – a fantastic photographer – joined our group and quietly took these beautiful photos.
There were a few things from the garden on the table for inspiration/to munch on.
The group members varied from expert experienced permaculturists to those that had not yet started a veggie garden. Everyone had something interesting to contribute whether it was questions, answers, ideas, seeds or recipes.
Topics I had in mind that I wanted to cover were:
Crops, seeds, crop rotation and maintenance.
Topics that were discussed over the one and a half hours:
- Baboons: Baboons are one of the biggest problem a food gardener faces in our area. We spoke about how to baboon proof your garden, what materials to use (check out your local dump) and how to build the structures like geodomes, cages and fencing.
- Veg planting guide: A Western Cape planting guide was handed around and we looked at what would work specifically in our area, what seeds we should be planting into the ground, what seedlings we should be planting and what to plant into trays.
- Hints and tips: The more experienced growers shared some hints and tips:
- Carrots and coriander need 8 days to germinate – after planting directly into the ground, cover with wet newspaper or hessian and keep moist for 7 days. On the 8th day, remove the cover and hope for a sunny day…..you will find the seeds have germinated and the weeds will have grown long, thin and white along the ground, searching for the sun. Once the cover is removed, the sun will scorch these white weeds, leaving you with only what you want in the bed.
- Wild rocket VS normal rocket – Wild rocket likes shade in late summer, it doesn’t get bitter, it self seeds easily and has smaller leaves. Normal rocket is a heavy feeder and would prefer to grow individually throughout your garden so scatter them around rather than plant a patch of them.
- The taste of herbs are diminished by the shade so rather plant in a sunny spot.
- For sweet carrots you need lots of minerals in the soil so add some phosphorus and potassium for tastier carrots.
- We touched on seed saving, how to harvest seeds, how to store them and who had seeds to share.
- Soil improvement – in our area the soil is very sandy. Sandy soil is good for drainage but needs to be enriched. We spoke about what to add to your soil. Get some horse manure from your local stables and mix with straw, Keep it wet and covered and spread over the sandy soil.
- MULCH MULCH MULCH. Watch Back to Eden for information on why mulch is so great for your garden. If you are not religious and can get past the biblical references, stick with it to watch and see how much sense the “forest floor” theory makes. Also invest/borrow or hire a wood chipper to chip up whole trees (branches and leaves included) or branches that need pruning in your garden. You can also get wood chips from your local dump or recycling center. Mulch should be about 10-15cm deep on your beds.
- We had a little talk and diagram drawn out for us by Pete explaining how wicking beds work. These container beds are about 120cm wide made from plastic containers or lined pallets. They have water and solid objects like rocks and bottles in the bottom layer, covered by biddem cloth. Next is a 30cm layer of compost followed by 6cm of wood chip. The is an inlet pipe that leads down to the water tank and feeds the plants through capillary action, so you don’t water the plants, just very occasionally top up the tank. Also an outlet pipe for overflow. Great for those with small gardens, or wanting to grow veg if you only have a courtyard or balcony. Pete makes these to order if you are not a great with tools.
- We debated drip irrigation VS sprinkler/hose watering.
- Living near the Atlantic ocean we all have access to lots of seaweed. We spoke about using seaweed as a mulch or fertilizer. If you use undiluted seaweed your spinach can become more salty as a high content of salt in the soil will be absorbed by leafy greens.
- Hugelkultur was discussed and how we could/have implemented this in our own gardens.
- We shared recipes for leaves of the sweet potato and butternut. The first three shiny new leaves on a sweet potato vine can be used like spinach. Butternut and pumpkin leaves can be cooked with ground up raw peanuts in a coconut sauce and served on rice.
- A few of us had brought along some seeds to share – there was excitement and sparkling eyes as the seeds were passed around and we felt a bit like kids in a sweet shop.
What we should be planting now:
Seed Sowing Chart details by Franz Muhl.
Directly into the ground:
Beetroot. Final spacing: 8-12cm. Germination time: 7-14 days. Maturation time: 8-9weeks. Heavy feeder.
Radishes. Final spacing: 3-8cm. Germination time: 3-5days. Maturation time: 3-4weeks. Heavy feeder.
Carrots: Final spacing: 4-7cm. Germination time: 7-10 days. Maturation time: 8-10weeks. Light feeder.
Lettuce. Final spacing: 25-35cm. Germination time: 3-7days. Maturation time: 8-10weeks. Light feeder.
Coriander. Final spacing: 1cm. Germination time: 7days. Maturation time: 3-5weeks. Medium feeder.
Garlic. Final spacing: 8-12cm. Heavy feeder.
Peas. Final spacing: 4-5cm. Germination time: 5-10days. Maturation time: 8-10weeks. Light feeder.
You can also direct seed turnips, nasturtiums, swiss chard and kale.
Into seed trays:
Onions. Final spacing: 10-15cm. Germination time: 6-14days. Medium feeder.
Spring onions. Final spacing: 4-8cm. Germination time: 6-14days. Maturation time: 8-10weeks. Light feeder.
Kale: Final spacing: 40-50cm. Germination time: 5-10days. Maturation time: 6-10weeks. Heavy feeder.
Swiss chard. Final spacing: 25-35cm. Germination time: 7-14days. Maturation time: 8-10weeks. Medium feeder.
You can also plant lettuce into trays.
Seedlings into the grounds:
Broccoli. Final spacing: 30-40cm. Germination time: 5-10days. Maturation time: 8-9weeks. Heavy feeder.
For organic seedling, Harts Nursery is a great place to buy from.
So maybe if you live in the Deep South you will be tempted to join us next month or if you dont live in the area, you will be motivated to start your own veggie garden club. As you know, food is kind of important to us humans – we should all learn how to grow our own and teach our children at the same time.
Happy planting and happy eating!