Trees in pots for the small garden

Life is a Garden - Trees in pots

Life is a Garden! But we know that not all backyards can accommodate large trees. Lucky for all the small space and patio gardeners, this month we’re going back to basics with trees in pots! You can still enjoy a number of tree varieties, even some of the edible ones such as juicy citrus and fig trees. Some classics like the olive and holly tree are also perfect potted treasures that you can grow, regardless of how limited your space may be. Here’s some guidance to get you going. 

 

The perfect pot for the job 

Choosing your container is an important part of your tree-growing journey. Ultimately, you want a pot that’s large enough to fit the root ball of your tree. The size of your container will determine how big your tree will grow and gives you the advantage of being able to manipulate its size. Drainage is super important to factor in as well, so ensure your pot has many holes for excess water to flow out. Trees don’t tolerate water build-up and this will negatively affect their growth, harvest, and flowers. 

Top pot tip: Before planting your tree, secure the container above ground if possible, then and add a layer of stones or terracotta shards inside the pot for maximum drainage efficiency. Your GCA Garden Centre has an assortment of large containers to choose from as well as handy advice on how to choose the best pot for the job.  

 

Pots
Plant in pot
Good soil saves lives 

Now that you’ve been upgraded to potted tree-guardian, it’s your duty to maintain the nutrient integrity inside the container. Soil-based potting mix with an annual slow-release organic fertiliser will work wonders. Refresh the soil each spring by removing the top layer and replacing it with a new layer of enriched compost.

Growing a Veggie Garden for Beginners Fundamentals of Gardening - Back to Basics

Veggie garden for beginners
Growing a veggie garden for beginners

Welcome, novice farmers! We are delighted to see your green fingers in bloom, exploring the world of homegrown goodness. Experience for yourself what all the hype is about by starting your own little veggie garden or edible pot. There is something truly special about fresh greens from the Earth – their incredible flavour loaded with nutrients, the direct connection with Mother Nature, and the unbeatable sense of pride from harvesting the fruits of your labour. Find out how to start your own edible journey below.

Humble beginnings

For your first growing quest, we recommend starting small. Think about whether you would like to use containers, plant straight into the ground, or if you would like to make raised beds. Consider your space and available time to guide your growing style. Sowing a couple of seeds in an empty space in your flower bed is as good a beginning as any.

Top tip: Be careful not to overpopulate your space. Your veggies will increase in size and need room to grow and climb. Planting too close together will also cause veggies to shade one another. Refer to your seed packet or handy GCA Garden Centre guy for advice.

Planting in containers
Planting in the ground
Planting in raised beds
Bean growth

Location, location, location

With the idea of starting small in mind, where you choose to grow is an equally important factor to consider. Veggies love the sun and will flourish in open areas that receive as much sunlight as possible with no big trees throwing shade on your new babies. Examine your space through eco-eyes: take note of the sun’s movement, surrounding foliage, and expansion space needed as your greens grow.

Top tip: Location is also important in terms of watering. Make sure your veggies are in reach of the hosepipe or irrigation system, and remain uncovered to receive as much rainfall as possible.

All about mushrooms

Mushrooms
Mushrooms

Mushrooms are not just toadstools from our fairy-tale books. As fungi, mushrooms are biologically distinct from any other food groups we all know. Although they provide similar nutrients found in these food groups, they also have a unique nutrient profile. These little delicacies make delicious additions to meals, add some magic to the garden and are great for healing our bodies.

History of the mushroom

The word mushroom is derived from the French word for fungi. As early as 1651, fungi became popular in Europe, having been discovered in the vicinity of Paris. They were also consumed centuries ago in Middle and South America. Finally, in 1707, the first controlled cultivation of edible fungi in the vegetable garden was completed, and so the delicious mushroom was introduced into our human diets. Now every year, millions of mushrooms are cultivated worldwide.

Fungi Fundamentals

Since the first cultivation of mushrooms, many varieties have popped up around the world. Ranging from edible, poisonous and medicinal, it’s important to know your way around the mushroom garden. Here are some of the most important fungi families you need to get to know:

Starting with edible varieties, there are so many to choose from to add flavour to your dinners. The White Button mushroom is one of the most commonly grown mushrooms throughout the world. It's eaten by millions of people every day - and with a little culinary spice, it's anything but boring. The cap of this mushroom spans 3 to 16cm, while the stem is 2 to 8cm long. White in colour, this type of mushroom often has brownish bruising.

Another popular mushroom is the Oyster mushroom. One of the first things you should look for when trying to identify this mushroom is the presence of decurrent gills. These gills are attached to, and run directly down, the stem.

Hero your harvest this holiday Holiday Gardening

The holiday season is a gardener’s time to shine, an opportunity to show off the goods, and the perfect occasion to “uithaal en wys”, as they say in Afrikaans. This month, you’ve got full bragging rights, so make sure you’re ready to be the gardening host with the most! It’s time to let those home-grown veggies and herbs take the spotlight.

Braai buddies

With the family on their way and the charcoal ready – it’s braai time with some buddies from the garden to bring out the flavour of your food. Highlight your hard work by making veggies and herbs the hero of your dish. Here are some tantalising ideas to please every pallet:

  1. Brazilian braai broodjies: Put an exotic twist on our local favourite by adding these herbs to your broodjies with a little olive oil – oregano, rosemary, bay leaf, basil, and thyme.
  2. Sweet and sticky pumpkin pockets: Make little parcels from foil to pop straight onto the grill, filling them with ginger, marjoram, tarragon, and a little honey or sugar. Kids will love this one!
  3. Creamy black mushrooms: A delicious sauce to baste on as you braai, using melted butter, garlic, dill, and lemon balm. Garnish with fresh chives.
  4. Watermelon wanderlust: Explore your tastebuds and impress everyone with groovy grilled watermelon! Cut your watermelon into wedges, season both sides with a mixture of salt, sugar, and a hint of chilli. Season well to get that charred look and flame-grilled taste, garnish with lots of fresh mint.
  5. Tomato hot pot: Hollow out the inside of your big tomatoes, mix the pulp with the following herbs, put it all back inside and then pop them over a gentle flame: parsley, fennel, coriander, sage, with a little salt and black pepper.

*Match your meat: Pair the flavour profile of your veggie dishes with your chosen meat for a well-balanced, complimentary dish.

Celebrating Summer with Edible Floral Popsicles Edible popsicles

These floral popsicles fresh from the freezer treats are almost too pretty to eat. Keep your sweet tooth cool this summer with this easy to make popsicle recipe.

Edible flowers

Edible flowers will turn your popsicles into a tropical conversation with their beautiful reflection in the ice. It is important to note that not all flowers are edible so please be careful when selecting the flowers.

A few popular options to consider are:

Chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum coronarium) – these bright coloured flowers have a tangy, slightly bitter flavour. Wash thoroughly and best only to use the petals.

Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) - these brilliant coloured flowers will add pops of colour to your icy pop. These flowers will also look delightful when garnishing platters and sandwiches.

Fuchsia (Fuchsia X hybrida) – the vivid colours and unusual shape of this flower make it an eye-catching garnish.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – the therapeutic benefits of lavender are no secret, but did you know you can use the soft, coloured lavender flowers to brighten up your popsicle.

What you will need:

  • Popsicle mould
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Any juice or sweet tea. Coconut water is yummy too.
  • Rinsed edible flowers

Directions:

  1. Pour your chosen liquid into the mould
  2. Add flowers to each mould
  3. Add one stick to each mould
  4. Place in the freezer for 2 hours
  5. Remove from the freezer and place on the counter for 2 minutes
  6. Remove from the mould
  7. Enjoy

So as you celebrate the New Year, join the conversation on our Facebook page for some inspiration for improving your garden and your health in 2020.

Pots of flavour in small spaces Container Gardening

You don't need acres of garden to grow fresh salads and veggies. All you need is a balcony, patio or a postage-stamp of a garden, some good-quality terracotta pots, the right growing medium and a watering can, and you're A for away.  Life is a Garden offers these tips to assist you in creating the perfect container garden.

Why terracotta?

Whenever we're asked what containers to use on a patio, we tend to recommend a nice big terracotta pot or a matching set of terracotta pots. Why terracotta and not plastic? Terracotta pots are made of clay, and natural materials like clay tend to work better with plants. Terracotta pots can breathe, allowing air and even moisture to move through the walls, keeping plants healthier and helping to prevent fungal root disease.

Plants don't like sudden changes in temperature, and terracotta pots act as insulation, slowing down variations in temperature.

Weight is also an advantage – terracotta pots are heavier than plastic or wood, which is great when you've got a cat that keeps rubbing itself against your veggie pots and knocking them over!  Finally, terracotta pots get better and better with age, weathering and developing a beautiful patina that cannot be replicated.

What to plant?

Choosing what to plant can be overwhelming when you're starting out. Our first rule of thumb is to plant what you eat! There's not much point in growing coriander if the flavour offends your very being. But if you love cooking with other herbs, start by planting things like rosemary, thyme, mint and origanum.

Another thing we suggest is to mix things up a bit – don't be boring and grow only edibles. Beautiful ornamentals can do well in containers alongside their edible bedfellows, and some have the added benefit of being edible too. Viola flowers can be tossed in a salad, while the flowers of lavender and calendula have a range of uses.

Dress up your dinner with edible flowers Edible flowers

Edible flowers can be used to dress up your dinners and add extra flavour to meals. The practice of eating flowers dates as far back as 3000BC, and we are so glad to see it growing in popularity again in households around the globe.

You can also enjoy this trend. Head into your garden and grab some gorgeous, edible flowers to garnish your plates and add flavour to meals. It is important to note that not all flowers are edible so please be careful when selecting the flowers you’ll be using for your meals.

A few popular options to consider are:

  • Chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum coronarium) – these bright coloured flowers will add a tangy, slightly bitter flavour to meals. Wash well and scatter a few petals over salads. The flower base is very bitter so best to only use the petals.
  • Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) - these brilliant coloured flowers will add pops of colour to any salad and add a peppery flavour to the dish. These flowers will also look delightful when garnishing platters and sandwiches.
  • Fuchsia (Fuchsia X hybrida) – the vivid colours and unusual shape of this flower make it an eye-catching garnish while the mild acidic flavour is the ideal partner for a variety of salads.
  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – the therapeutic benefits of lavender are no secret, but did you know you can use the soft, coloured lavender flowers as a garnish for an array of baked goods or even dress up your champagne?

When growing edible flowers, here are a few precautions to take note off:

  • It is key that you pay close attention to the usage instructions on the pesticides to avoid possible toxicity.
  • All pesticides have a waiting period between spraying and consuming so be sure to take note of how long you’ll need to wait to enjoy your edible flowers.

Herbs Galore Potted garden

Nothing solves a no space in my garden problem like a potted garden.

If you have limited space, poor soil quality in your garden beds or dogs that like to dig – the solution to all these problems is to have a potted garden. Great herbs to include in your potted garden are:

  • basil
  • sage
  • rocket
  • oregano
  • thyme
  • chives
  • mint and coriander

Container herbs should get at least five hours of sun per day. The more sun they get, the better their flavour, health and resistance to pests and disease. Potted herbs should be watered more frequently than garden herbs because containers can lose moisture quickly, especially in the summer heat.

Herbs grow incredibly well in pots and having fresh herbs on hand, especially when entertaining is always a win. Imagine how handy it would be when you are serving homemade pizzas, whipping up a salad or offering a refreshing gin to your guests – to be able to wonder over to your potted herb garden and have all the fresh ingredients right there.

Click here for more gardening tips and trends or join the conversation on our Facebook page.