Posts Tagged ‘ grow ’

Why your veggies need friends Companion Plants

Posted on: February 16th, 2021 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
Sweet Pea, companion plants

Companion planting means growing certain plants close together for their mutually beneficial effects, such as pest protection or growth enhancement. Bedding besties allow you to have your cake AND eat it – your desired harvest flourishing gogo-free and eco-friendly with little other effort required from you. Mother Nature is clever like that – she knows what’s up. Here’s what to plant and reasons why your veggie needs a bestie. Life is a Garden, let’s optimise yours!

 

Reinventing the veggie patch

We often think of a veggie garden as produce sown in neat rows, exposed soil, and clear of any other plants not on the menu. Well, it might just be the time to revise this idea. There is so much to benefit from including other herbs and flowers to the veggie garden, which take care of pest control, weeds, water evaporation, poor soil conditions, composting, barren spaces and of course, pollination. Consider the idea of a starting a “mixed masala patch”, if you will, and let’s venture beyond the concept of a “vegetables-only” party.

 

Friends with benefits

Although we’re going for a “mixed masala patch”, it should be mentioned that not all plants like each other, and some can be pretty picky about who they bunk with. Your GCA Garden Centre guy will be able to advise you on the best buddy for your baby, but for now, here are some general friends of the veg with no-strings-attached benefits:

  • Natural pest controllers: Plants such as lavender (for fleas), basil (for flies), citronella grass and rosemary (for mozzies), as well as chrysanthemum (for spider mites), repel a variety of insects owing to their essential oil compounds and deterring scent. You can sporadically plant these in and around the veggie garden as long as they are in close range of the greens.
  • Essential pollinators: Your harvest needs the bees and they need us. Create a flower border around your veggie garden and bring in the friendly flyers to pollinate and spread seeds. Try marigolds, alyssum and cool-season vygies, as well as allowing all herbs to come to flower. Remember to include a freshwater source for our helpers with a way to get in and out too.
Lavender
Basil
Citronella Grass
Chrysanthemum
Marigold
Alyssum
  • Soil structure activists: Champion companion plants also help improve poor soil conditions by adding lacking nutrients. Comfrey (Symphytum) roots break up heavy clay and create channels for aeration and better water absorption, while also releasing nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium into the soil. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a valuable compost heap activator, while also stimulating the soil’s nutrient value as leaves fall off and decompose in the veggie patch (it also has pretty white flowers, yay!).
  • Beauty filters: Veggies on-the-grow are already such a lovely sight, as is each one of the above-mentioned budding besties. For super-charged gorgeousness + pollination benefits + insect repellent power, try cosmos, nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus), sunflowers, and sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus). Make space for these beauties in preparation for spring/summer planting.
Comfrey
Yarrow
Cosmos
Nasturtium
Sunflowers
Sweet pea
Autumn flings

As mentioned earlier, some plants are incompatible while others are the perfect match. We’re helping gardeners avoid any regrettable flings this autumn by equipping you with a swipe-right (good), swipe-left (bad) companion planting guide. Here is a list of greens to sow now to get you started on your bedding romances. Cool-season vegetable seedlings are also available at your GCA Garden Centre.

  • Carrots

Swipe right: Basil, chives, lettuce, onions, and peas.

Swipe left: Broccoli, cabbage, dill, fennel, and potatoes.

  • Swiss chard 

Swipe right: Beetroot, beans, cabbage, celery, and green peppers.

Swipe left: Grapes, potatoes, and sage.

  • Beans

Swipe right: Beetroot, carrot, cauliflower, cucumber, and maize.

Swipe left: Dill, fennel, and all members of the onion family.

  • Celery

Swipe right: Beans, broccoli, cabbage, leeks, and tomatoes.

Swipe left: Nothing, this one’s easy.

  • Cabbage

Swipe right: Beetroot, celery, chives, dill, and onions.

Swipe left: Mustard plants, strawberries, tomatoes, and grapes.

 

With Mother Nature in your corner, a couple of flowers in your hair, and fragrant herbs by your side, companion planting is made simple and super effective.  Avoid harsh chemicals and keep your garden’s eco-system flourishing and beneficial to the entire food chain. Reinventing the veggie patch is easy when you choose the best friends for your farming-fam goals. Remember, dear green fingers, Life is a Garden, so create yours with consideration.

Companion Plants
Companion Plants
Companion Plants
Companion Plants

All about mushrooms

Posted on: December 22nd, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
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. These guys are white to light brown in colour and often grow in a shelf-like formation with overlapping clusters.

Bottom mushroom
Oyster mushroom

Porcini mushrooms are a famous, and delicious, addition to Italian dishes due to their strong nutty flavour. As the Porcini matures, its cap can grow up to 30cm in diameter and then flattens out. The reddish-brown cap darkens with age and fades to white along the cap margin. The stem is club-shaped or bulging in the middle.

Another tasty fungi is the Field mushroom - which has a white cap and, on occasion, may have fine scales. The stem grows 3 to 10cm tall and is predominately white, bearing a single thin ring. Be careful when munching on this mildly flavoured mushroom when it begins to show signs of yellow bruising. This bruising can cause the fungi to become somewhat toxic and inedible.

The soft, corky and flat Reishi mushrooms are one of the oldest medicinal mushrooms known in our world. Appearing to look like it has been red-varnished, the cap features an underside of white pores containing fine brown spores. The enchanting Reishi grows at the base and stumps of deciduous trees to form a picturesque storybook scene. With such recognised herbal healing powers, it is nice to know that the Reishi mushroom is also an incredibly easy mushroom to grow.

The final garden favourite of our edible mushroom range is the Shiitake. What comes to mind when you think of these tasty mushrooms is the health benefits, as well as your favourite Chinese restaurant meals. Shiitake begin their lives with dark brown to black caps, which become lighter brown and more convex with age. The undersides exhibit white gills that do not attach to the stem. The stem is smooth, fibrous, and light brown with no ring. The Shiitake mushroom also has many medicinal properties to assist in getting your body into a great condition. It supports your immune system, destroys cancer cells and helps with heart health.

Porcini mushroom
Field mushroom
Reishi mushroom
Shiitake mushroom

Although there are so many delicious mushrooms in the wild that you can pick and eat, there are a lot of poisonous ones to stay away from.

By far the biggest culprit is the Amanita phalloides - or the Death Cap mushroom - which occurs throughout South Africa. Ingesting it can be dangerous - it accounts for 90% of all fatal mushroom poisonings. The toxins from this mushroom attack your liver and kidneys. Look out for a pale yellow to a light-olive cap, which grows from 5 to 15cm in diameter. The gills are white and the spore print is also white. It’s definitely not to be snacked on!

The Copper Trumpet, also commonly known as the Jack-o'-lantern mushroom is orange to yellow in colour and, yes, it is poisonous. Although enchanting with its large, funnel shape and gills that are bioluminescent, which glow in the dark, this mushroom is filled with a compound called luciferin. Rather observe its beauty than try and have this fungi for lunch.

The False Parasol mushroom is the final fungi we will be discussing. It has a convex cap at full maturity, that grows from 5 to 40cm in diameter. The gills are white when young and turn green with age. The mushroom then turns a dingy red when bruised. The stem grows from 5 to 25cm tall and 1 to 4cm in diameter. It is highly poisonous, producing severe gastrointestinal symptoms of vomiting and diarrhoea.

 

Death cap mushroom
Copper Trumpet mushroom
False Parasol mushroom
Mushrooms in the garden

Knowing how to identify mushrooms is interesting knowledge to have. This awareness of fungi fundamentals can enable you to begin growing your own abundance of mushrooms in your garden at home - leaving those wonderful wild mushrooms to stay free and uncultivated.

Different mushrooms grow in particular settings. As such, be sure to find out what kind of medium you will need for the species of spores that you have purchased.

The most popular choices of mushrooms are Shiitake mushrooms, Oyster mushrooms and White Button mushrooms. To grow them yourself, you first need to buy a selection spores, or even spawn – these are quite easy to find online. Spores are like seeds for mushrooms, while spawn are like the seedlings, so either can be used. However, for home growing, spawn is much easier to use.

Growing mushrooms

As we said before, different mushrooms grow in different mediums.

Shiitake mushrooms usually grow on hardwood or hardwood sawdust, while Oyster mushrooms prefer an environment of straw and Button mushrooms grow from the nutrients of composted manure.

Be sure to find out what kind of medium you will need for the particular species of spores or spawn which you have purchased. In general, mushrooms like a cool, dark and damp place to grow in. If you have a basement or wine cellar, this is the perfect place for mushroom growing, otherwise, it is also fine to use an old unused cupboard or trunk. As long as you can control the temperature, humidity and keep the area in relative darkness, your mushrooms will thrive.

Once you have chosen the mushrooms you want, and have collected their correct growing medium, there are basic steps for growing the mushrooms that remain, in most instances, the same.

Place the growing medium in a pan and raise the temperature to about 21 degrees Celsius in the area you have chosen to cultivate your fungi friends. One can easily use a heating pad to achieve this.

After about an hour, the medium should have warmed up nicely, and you can then place the spawn on it. About three weeks should pass when the spawn will have rooted, which means the filaments would have spread into the growing medium. At this stage, you need to reduce the temperature to around 15 degrees Celsius.

Cover the spawn with two to three centimetres of potting soil, and then cover the pan and potting soil with a damp cloth. It’s important to keep spraying the cloth, as well as the soil as they dry, to keep both moist.

It should take about three to four weeks before you see the little mushrooms appearing. Shiitake mushrooms take a little longer and will be ready in about seven to eight weeks. They will be ready to pick once the cap has fully opened and has fully separated from the stem.

Fungi make an exciting and wonderful addition to any garden. Once you have mastered the art of growing mushrooms, you will have a lot to go around, and the next fun step will be finding new and exciting ways of preparing your home-grown mushrooms. Happy mushroom farming!

Mushrooms in the garden
Grow mushrooms

Love your garden, love our planet! Must love gardening

Posted on: March 30th, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

Your garden has so many benefits. It improves your mental and physical wellbeing while adding value to your property and providing a tranquil escape from a busy lifestyle. But even greater than all of this is the benefit that your garden brings to our planet. That’s right, by taking care of your garden you are contributing to the greater environment and helping to make a difference to our world.

Here are some of the benefits that gardening brings to our planet and a few things that you can do to make a difference to our world, after all, there is no planet B!

 

Clean the air

Plants are the planet’s air purifiers as they convert carbon dioxide into oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. This is vital for animals and humans as we rely on oxygen to survive. In addition to this, plants remove chemicals and bacteria from the environment which has added benefits for us as it makes our environment healthier and cleaner.

While all plants clean the air, there are a few that are better air recyclers than others. For the benefit of our environment, consider planting indigenous plants that are better suited to our climate and opt for air purifiers such as Aloe (Aloe Vera) or Spekboom (Portulacaria afra). These plants require minimal maintenance, consume less water and provide maximum air cleaning benefits.

Grow your food

Growing fruits and vegetables can reward you in several ways including saving you money and providing nourishing and flavoursome foods. More than this, growing your food can have a significant benefit to our environment. Commercially grown fruits and vegetables rely heavily on pesticides and chemicals to prevent damage to the harvest, while households may rely on repellents to prevent damage to homegrown products, these are often used more sparingly, minimizing the impact on our environment.

In addition to the chemical component, commercially produced products need to be transported to various outlets for retail purposes which adds to air pollution. By growing seasonal vegetables you can provide sustainable fruits and vegetables for your family throughout the year at a more affordable cost and with greater benefit for our environment.

Replenish the soil

Our plants are only as good as the soil they are grown in and as such, we need to keep the soil in tip-top shape to maximise the benefits of our efforts. While plants suck up carbon dioxide from the air, they also take in chemicals and other harmful elements from the soil and this can impact on their growth. To keep your soil at its best, plant indigenous plants that will change according to the seasons. These plants often lose their leaves in the winter which decay to nourish the soil and the plants that grow in it.

To make sure your plants are getting sufficient nutrients throughout the year, consider creating a compost heap. This is a great way to use your garden and kitchen waste to put valuable nutrients back into the ground where they can help your plants grow lush and beautiful.

Protect the bird and the bees

Birds, bees and other insects have an important role to play in our ecosystem and environment as butterflies, bees and many birds are key players in pollinating our plants. To attract these creatures to your garden, plant some colourful, fragrant flowers and you’ll have a hive of activity taking place around you as the birds and bees spread seeds around your garden and neighbourhood to grow more plants and contribute to a healthier environment for all of us.

We all have a role to play in conserving our environment and it couldn’t be easier than starting with your garden. Visit your nearest GCA Garden Centre to find out which plants are best for your climate and start planting your way to a cleaner, healthier planet.

 

Sharing the harvest is caring Must love gardening

Posted on: February 17th, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

Gardening is incredibly rewarding as what you put in, is what you get out. If you’ve been tending to a vegetable garden or growing fruit trees, you’re likely to have a variety of homegrown goodness at your fingertips. Often you end up with an abundant supply of fruits and vegetables that is far more than you need to feed your family. This is the ideal opportunity to share your harvest with friends, neighbours and those in need.

Be a good friend and neighbour

Fresh produce is often enjoyed for its full flavour over store-bought products. As such, friends and neighbours would be delighted to receive fresh, homegrown produce to include in their meals. Pack a basket with some surplus produce that you’ve grown and deliver it to your friends, family and neighbours to share in your harvest.

Preserve your bounty

Often fresh produce has a limited shelf life but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your surplus produce for longer. Fill jars with homemade pasta sauces, relishes and pickles that can be enjoyed for months after you’ve harvested your vegetables. Make homemade jams in a variety of flavours and treat your taste buds well after the last fruit has been picked for the season. You can also share your homemade delights with friends and family to spread the bounty even further.

Fill others hands and stomachs

Fruit and vegetables are jam-packed with nutrients that are beneficial for your health. However, often poorer families will skip the vegetable aisle and opt for foods that are high in fats and carbohydrates as these can stretch further and keep them fuller for longer. These families would greatly welcome your donation of surplus fruits and vegetables to help add some nutrients to their families table.

For the many elderly and homeless people soup kitchens provide the comfort of a cooked meal. Often these kitchens need ingredients to keep the supply of soup available for those who depend on them to fill their tummies.

You can donate fresh produce to a variety of food banks, soup kitchens or churches across South Africa that offer soup kitchens to the community.

Nothing is better than enjoying your homegrown fruits and vegetables except for sharing the bounty of your harvest so they can enjoy the flavour and goodness of your produce too. Growing your own food is a rewarding experience that allows you to share the rewards with others. So keep your harvest growing and share your bounty with those that will enjoy it as much as you do.

For more veggie garden inspiration and visit your favourite GCA Garden Centre for supplies to keep your fresh produce growing abundantly.

For the love of gardening Must love gardening

Posted on: January 21st, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

Your garden is your happy place. It provides an escape from the hustle and bustle of a busy life, gives you space to express your creativity and shows appreciation for the time, effort and love you put into it by rewarding you with a luscious landscape. There are so many reasons for you to love your garden this love month, and because gardening is a pure form of love it will bring you happiness in so many ways.

Let your love grow

Gardening teaches us how to nurture little seedlings that are filled with hope and potential, into boastful plants, shrubs and trees. It teaches us to love life in various forms and what you put in is what you get out. Gardening teaches us to be patient and enjoy every moment as we tend to the needs of our newest seedlings through to our established plants that need tending to regularly. Spending time caring for plants helps us to find happiness in the smallest blessings when the first leaf sprouts to the largest blessing of a beautiful, tranquil paradise.

Love is all around

Your garden is living proof of all the love, care and effort you put in.  But it doesn’t have to stop there, you can also bring some of the love and happiness of the outdoors indoors with houseplants. There are so many varieties of indoor plants that will transform your home into a living space and bring with it the added benefit of cleaner air, more oxygen and some decorative charm. Whether you have an empty corner or a bare shelf that needs a little something extra, a plant will add life and colour to any area.

Love you long time

Your garden is your happy place and planting a few beautiful flowers and plants on Valentine’s Day is a gift that just keeps on giving. While digging and planting will provide you with hours of happiness just as a benefit of spending time outdoors, your garden and balcony will show appreciation for your time and efforts with bursts of colour dotted all around the garden followed by a sweet, lingering fragrance that delights your senses.

Get dirty

There are health and emotional benefits of spending time in the garden. When digging in the soil you are exposed to a soil microbe called Mycobacterium vaccae which has been proven to make you happier. According to research studies, this bacterium stimulates serotonin production which gives it a similar effect on the brain as Prozac, but without the negative side effects. So, when you need a little boost, grab your spade and head to the garden for your dose of joy.

For the birds and the bees

The birds singing, bees buzzing and the gentle sound of leaves swishing in the wind are all familiar sounds you’ll hear when you spend time in your garden. While these sounds may conjure up happy thoughts, bird songs, in particular, have been proven to improve our mental and emotional health and make us happier and healthier. If you want to keep your mood elevated, add a birdbath to your garden, place a bird feeder in the tree and sit back and let the cheerful vibes kick in.

In the words of Arthur Smith, “If you want to be happy forever, take up gardening.” We couldn’t agree more. So go to www.lifeisagarden.co.za for your latest gardening inspiration,

Visit your nearest GCA Garden Centre for gardening supplies and get digging this love month.