Posts Tagged ‘ nutrients ’

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

Posted on: January 11th, 2021 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
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. If you’re planning to grow on the stoep, make sure your containers have good drainage and expect to have some water flowing out from under the pots, which is something to consider when placing them.

 

Choosing the best veg 

Your first go-to is Google where you can access all the LIAG articles on what to sow and when. Seasonal veggies (meaning the ones to plant for that season) are your best bets for success as these greens are naturally adapted to the climate of the given time. Also, consider how the plant grows – some grow like ground covers (pumpkin) and need plenty of space, while others like to climb (beans) requiring support structures, some veggies also need deeper soil (potatoes) and appear more bush-like on the top.

Did you know? Your GCA Garden Centre is fully loaded with seeds and seedlings for herbs, fruit, and veg.Enjoy a day trip out with the family and find your perfect edible with the help of friendly garden centre staff.
Ground covers - pumpkin
Climbers - beans
Soil growers - potatoes
Feb/March sowing suggestions:
  • Gauteng: spinach, lettuce, beetroot, and carrots.
  • Kwa-Zulu Natal: cabbage, broad beans, turnips, and radish.
  • Eastern Cape: spinach, beans, beetroot, and carrots.
  • Western Cape: cauliflower, celery, peas, and onions.

 

Top tip: Remember that compost maketh the crop! Visit your GCA Garden Centre for a variety of nutritious and organic fertilisers to keep your veggies growing for gold.

 

There’s always time and space, even for a single vegetable to be sown. Pick your favourite and plant it, it’s that simple, and the reward is marvellous! Gain a deeper appreciation for the food you eat by watching it grow and observing all the different phases of the life of a veggie – now that’s nature’s magic at its best!

Carrots
Radish
Beetroot

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

Pots of flavour in small spaces Container Gardening

Posted on: December 31st, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

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.

A good base

The key to potting success is a growing medium that can fulfil a plant's nutritional needs.

Whenever we're getting ready to plant up containers, we start by mixing up a big batch of potting medium. To do this, we mix four parts good-quality potting soil, 1 part palm peat (soaked in water beforehand) and a big handful of pelletised organic plant food. Prepare the medium in a big bucket so that you've got enough for all the pots you'll be planting up.

When planting, place a handful of gravel or stones in the bottom of the pot, to ensure proper drainage and prevent the drainage holes from becoming blocked. Then fill the pot with potting medium to about 2/3 full, place the plants in the pots and fill up the pots to a few centimetres below the rim.

Keep them hydrated!

Plants will put up with a lot, but you can't expect them to survive without water. Containers have a limited water-holding capacity, which is why we add water-retentive materials such as palm peat to our mix.

Check if the soil is dry by pushing a finger into the first inch or so – if it is dry, add water. In hot weather, you'll need to water your containers daily, in the morning before it gets too hot. Check again in the afternoon and water again if necessary. In cooler weather, especially in seasons when plants aren't growing as fast, you can get away with watering pots about 2 – 3 times a week.

Remember that overwatering can be as bad as underwatering, so always do the finger test before watering.

Care

Container-grown plants need regular care, including feeding, as the nutrients in the limited quantity of soil get depleted.

You will find a great selection of pots and all the other supplies you need to get your container garden started at your nearest GCA Garden Centre.

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

A3 Garden for a healthy lifestyle (with marks – for printing at a print shop)

Posted on: December 31st, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

A3 Garden for a lifestyle poster for your Garden Centre – with marks (for printing at a print shop)