Posts Tagged ‘ organic ’

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

January in the Garden – Back to Basics in the New Year. Back to Basics in the New Year

Posted on: December 21st, 2020 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments
January in the garden

Garden Nutrition

Like us, plants require food to keep them healthy and strong. Get your plants off to a good start with decedent, nutrient-rich soil. For plants to grow well and produce lots of leafy growth, flowers, and fruit, they need to be well-fed. We are spoilt to live in a country with a generally mild climate and mostly good soil, which allows us to grow a wide range of beautiful plants. However, this tends to make us forget that they do require a little feeding. The key to a flourishing garden is hugely affected by your soil health and fertility.

Tip: Good soil = good roots = a good, healthy plant

Food for thought: According to the Gallup Gardening Survey, less than half of the world’s home gardeners use any kind of fertiliser or plant food on their lawns or gardens. What's unfortunate about this statistic is that it means gardeners aren't getting as many flowers or as much produce as they should. And they're probably struggling with disease and insect problems that could be avoided. Well-fed plants are healthier, more productive and more beautiful.

Soil, often called the living skin of the Earth,  is arguably the most important and valuable resource we have. Soil is made from three main components, besides air and water – minerals from weathered rocks, organic matter, which is mainly decomposed plants, and living organisms like earthworms in the soil. There are many different types of soils depending on the composition of the above components. Here is s fun way to test the basic type of soil you have:

  • Take a heaped tablespoon of soil from your garden.
  • Wet the soil.
  • Now roll it into a “sausage” about a pencil-thin.
  • If it crumbles and won’t form a sausage – you have sandy soil.
  • If it holds a sausage shape but breaks when held at one end – you most likely have loam soil.
  • If it easily forms a sausage and does not break when held at one end – you have clay soil.

Loam soils are the most preferable since sandy soils dry out very quickly and clay soils can stay wet for too long. Luckily, both sandy and clay soils can become loam when you add compost to them.

Need to know: It generally takes about 200 to 400 years to form 1cm of soil and several thousand years to naturally make it fertile!

 

January in the Garden. Life is a Garden
Life is a garden January in the Garden soil

Fertilisers contain nutrients that plants need. They can mostly be split up into macro-nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium and sulphur, as well as micronutrients such as zinc, iron, manganese, copper, boron, molybdenum and chlorine. Macro-nutrients are needed in larger amounts than micro-nutrients, which are equally important if they are lacking in the soil. Most of the organic fertilisers contain a good mix of both and they also add organic matter to the soil, which makes it more workable and fertile.

Fertilisers are available as granules, pellets, liquid drenches and liquid foliar feeds. For information on what fertiliser to use, visit your local GCA Garden Centre.

Adding both fertiliser and compost is the best combination as fertiliser adds nutrients while the compost holds the fertiliser in the soil for longer.

Compost is made from decomposing plants and is the most important addition to your trolley when you buy plants. It can also be added to garden beds in bulk at least once a year. A famous horticulturist once said that the three most important elements in gardening are 1. compost, 2. compost and you can probably guess that number 3 was - also compost. This makes one realise how important compost is in successful gardening as a soil amendment.

To recap: Compost will loosen and add air into clay soils while also improving water andnutrient retention in sandy soil. Compost also attracts micro-organisms, beneficial fungi, earthworms and other beneficial soil-borne organisms that improve the health of your plants.

Bonemeal & superphosphate are organic and chemical (or inorganic) fertilisers respectively, which are essentially phosphates. Phosphorus is a macro-nutrient and responsible for many plant-growth functions, but it specifically initiates root growth. Because phosphates do not “travel” well in the soil, meaning they don’t move down in soil quickly, they are usually placed in the soil or planting hole.

Need to know: Be aware that some dogs may want to dig up the bonemeal fertiliser.

Mulch: Mulching material can be bark, compost, dump rock, wood chips, and a few others. Mulching is essentially spreading a layer on top of the soil to retain moisture underneath. Mulching  keeps the soil cooler in summer and warmer in winter. It aso prevents weeds from growing and if organic, will decompose and improve the soil. Mulching will benefit the whole garden and especially cooler season plants like lilies and more thirsty plants like hydrangeas and roses.

Need to know: Mulching is great as you don’t need to water your garden as regularly.

Think of your soil as a bank account - the more you invest in it, the better the soil and the more gorgeous your plants and garden will be. Season after season the plants will be making “withdrawals” of nutrients from the soil and you will need to keep the soil bank topped up on a regular basis. Don’t forget to mulch much!

 

Life is a garden , January in the garden fertiliser
Life is a garden , Janauary in the garden
Life is a garden january in the garden
Like is a Garden , January in the garden

Why soil matters!

Posted on: December 9th, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

A fertile and healthy soil is the basis for healthy plants, animals, and humans. Soil organic matter is the very foundation for healthy and productive soils.

Why is soil and soil health so important? Simply put, soil sustains life by helping plants to grow. It is also home to worms, beetles, bacteria and fungi, providing them with the nutrients they need to live.

Without soil, there would be nowhere to grow food that is the sustenance of life.  Soil contains food, water and air that is needed by plants to grow. The healthier the soil, the more nutrients a plant can take up. The healthier the plant, the better it is for humans and animals to eat. The quality of the soil ultimately affects the health of all people and animals.

What Is Soil?

Soil is made up of minerals, living organisms and organic matter. Minerals consist of rocks and bedrock that has broken down over time. Living organisms include a number of beneficial animals, such as beetles, worms and moles. Together with essential bacteria they help break down the organic matter making it accessible to plants. Organic matter is decaying material such as rotting leaves, animal waste and dead animals.

Maintaining Healthy Soil

It is essential to maintain healthy living soils, by caring for our soil properly, we can ensure the longevity of both animals and people. Life is a Garden encourage you to the following to maintain healthy soil: Avoiding the use of chemicals that create an imbalance in the soil. The long-term effects of some chemicals may kill off unwanted pests, but they may ultimately destroy living organisms that are essential to the creation of healthy soil.

  • Using compost in your own garden can help to replace nutrients necessary for healthy soil. Compost is easy to make from leaves, dead plants and vegetable waste from the kitchen. Garden plants and living organisms in the soil will benefit from compost. You can include most decomposed organic matter (e.g. compost, worm castings, leaf litter, aged animal manure, grass clippings etc.)
  • Apply a mulch to your soil, preferably organic mulch such as wood chips, straw etc. Mulch is used to retain moisture in the soil, suppress weeds, keep the soil cool and make the garden bed look more attractive. Organic mulches also help improve the soil's fertility, as they decompose.

Adding organic matter to your soil works to improve both soil structure and nutrient content. In light, sandy soils it works as glue, binding particles together to improve its ability to retain moisture and nutrients. Conversely, it opens up heavy clay soils so they can drain more easily. But no matter what your soil type, it will truly benefit from regular applications of organic matter to feed and sustain the plants grown in it.

Organic matter in soil can absorb and store much more water than can inorganic fractions. It acts like a sponge, taking up water and releasing it as required by plants. In our water scarce country this is a benefit which should be taken very seriously.

So next time you think of  adding something to your soil, think about the long-term effect and creating a balance in your soil. Creating a climate for your plants and edibles to thrive. Soil Matters!

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

December in the Garden Let the festivities begin

Posted on: November 16th, 2019 by Shahnee Stockigt No Comments

After a year of “busyness” and hard work, there is nothing better than relaxing with friends and family over the holidays. Let your guests appreciate your garden with you as you soak up the sun and enjoy a braai or two.  Many of your seeds that you sowed in August will be ready to harvest, including watermelon which is fantastic to incorporate in your festive entertainment menu.  Get creative with the flowers that are blooming in your garden by making your own table arrangements – make an extra one to give your guest as a gift to take home.  Visit your nearest GCA Garden Centre for some great ideas and supplies.

What to Sow:

Carrots are a great option to sow during December.  They are fairly easy to grow and do best in deep sandy loam or loamy soils with a loose structure.

  • Sow the seeds directly in the beds
  • Make small furrows one fingernail (1cm) deep and about two or three hand widths (20cm to 30cm) apart
  • Sow the seeds about 2cm apart in the furrows
  • Water the beds well after sowing
  • In hot, dry weather, cover the rows with a thin layer of grass clippings until the seeds emerge after seven to 14 days
  • Remove the grass and spread thinly between the rows

What to Plant

Barberton Daisies (Gerbera jamesonii) originate in South Africa and are found in many different bright colours from hot pink to orange to white.

  • They are best grown outside, favouring direct sunlight and sandy soil.
  • They grow well in both pots and garden beds and should be fertilised monthly from September until March.
  • They make excellent patio plants and also work well as an indoor plant to brighten up your living space.

Eggplant (Solanum melongena), also known as aubergine or brinjal, come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colours.

  • The most common of these edible fruit used in our homes is the Black Beauty.  Some other varieties are the White Star Eggplant – which produces shiny, white fruit that are ideal for use in Italian meals, and Mini Thai Moon Eggplant – which produces fruit similar in size to a tomato and are white in colour with a few green strips.
  • They are the ideal accompaniment to Thai and Asian recipes. Eggplants are best grown in full sun, in fertile and well-drained soil.

What to Feed:

Lawn fertilisation is essential in December due to it being a very hot month. Use a nitrogen-rich fertiliser which will encourage leaf development. Remember to water your lawn fairly after fertilising.

What to Spray:

  • Protect strawberries from snails and slugs. Harvest the fruit regularly.
  • Spray a non-selective weed killer on all weeds in your paving. Non-selective weed killers have no residual action in the ground and work through the chlorophyll of the leaves

What to Pick:

You can now enjoy the watermelons and sweet melons that you sowed in August. A large watermelon is ripe if it feels a little bumpy when you stroke it. When sweet melons are ripe, a small crack appears at the point where the fruit attaches to the vine.

Bedding Besties

Gazanias (Gazania species) are fantastic for low maintenance gardens. They produce cheerful blooms with bursts of colour which are complimented by their dark green glossy foliage. There are also gazanias with silvery foliage, which is always a nice contrast to have in the garden.

  • They grow easily and neatly and do their best in hot, dry weather.
  • They are low growers (they reach a height of between 20 cm to 25 cm and work well as edgings for beds, in rockeries, in containers and in hanging baskets that are in hot, sunny positions.
  • They need full sun and can tolerate most types of garden soil if there is good drainage.

Marigolds (Tagetes) are a favourite, no-fuss annual that can bring the colour of sunshine to your garden, as well as butterflies, bees, ladybugs, and other beneficial insects.

  • They love full sun and well-draining soil and will produce abundant blooms.
  • Marigold seeds germinate quickly, within just a few days, and bloom in about 8 weeks. This quick sense of satisfaction makes them a great first-time gardening project for kids and garden newbies.
  • Marigolds are a great companion in your vegetable garden and can help protect your veggies from predators and pests. If you don’t want to plant seeds and would rather have instant colour

Pop into your nearest Garden Centre GCA and pick up some marigold seedlings.

Rose Care

Watering: Continue to water 3 times a week, or more depending on rain fall.  During dry, hot spells daily watering may be required.

Fertilising: If you are going away – only fertilise on your return.

Pest and disease control:   Continue with fortnightly spraying for black spot, mildew, aphids, beetles and bollworm. Keep a look out for brown, night-active chafer beetles which chew away on leaves. Ask your local Garden Centre GCA for the correct insecticide to use.

Other tasks:  Remove spent flowers and disbud hybrid teas by removing the side buds so the main bloom develops into a good quality flower. When picking roses for your home, only remove 50 percent of the blooms; this ensures a good balance of leaves on the bush and does not put too much pressure on the roots.

Inland Gardening

(Gauteng, Free State, North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo)

  • Check and treat your pool for algae growth and clean up the paved surrounds. Check for any loose paving and repair.
  • To avoid blight on tomatoes and mildew on cucumbers, squash and pumpkins, water them early in the morning to allow the leaves time to dry off before nightfall.
  • Give citrus trees their mid-season feed of granular fertiliser.
  • Planting seed potatoes in December and January will produce a harvest in April and May for storing and eating during winter.

Coastal Gardening

(Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal)

  • Weed the garden – after weeding, place a layer of organic mulch over every last inch of soil. Mulching not only saves water and time when you’re busy entertaining family over the festive season, but will also provide a professional and well-cared-for look and will display existing plants to their best advantage.
  • Refresh your garden furniture by giving them a fresh coat of paint. While your paint brush is out, give your garden shed, picket fences and pots a fresh coat too. Make new slipcovers for scatter cushions or treat yourself to some new soft furnishings for your garden.
  • Summer pests are prevalent now, so keep a watch out and treat quickly with the correct formula suggested by your local Garden Centre GCA

Life is a Garden wish you a very happy holiday. Enjoy your garden and share it with family and friends this holiday season.

For more gardening tips and information, visit Gardening trends or join the conversation on our Facebook page.