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Home Gardening Gardening: Turn a Small Plot into a Vegetable Garden

Gardening: Turn a Small Plot into a Vegetable Garden


Garden Editorial published in the May 2016 edition of The Billboard:

Take a walk around your garden this weekend and find a small patch for a vegetable garden. Even the smallest gardens have a place that can be utilized to produce a bountiful crop for the family table. You can also successfully grow vegetables in containers.

Use your resources

An ideal location for a vegetable garden is a area that receives adequate sun. with good soil preparation, the right crops for the season and irrigation, you’ll be well on your way to a bumper harvest. Soil for Life, a Cape Town-based non-profit organization, teaches people from all walks of life how to grow healthy, organic food using earth-friendly methods. “Everyone has the potential to grow nutritious food, whatever resources they have available,” says Pat Featherstone, director and founder of Soil for Life. “It doesn’t matter what kind of soil you have. You can change it, simply by using organic waste.”

Soil for Life’s methods lie in getting maximum production in a small space, using very little water. “Our approach works even in the most challenging environments and the benefits are numerous – physically, mentally and spiritually – for the gardener, their families and communities,” said Featherstone.

2015 Soil for Life Awards

In 2009, Soil for Life started an annual home gardener competition to acknowledge the commitment and passion of those who had completed their training and created a home garden. “We also wanted to encourage the more established gardeners, as they are inspiring their communities with their gardens and showing it can be done,” said Featherston. Ridhaa and Fazlin April from Bishop Lavis won last year’s Home Gardener of the Year Award. After completing a programme with Soil for Life, the family were able to make a success of their garden. The once bare patch of land now overflows with beans, lettuce, chillies, peppers and strawberries. “It’s packed perfectly, with plants providing shade and protection for one another, like a living mulch.” The Aprils started off by digging a deep trench and filling it with organic waste. They enrich the garden with their own compost and worm juice. They also make their own pesticides and natural fertilisers. Ridhaa April says the three important ingredients for a successful garden are motivation, support and the ability to improvise. Gugulethu gardener Lovedelia Tsewu won the 2015 Evergreen Award for maintaining her food garden over several years, while Alshaun Bosch of Steenberg was acknowledged with the Green Hero Award. Once unemployed, Bosch produces plants, compost and vegetables in his thriving home business.

Guidelines for growing vegetables

Pat Featherstone offers these tips for affordable, earth-friendly and water-wise gardening.

  • Mulch, especially in summer, as it saves water and protects plants and soil. Use compost, dry grass cuttings, newspaper, leaves, sticks, bark chips, peach pips or any other organic matter.
  • Plant green manures or cover crops – deep-rooted plants like lucerne or New Zealand spinach. These suppress weed growth, protect the soil from erosion and the heat of the sun. They also bring nutrients to the surface. Dig the plants in when young and tender to add significantly to organic matter and nutrients in you soil.
  • Crop rotation is the best defence against pest and diseases.


Text supplied by Kay Montgomery

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