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Lessons learnt on veg gardening journey

Picture: Elaine Casap/Unsplash

It’s a never-ending learning curve, but not without rewards

A lot has changed in the three years since we ditched Durban for the Midlands.

We’ve added on to our house, bought a container for a workshop, built a veggie garden, done a lot of landscaping and planting, got a JoJo tank with pump, plumbed into the house. We purchased a proper bakkie for off-roading.

The project to grow veggies remains on track and it’s still a case of two steps forward one step back.

Summer means long, hot days, lots of rain and an explosion of growth in the gardens. Picture: Brian Garcia/Unsplash

I say this not because it’s been a failure but rather an ongoing process of small successes and failures. I don’t think the cliché of someone having “green fingers” applies. You absorb what you can learn from kind people, get stuck in and make the best of it. It’s a case of the harder you work at it the luckier you get (thanks Gary Player).

Dabbling in the dark art of veggie gardening

Our biggest change came when our excellent neighbour, Tammy Price, offered us a section in her large veggie tunnel. It’s properly set up for all-year-round growing, traps the heat beautifully and has really good compost. What a difference this makes.

With a bit of research and know-how, growing herbs is a doddle. Picture: David Martin/Unsplash

Now we can plant a greater variety of vegetables and herbs in larger numbers and there’s less PT and constant maintenance involved. Some plants are really thriving in there: beetroot, tomatoes, onions, spring onions, spinach, bok choy, baby marrows and patty pans.

It’s hard to catch the beetroot before they grow to giant sized. Picture: Nerissa Card.

As always, there are some things that don’t work. Case in point cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower were initially flying, but then became prone to rot and bolted as the summer heat kicked in. I’m still waiting to see how the chillies and potatoes go, but I suspect they will do very well.

In our own little patch, which is not protected from the elements entirely, potatoes, chillies, spinach, spring onions, herbs and beetroots do very well. Squash of various kinds are going berserk. Peas were not as good as last year, while some seeds produced nothing at all.

Compost heap

An interesting development this year was when I let stuff grow in my compost heap. I usually pull it out, but let it go wild at the onset of spring and it is absolutely flying. We’ve got squash and potatoes for days, while beans and patty pans are arriving in numbers.

I’ve also put a lot of effort into producing my own compost, following advice from Jane’s Delicious Garden and local mentors like Pha Mabaso, Tammy (mentioned above), Kim Wiggett and Vincent Mgwaba.

Eidin Griffin, now living overseas, also passed on some of her knowledge before her departure.

This journey continues to be a lot of fun, and most days I find myself scrubbing nails and dirty feet, which reminds me that the garden is where I most like to be. I could use gloves of course, but sometimes it just feels right to get your hands into the dirt and play.


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  1. I despair with my attempts at tunnel growing. Well composted, well irrigated, spring plantings scorch at the first hot day, winter plantings do nowt. Weeds do fantastically well though!

    • We are fortunate at the moment. Where I have had problems in the past I have put down crushed egg shells. Apparently the snails don’t like it.

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