Mankind is a relative newcomer on this earth, yet in a short period of time has achieved remarkable things. As a result of our successes, however, we have lost touch with many simple pleasures – such as working with Mother Nature to provide food from our gardens. Natalie Becker aims to empower you to feed yourself from your own backyard!
Let’s get growing – an especially good idea in today’s tough economic times! Dig up the lawn and plant vegetables and herbs. Plant veggies among the flowers, and let berries climb up the fence. Aim to get as much fresh food out of your garden as you can. Don’t depend on suppliers for dubiously fresh (or frozen) produce when it’s fun and easy to grow your own. Share your gardening experiences with others through an online or email newsletter, and show young children where peas and beans really come from.
SOME REASONS WHY
When picked, plant life loses 50% of its energy in one day and in three days has no energy left. The sooner we get it from bush to mouth, the more energised nutrients we absorb and the more our health, energy and well-being will improve. The health benefits of having fresh foods close at hand should encourage everyone to exercise their green fingers, but being out in the garden also has an amazing effect on one’s inner self. It’s grounding, its calming effect relieves stress, and it provides a tranquil place for meditation.
Growing your own fruit and veggies is an opportunity to create a happy and rewarding interest for the whole family, and for them to enjoy and benefit from home-grown foods. It’s fresh, it’s there; it’s healthy, organic and straight from the soil. No more jumping into the car, wasting petrol, time, and money shopping for foods that aren’t as fresh or bursting with goodness. Look up the declining nutrient value of foods on the Internet and you’ll find some interesting reading. It is increasingly believed that this lack of nutrients is the reason why we over-eat but are under-nourished, so often feel tired and tend to put on weight.
Gardening is not only a superb DIY opportunity, a time to connect with nature and get some exercise, together with the satisfaction of doing your bit to curb the predicted food crisis, but also an opportunity to start eating less meat. This will be good for you and for the environment.
EXCELLENT REASONS TO START PLANTING
- Pause for a moment and reflect on the rates and taxes you are paying on your property. Why not get something useful back in return?
- Feed the whole family on fresh, organic, energized food.
- Barter your surplus produce for other services, or sell it for additional income.
- Read up on the healing power of herbs – natural medicines!
- Save time and money.
- Inspire other people in your community.
- Spend time outdoors – away from the TV and computer.
- It’s good natural therapy for bored and hyperactive children.
- It helps family bonding, from toddlers to grandparents.
- A fruit basket, bowl of berries, bunch of greens or fragrant herb potpourri makes a really personal gift for a birthday or for your dinner party hostess.
- Take it further. Make your own skin care products, natural insecticides, teas, air fresheners, mouthwashes and so on!
HOW TO START
How do you get started? Do some research through the Internet, speak to local garden fundis, join a garden club or ask nurserymen for advice. There are many interesting and helpful websites dedicated to the growing and cultivation of fruits and vegetables. Go to www.superfoods.co.za for adventurous recipes, newsletters, courses and more. Pop into local libraries for informative books. It’s very important to find out about your local soil type and climatic conditions, so that you can grow plants that are compatible rather than struggling with ones that hate the soil they are stuck in.
Getting to know your vegetables is the key to success. Just like people, they all have distinctive characters. Some like shady, cool positions, some are happiest in hot and sunny spots. Some like their feet wet, others prefer to grow wild. There is so much information out there that it’s easy to research the basics of growing food successfully.
Companion planting is a fascinating subject. Grow insect-resistant plants and flowers such as lavender, marigolds and yarrow in or around your veggies. Experiment with this concept – it works.
Keep the pips and seeds from fruits and veggies you buy from the shops that aren’t growing in your garden yet, and that you’d like to try next season. I grew small yellow tomatoes this way with great success.
SOME PLANTS TO TRY
Here are a few examples of easy-to-grow plants that require little care and will fill your garden with their rich green foliage and produce colourful crops for your enjoyment.
Fava/broad beans make a nice bedding plant, and in this country are an unusual vegetable – just try to buy them in the shops! I sow a hedge of them behind my roses in winter. You can throw spinach seeds over your shoulder – it’ll grow anywhere and at any time. Creepy crawlies love big tomatoes, but my berry tomatoes never get stung or attacked by pests. If you’re hooked on wonderful pungent cooking flavours, plant garlic and fast growers like shallots, chives and leeks to keep you going while you wait for the slower-growing onions.
Berries are easy growers, requiring little attention and with the added bonus of attracting birdlife to your garden. Add a feature bird bath if space allows. Gooseberries, strawberries and climbers like raspberries are rewarding, and grape vines and granadillas are very attractive and take up little space. All these are ideal treats to pick and munch straight off the bush.
Aromatic herbs are a must! They are tough, hardy and wonderfully scented, and can be used for medicinal as well as culinary purposes. I’ve used herbs medicinally for years, and even add them to my pot of ordinary tea for a daily change of flavour.
Other successful must-grows are basic staple crops such as potatoes, mealies, squash and pumpkins. These can be dried and used throughout the winter months, and are versatile and pest resistant.
If you like fruit trees, figs, tropical fruit and citrus trees are maintenance free. The soft fruits such as apricots and peaches need regular spraying for fruit fly, but bear good crops.
I’ve had great rewards from planting sweet melons, which so love hot summers but (like pumpkin) do need space to spread. Just pick and slice, adding a dollop of ice cream for a yummy cool dessert on a hot summer’s day.
BEGIN TO BARTER
There couldn’t be a better time than now to get back to the barter system – the current financial recession is an ideal opportunity to start up a small market economy. Bartering has been around for thousands of years. Why not involve neighbours and residents of private estates and housing complexes in a communal project, where all participate in some way and collectively reap the rewards? It would encourage healthy and constructive social interaction, saving money and creating a better quality of life in the global economic tsunami.
JUST DO IT!
Consider this: the food we eat today took millions of years to evolve, starting long, long before the age of humankind. Isn’t that amazing and truly inspirational? The slow and ingenious development that took place produced the plants that fulfil multiple roles today, not only enabling the survival of humanity but enhancing wellness and providing a wonderful spectrum of tastes and eating pleasure.
We don’t only owe it to ourselves – we owe it to Mother Nature for her profound plan and grand design. Let’s get growing!