The Best Little Gadget to Get Rid of Flies This Summer

I live on a farm with a rather large selection of random animals: horses, dogs, stray cats, geese and goats. And these are just the ones we know about. While this is lovely, it means that the moment the cool of winter evaporates, flies become a part of our daily lives. I have tried everything to get rid of flies from fly traps (they fill up so fast that it makes me cringe to think how many more there are) to bug spray (we can’t spray the whole farm) but none of my efforts had a lasting effect to gett rid of flies.

Inside the house, I’ve found that fans are ideal. We have a fan over the kitchen table which keeps them off our food and prep areas. But having outdoor meals were still an issue until I saw these clever little gadgets last year on a trip to the Vaal River.

shoo-away

The Best Little Gadget to Get Rid Of Flies

Shoo-away is an Auzzie-invention that takes over the flailing of hands by literally shooing away flies. They come in white, red, and black and because of their small design and simple lines, they are at home in any table setting.

PS: if you want to see how I made these pretty little side plates, click here!

shoo-away

The soft blades rotate unobtrusively while you are eating or preparing food outdoors. The energy efficient motor, powered by two AA batteries, comes to a soft touch should a finger get in the way. It is 100% chemical free and will keep your food fly-free in a 60-90cm radius, meaning two units are sufficient for a 6 – 8 seater table. The units are quite pricey, but once you have them you won’t know how you ever entertained without them.

Shoo-away also claims that the patented holographmatic disks on the tips further act as a fly- and bee repellent. Being naturally nosy, I wanted to know what exactly that means. Here’s a little video to explain. (I got this from ShooAway USA – it’s corny, but it explains the principle!)

Whether the flies really see the holographmatic dots as light sabers, I am unable to confirm (no flies were available for comment). But I do know that I spent an entire afternoon at a dining table in the garden without any flies ruining the festivities. And of course the kids loved playing with the table helicopters as well!

shoo-away

Shoo-Away is a must for any outdoor entertaining this summer, and it makes a great gift as well. Click here to order yours!

Happy Entertaining!

While the Shoo-Aways were given to me to try, the opinions in this post are entirely my own. g

 

 

 

 

How to set up your own container garden in 7 easy steps

Container gardening has become increasingly popular in recent years, and with good reason: it is cost-effective, water-wise, space efficient and super easy! Plants, and especially veggies, are happy to grow in pretty much anything, whether it’s a bucket or a bag. You really don’t need a lot of space for it either. As long as you have a sunny spot, you can grow something. Let’s take you through the steps to setting up your own container garden.

Step 1: Find a suitable container

Veggies are happy to grow in pretty much anything, from a bucket or old wheelbarrow to a compost bag. A container garden is the perfect solution for a small garden because you can move it easily and it hardly requires any maintenance apart from watering.

I had an old metal baby bath that seemed the perfect size for a herb garden by the kitchen door.

You will need to ensure that your container has sufficient drainage holes in the bottom. If it doesn’t, make sure that you drill a few into the base. If your container is going to stand on a patio, also then make sure that you place it on top of a tray or other suitable surface that can catch any overflow.

Read the instructions on the back of your seed packets to determine the amount of sun your plants are going to need and where you need to place your container. As a general rule, however, vegetables and herbs prefer full sun.

 Step 2: Ensure good drainage

container gardening

It is a common misconception that you should put gravel or small stones in the bottom of a container to assist with drainage. A few old kitchen sponges in the bottom will help water drain sufficiently as well as keep moisture in the soil for longer. This is also a great way to recycle!

Step 3: Add water funnels

container gardening

This is such a clever addition to your container garden that you will want to add it to every pot you have! Cut some PVC pipe to at least 10cm longer than the depth of your container. Drill several holes into the pipe and cap the bottom before you push it into the prepared soil. While 1 pipe for an average pot will be sufficient, you should add more pipes for a larger pot.

Step 4 : Fill with potting soil

container gardening

Make sure that you get great quality, certified weed-free potting soil to fill your container with. Throw the potting soil on top of the sponges, and mix with compost to ensure good, healthy soil for your plants and seedlings.

 Step 5: Give things a bit of a boost

container gardening

Adding a nutrient mix like Wonder Shake ‘N Grow plant food will give your new seedlings or seeds a little bit of a boost to start with. Lightly sprinkle over the prepared soil and work it in just a bit. You can also add water retention crystals like Wonder Stockosorb to create a continuous water reservoir for your plants.

 Step 6: Plant!

container gardening

Whether you add seedlings, established plants or seeds, ensure that you allow for sufficient spacing between plants. You may need to thin the plants out in a few weeks if things are getting too crowded. Try companion planting with veggies and herbs: tomatoes work very well with basil!

Step 7: Water

container gardening

Because containers cannot hold as much water, you may need to water daily during the dry season and much less in the rainy season. Always ensure that the soil feels moist to the touch, but not wet. Fill up the funnels and water well all around the container without allowing water to stand on the surface of the soil.

Remember that most herbs and leafy veggies flourish when they are being regularly cut, so don’t be afraid to start harvesting immediately.

Happy container gardening!

This article was first published for Efekto.

15 attractive indoor plants to easily green up your home

With green being the most fashionable colour this year, the easiest way to bring some much-needed greenery into your home is with plants. Whether you choose to have cut leaves in vases or luscious plants in pots, here is our ultimate guide to choosing the right indoor plants.

1. Aloe

Cox & Cox

Aloe Vera has to be one of the easiest things to grow. Aloe is naturally suited to drier climates, so it doesn’t ask for much and is happy in a pot in a sunny corner. They can get pretty big, so make sure you have enough space before getting on of these prickly babies.

2. Palm

indoor plants

Fresh Design Pedia

There are many different varieties of palm, from little Love Palms to a tall Areca Palm or the (poisonous) Yucca above. Palms are also used to drier climates, so they prefer well-drained soil and sunshine.

3. Mother-in-Law’s Tongue

Oldecors

Its horrid name aside, this plant is incredibly resilient, terribly hard to kill and frankly a little bit scary. The tall cluster of leaves is easy to grow and needs little attention. It is equally happy in low and high light.

4. Delicious Monster

Feel Inspired

If nothing else, the name is awesome! A delicious monster is a magnificent plant with large leaves that loves shade and high humidity. There are also miniature versions on the market if you don’t have the space for a full-blown one. If you don’t have the space, choose to just put a single leaf in a pot. If you clean the water regularly, it will happily live there for a couple of months.

5. Money Tree 

Balcony Garden Web

Even if Feng Shui is not for you, we can all do with a bit more of the green stuff! Money trees love bright light and moderate watering, and can grow up to 3m tall.

6. Zebra Plant

Plant-O-Pedia

The beautiful dark and light green striped leaves give this plant its exotic name. The Zebra plant loves higher humidity levels and temperatures, so it’s a bit of a needy one. But the pretty leaves are well worth the effort!

7. Philodendron (Heart Leaf)

My City Plants

This pretty deep green plant has shiny, heart-shaped leaves giving it its name. It’s a climber that works well to create height in a room.

8. Arrowhead

Home Garden Green

This luscious plant is family of the philodendron and is very easy to keep. Ensure regular trimming to avoid overgrowth.

9. Cast Iron

Leady Interiors

Yep, this is the one! If you kill this plant, you shouldn’t be allowed to have any others. It thrives in low light and is quite happy to be neglected. If however you fuss with it too much by over-watering or regular repotting, you might annoy it to death.

10. Chinese Evergreen

Leady Interiors

Another really easy-to-grow plant, the Chinese Evergreen comes is quite a few varieties, sizes and colours. Generally they have oval leaves with prominently coloured veins, prefer moderate to higher amounts of light and need regular watering.

11. Croton

Bless My Weeds

Colourful and pretty, the Croton is a high-demand plant that likes lots of light, moist soil and high humidity. Keep your green finger on this one to keep it happy and be rewarded with a wonderful variety of tall leaves and bright colours. These are particularly suitable to greenhouses and sun rooms.

12. Corn Plant

Domino

A very easy to grow plant that is equally happy in bright and lower light levels. It does well during periods of neglect, although it will retaliate if its over-watered, gets too hot or is subjected to frost.

13. Spider Plant

Brit + Co

In Afrikaans, this is called a Hen en Kuiken, or Hen and Chicks. I think it’s because the main plant makes little versions of itself that hang around the base, until it propagates and becomes new plants. This is a very easy-growing plant that needs a lot of light, and works really well in an elevated pot or hanging basket.

14. Peace Lily

Good Housekeeping

Most lily varieties do really well indoors, although they will not flower unless they have a lot of natural light. So unless you are dead-set to have it produce flowers, it will be quite happy in low-light conditions. They are super easy to grow, need moderate water and thrives in higher humidity.

15. Ferns

Wiki How

Like palms, there is such a huge variety of ferns available that you really are spoilt for choice. The Maidenhair fern is one of my favourites – it’s pretty, delicate and really easy to care for. Ferns don’t want a lot of direct light, love humidity and have to be kept moist. They do really well in bathrooms!

Here are a few PRO tips:

  • Before purchasing a plant, decide where you would like to put it. The amount of light available in location will determine the type of plant you should get.
  • Indoor plants need food and nutrients in the same way as outdoor plants, so be sure to understand the needs of your specific plants by reading their care labels or doing some additional research. Wonder Supra Stix is a great way to add slow-releasing nitrogen to your houseplants’ soil – just stick it in the pot and forget about it for the next 60 days!
  • Always make sure that you understand how big a plant is going to become. You don’t want a giant delicious monster to take over your tiny living room!
  • High humidity plants do really well in bathrooms where there is plenty of moisture to go around.

Happy Indoor Planting!

This post is sponsored by the lovely people at Efekto. Contact them here if you have any questions about your indoor plants!

365 Days in the Garden – Bugs, water restrictions and foraging horses

So while I was having the time of my life over the Christmas holidays, galavanting all around the country with my family, a herd of horses was having the time of their lives on the farm on Christmas morning, galavanting through my vegetable garden.

This is of course not the first time that something like this happened – you might remember that I started this 365-day journey because a herd of cows had a picnic at my expense. In their defense, the gate to their enclosure was left open and thankfully they are much more light-footed than their heavyset bovine friends so there wasn’t much structural damage to the pathways and beds.

garden update

None the less, there was nothing left aside from a possessed patty pan with wild rocket growing in its shade, a rather aggressive tiger marrow and one lost onion. Turns out horses don’t really care for squash. The eating of it, not the doing of it.

I have discovered that the new addition to our mini-orchard, the white pear, has something ominous happening on its leaves. According to my trusty gardening bible, this is pear scab and can be treated by removing the infected leaves and seeing if it’s contained, and spraying with a mixture of 5:1 water to milk and a dash of dish soap. If not, then I’ll have resort to some sort of anti-fungal spray.

The corn – the literally one cob that was not eaten – was also a spectacular failure. I can only imagine how disappointed the horses must have been with them!! I am fairly certain that this is due to the soil not being nutrient-deficient – I didn’t actually plant this corn, it is a left-over of a previous year’s crop and the soil has been depleted. Time to plant some legumes there instead to increase the nitrogen in the soil for next season!

garden update

The patty pan has sprung from a single seed but seems to be thriving madly in spite of all the odds against it. We have cut it down twice already and still it seems to know now bounds. The beautiful tiger marrow seems to have the same idea but it’s going up in the air with excited curling leaves and stems, like a little girl’s top and center ponytail. And from underneath all these curling and twisting stems, popped a bunch of zinnias – so beautiful! I arranged them in a pot with some hydrangea and am totally in love with it.

garden update

So aside from the crazy squashes, my veggies are looking pretty grim, and our incredible water shortages are not helping much. But I started from scratch again, fixing up the broken raised beds, planting new seeds in them and in the seedling trays and mulching to keep things cool.

garden update

On the upside, the apple tree and pomegranate have started bearing fruit that is as yet untouched by bugs. And the beautiful squash flowers play host to an army of ants – at this stage, I have no idea whether that is good or bad.

I also have loads of peaches – all stung – and loads of guavas – all stung. And I discovered last night that the same bug to the tiger marrows as well. Too bad, cause they’re really pretty! I am going to try Efekto’s Oleum to see if I can get rid of the bugs at least. I don’t think they make a product for keeping horses at bay!

So all in all, this is NOT A GREAT START. But, I shall prevail! While I still don’t want to use chemical pesticides in the garden, I am going to have to do something.

garden update

The rest of the garden is looking absolutely lovely and I so enjoy my morning cup of coffee under the giant oak trees before the heat of the day starts to build. From there, I am planning my comeback… and how to keep livestock out of my garden.

Happy gardening!

This post is sponsored by Efekto.

365 days in the garden – an update!

I thought it best to give an update just before we leave for our Christmas holiday, because I have no idea what my garden is going to look like when we get back next year! Luckily, I have Titus to keep an eye on things while we’re away, but it’s mainly going to be harvesting and watering.

Veggies

365 days in the garden

I have run our of bricks and will need to get some more before we can complete the pathways. But it is really starting to look awesome and I am looking forward to getting a book and sitting down in the garden with my feet up. That will have to wait till autumn though – we are starting to hit mid to high 30’s daily now.

365 days in the garden

The patty pan is massive, and we have a harvest of about 6 decent-sized ones weekly although they are being stung by something that leaves a small orange to red mark on the flesh. I am glad that I decided take the beetroot out of that bed because I had no idea that one patty pan plant can get so big – it would’ve shadowed everything else! I found this strange powdery residue on the leaves, and turns out it’s powdery mildew which I quickly treated with a milk spray of 40% milk and 60% water. Let’s hope that takes care of that!

365 days in the garden

I also found a Tiger Moth or Speckled Footman. They’re really pretty, but I’m not sure if they could do harm to the veggies. I am pretty sure that they’re larvae could be quite destructive though, so I will need to do some more research on that.

365 days in the garden

The cucumber is coming along nicely, and so is the watercress and a beetroot or two.

There are also a few onions surfacing, which is great! According to my calendar, I’ll be able to harvest mustard, parsley and cucumber by the time we get back, and should see a few more flowers as well.

365 days in the garden

And to my big surprise, I have beautiful corn as well! I didn’t plant any this year, but it seems that the cattle-incident last year didn’t get all the corn and some were left to germinate again. Nice!

Fruit Trees

My baby got a white pear tree as a blessing gift, and I am thrilled to say that it looks like its doing very well! Next summer I look forward to digging into some delicious pears.

Our plums are also plenty and ripening. The peaches on the other hand have been stung to death and are starting to drop. No surprises there, it happens every year. I have tried organic methods, not-so-organic things, home-made things… but the fruit flies in this valley seem to be immune to everything. I shall try again next year.

Greenhouse

I’ve sadly lost a lot of seedlings in the greenhouse, mainly due to over-watering. I turned the water on one night and then forgot to switch it off again. I think I drowned the baby plants ;-(

365 days in the garden

But the strawberries seem to be quite happy in spite of the flood! I added a bit of Shake and Grow and am keeping a close eye on them.

Roses

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I really don’t know what to do with my roses anymore… I have treated them weekly with Rosecare 3, but they are still infested with mean little aphids. I have started to make up curses in my head, damning all aphids everywhere, but that doesn’t help either. Funnily enough, I have 3 rose bushes in close proximity to each other, and only 1 seems to be stricken. I ended up pruning it back and have continued with my weekly spraying. I’ll see what it looks like when I get back and then will have to implement some harsher strategies… like blasting it or something.

That’s it for now – I look forward to telling you about my garden journey again in the new year!

Happy Gardening!

germarie-signature-featherly

 

How to have a responsible and water-wise garden this summer

This summer more than ever, we have to implement water-wise garden strategies. South Africa has been hit with the worst drought in decades and the only way you are going to help your garden survive through the summer, is by being clever about it.

kirstenbosch-water-wise-garden
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens © Alice Notten

The most obvious way to have a water-wise garden, is to plant a water-wise garden. That means plants that are indigenous to your area and that have therefore already adapted to the adverse local conditions. A report from the South African Weather Service has shown that we have experienced fluctuations in rainfall for the last 60 years, so by now our regional plants have become accustomed to whatever nature does – or doesn’t! – throw at them. A typical indigenous garden in the Western Cape will include fynbos, aloe and all manner of succulents. In the north, grasses, acacia and curry bush. Southern coastal flora will be different from that growing in the Karoo, the highveld or the East Coast – that’s what happens when you have a massive and diverse country like ours! Just look around your local parks or natural gardens and you’ll see what works and what clearly doesn’t. You can also refer to this handy regional plants guide that can help you plan which plants will do better in your garden.

If however, like me, you didn’t have the foresight to plant an indigenous water-wise garden, it’s time to look at a few essential strategies that will ensure a successful summer garden:

1. Mulch, mulch and mulch some more!

water-wise gardening

The first and easiest thing to do, is that add a thick layer of mulch around your plants. Mulch could be anything that will cover the soil sufficiently to prevent it from getting too hot and from water evaporating. Leaves and bark work very well and will gradually break down towards winter to provide you with some nutrient-rich compost. Other options include pebbles, pine needles, straw, nut shells or fruit pips, and even newspaper.

2. Water bottle irrigation

water-wise gardening

Plant a water-filled plastic bottle upside down next to water-needy plants. The water will gradually filter into the soil and once the bottle is empty, you can just fill it up and plant it again.

3. Watering cycles

Water early in the morning, or early evening when it’s cooler and when there is less chance of evaporation. And make sure that you stick to your allowance otherwise you will pay dearly! Also be careful of over-watering: plants prefer a thorough watering less often instead of daily light watering.

4. Water retention products

water-wise gardening

Water retention products are amazing for keeping water in the soil for longer. Wonder Stockosorb Waterwise Crystals is an environmentally safe water crystal developed to be worked in around the root zone of plants. Stockosorb crystals convert to a gel-like sponge to absorb and store water, providing an reservoir available just where and when it is needed. Stockosorb Waterwise Crystals can be used for potted plants, flower beds, shrubs and trees, hanging baskets, lawns and vegetable gardens.

5. Compost and Soil Aeration

Compost improves the water-rentention capabilities of soil and encourages earthworm activity which aerates soil. Make sure you dig in compost at least once a year to keep your soil healthy.

6. Lawn Care

water-wise gardening

Aside from using Waterwise Crystals to improve water retention on your lawn, keeping the grass longer will further prevent evaporation and your grass from turning yellow. Set your mower’s blades higher and use the cuttings are mulch in flowerbeds.

By being water-wise you will be able to keep your water bills low and save your precious garden. I’d love to hear more water-wise gardening-tips from you so please leave them below in the comments!

germarie-signature-featherly

Disclaimer: this post is sponsored by the lovely people at Efekto and Wonder.

365 days in the garden – we’re making raised beds!

I am happy to report that my veggie garden is taking shape beautifully! I’ve created pathways, made raised beds and started planting. I’ve even had a harvest of mole-eaten beets and beautiful patty pans. While the water restrictions are making things a little bit difficult, I am prevailing!

raised beds

Here’s the planned layout of the garden. It’s very ambitious – and very big! – but luckily I am not having to work it on my own. My wonderful gardener Titus has been an enormous help in getting my vision to reality.

raised beds

Let’s first talk a bit about raised beds. I am a big fan of raised beds for a few reasons:

  1. they look really lovely!
  2. they keep your healthy, compost-rich soil nice and contained
  3. with the right size beds, you will be able to reach your plants without having to step onto them

raised beds

With that then, I set forth in creating mine. I should rather say, recreating. They have been there for a while, but after the cattle trampling incident, many were destroyed. So Titus and I went to the fruit packing company down the road and bribed the lovely man fixing the broken fruit crates to give us the planks we needed to fix our beds.

raised beds

It really is as simple as placing planks or poles on their side to create your desired shape – I like square – and keeping them in place with either the paving of your pathways or by knocking some droppers into the ground next to them. The wood has to be treated to prevent rot, which is why agricultural crates are perfect. If you do not have access to these, then tanalith-treated pine planks or gum poles will work perfectly as well.

My beds measure 1x1m so that the center can easily be accessed. I also have long beds that are 1m wide x about 6m long. These work especially well for crawling veggies and fruit like butternut, melon or watermelon.

raised beds

Then the pathways. So you don’t HAVE to have paved pathways, but they do really come in handy in the rainy season when everything can be a muddy mess. If your OCD is mostly under control however, then you don’t need to cover them in any way. I put down weed cloth and used old broken bricks from when we renovated the house to create neat paths. I use the excuse that the veggie garden is right at the entrance to the farm, and that everyone who comes in to visit my husband’s company see it. That way I don’t have to explain too much!

raised beds

I still dream of the wild flower garden in the middle of the veggies and the bench looking out over the garden, but for now the biggest challenge is to just get everything to grow!

In my next post, I’ll look at companion planting and the layout of the beds.

Till then, happy gardening!

germarie-signature-featherly

 

How to plan and work with a garden calendar

I am happy to report that my garden project is going very well! I am learning so much and – as things go when you’re working with living things – I can see growth daily! The biggest tasks that I had to get to during this last month, was to get the soil ready for planting, get seeds in the seedling trays and set up my veggie garden. The veggie garden set-up is still a work in progress – more on that next week. But for today, I am very excited to share my planting plan with you. And the only way to do that I find, is by using a garden diary. So here is my take on how to plan and keep a garden calendar to help you in managing your garden.

I used inexpensive foam seedling trays and filled them with great quality, weed-free potting soil. Your plants are really only going to be as healthy as the soil, so ensure that you use the best you can find.

garden diary

Next, I identified the Mayford seeds that I wanted to sow into seedling trays (some seeds are direct sow only). Mayford has a delicious selection of veggies and herbs, as well as pretty flowers to complement your kitchen garden. You’ll notice that these seed packets have the words hermetically sealed printed on them. This just basically means that the package is airtight – just in case you were wondering ;-).

I made little labels using craft sticks and permanent marker. Make sure it’s permanent, otherwise the writing will wash off and you won’t have any idea what you planted where!

garden diary

Put the markers into the seedling tray first and then, using the dibble, make holes in each tray and pop the corresponding seeds into the soil. Cover up with more potting soil, water – and wait!

garden diary

Make sure you keep it moist, but not wet. I have a little makeshift green house in the back yard – a lightweight aluminium frame covered with heavy-duty plastic – that works perfectly for seeds and delicate plants. It also keeps my strawberries safe from peckish squirrels. I have a very basic sprinkler system in there that is connected to my irrigation system so that I can easily control the amount and duration of water I want.

garden diary

garden diary

So that’s the easy part. Knowing what’s what, how long before you need to transplant, and how long until harvest time is where the garden calendar comes in. I am a bit of an excel-fanatic, and putting everything on a spreadsheet really makes sense to me. And once you get the formulas right, it is very easy to plan what you need to do when. You don’t HAVE to use a spreadsheet, but for the amount of things I planted, and for the size of my garden, it is essential.

Make notes of the day that you plant the seeds, at what height / size or after how many days you have to transplant, and how many days to harvest. My calendar looks like this:

garden calender

Click here for the template!

So now I can see that I will have a wonderful harvest come January and February, with a few things next month already and some only in May. And this where staggered planting comes in. But more on that in a future post!

Here are my seedling trays 1 week after planting. So much happening in such a small amount of time!

garden calender

In my next post, I will show you how to make raised beds, and how to plan for companion planting. Exciting stuff!

Happy gardening!

germarie-signature-featherly

This post is sponsored by Efekto.

 

 

Practical steps to preparing the perfect soil

My gardening journey has begun, and I have completed my first task on the road to garden glory! Before I get into the essentials of preparing the perfect soil, let’s first do a bit of an audit so that you can see where my garden is at the moment.

garden-audit

My Veggie Garden Audit

  1. I have 3 lovely olive trees. I missed the fruit this year, but made stunning preserved olives last year! Definitely on the cards for 2017.
  2. 2 rather sad-looking strawberry plants.
  3. Spinach that have become a feast for snails.
  4. Beetroot that is seriously just not thriving.
  5. A very young avo tree.
  6. Beautiful onion flowers – I have always had LOADS of onion flowers, but not really any onions. I suspect this has something to do with the fact that I allow them to flower.
  7. Snails – full and fat and strong like Popeye.
  8. Cling peaches. To be honest, I have about 6 of these trees, and in the 5 years we’ve been on the farm, I have yet to have a successful harvest.
  9. Rocket – this grows like weeds in the garden, and I love it!
  10. Unidentified as yet green worm.
  11. French Lavender – beautiful and fragrant, this is supposed to keep bugs away while attracting butterflies and the like. Another great benefit of onion flowers!

So it’s not all bad when you look at it up close. When you stand back and get an overall picture though, it’s uninspiring at best.

preparing the beds

Raised Beds

Many of my raised beds have been trampled by cattle, but luckily there are a few that are still intact. I am going to start preparing the soil in those so that I can do succession planting – this is where you plant at intervals to ensure a consistent harvest of a crop throughout the season.

Raised beds are not essential, but they have many benefits:

  • You can contain the good quality soil that you want in the bed
  • You can easily add compost and plant food
  • It’s easier to work at a raised height

I will look at raised beds and garden design next month, so make sure you subscribe that I can keep you up to date!

Analise your soil

You will first need to figure out what kind of soil you have. Soil is made up of 3 different soil particles, namely clay, silt and sand. The combination of particles will determine how suitable your soil is for planting vegetables. To test you soil, take a handful and squeeze it into a ball. If it falls apart immediately, it’s sandy. If it forms a tight ball, it’s clayey. But if it forms a soft ball that slowly crumbles apart, you’ve got the perfect sandy loam mixture and you’re in business!

If your soil is less than great, don’t despair! By adding sand and compost into soil with a high clay content, you can rectify the situation. Lime can also be added to improve the soil, but if it is really bad then it’s best to make raised beds and adding loamy topsoil.

To better sandy soil, add loads of compost, peaty moss and other organic matter.

Preparing the soil

Once you know that your soil is suitable for planting, you will need to prepare the beds. I got the boys all excited and off to the veggie garden we went to get the soil ready.

preparing the beds

  1. Loosen the soil with a fork, and remove any stones and weeds.
  2. Add some Wonder Organic Bone Meal this puts nitrogen in the soil which is great for leaf production and phosphorus which is essential for strong roots. 3 handfuls per bed should do the trick. Then work that into the soil.
  3. Next, add loads of organic compost and manure. Living on a farm, compost and manure are 2 things that we have a lot of. Manure is an amazingly nutritious fertilizer, but make sure that it isn’t raw: the nitrogen levels in fresh manure is too high and will cause an imbalance in your soil and damage the plants. It has to be composted first, either by mixing it into your compost heap or by composting it on its own. If you don’t have a compost heap, don’t worry – I will get into that in a follow-up post. Once you’ve made that black gold, you won’t know how you ever gardened without it!
  4. Make sure that you work the compost into the soil.

If you have to buy compost, make sure that it is organic and certified weed-free. Your plants are only going to be as healthy as the soil it grows in, so give it the best start you can!

Now water! The idea is to get any weed seeds that may have snuck in, to germinate before you plant your veggies. Over the next few weeks, pull up the weeds BEFORE they go to seed and leave on top of the soil to dry in the sun. By using the weeds as mulch or composting them and working them back into the soil, you preserve the precious nutrients that they took out of the soil.

In a few weeks, I’ll be ready to start planting. In the meantime, there is lots to do: sewing seeds into seedling trays and getting the pathways and irrigation sorted out. And hopefully, I’ll be able to sort out those peach trees!

Happy Gardening!

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This post is sponsored by Efekto and Wonder.

365 days in the garden: my year-long challenge

I am so very excited to announce that from now on, you can expect to see regular gardening posts here on Homeology! I have partnered with Efekto and Wonder, and will be using their wonderful products and expertise to take you on a gardening journey with me. I have committed to challenge myself and work my way through my own garden over the next 12 months: to get my kitchen garden going, to have beautiful seasonal flowers, to naturally control pests and to otherwise create a beautiful outdoor space for my family.

Let me first start by saying that I am not an experienced gardener, so this garden diary is going to be quite the adventure! As you may know, I live on a farm, just around the corner from the magnificent Babylonstoren, so thankfully I have a great example of how to do it.

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My current veggie garden on the other hand, is a prime example of how NOT to do it. In my defense, I had a baby during the summer planting season and then the winter garden was destroyed by a heard of large and hungry cows. It really is quite amazing to watch cows rip out, chomp up and otherwise flatten months of hard work in less than a minute. But lesson learnt – I’ll need to make sure that I secure the garden in some way.

We do have lots of other things on the farm that are also interested in delicious veggies, ripe fruit and pretty flowers: goats (they seriously can get in anywhere and have no mercy or respect), squirrels that just LOVE that our garden is right underneath their oaks, there are moles, rats, snakes, mice… so I’m going to have my hands full!

On the plus side, we also have a large flock of guinea fowl and a good amount of geese and ducks that are GREAT for keeping critters at bay. So as long as I can get my eco-systems right, everything should be fine!

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While the veggie garden is going to take priority initially, I will also look at seasonal planting and general gardening tasks and challenges. Of which I have many, so it’s going to be great learning experience!

Efekto sent me a huge amount of goodies to play with and I look forward to seeing what they can do. I am armed to the neck with seeds, tools, fertilizers, bio-pest control products and gorgeous pink gardening gloves. Their motto is Beautiful, Bountiful and Balanced Gardens – I can’t wait to get started!

The first garden post will go live next week – I look forward to having you join me on my garden journey!

Happy Gardening!

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Have a look at Efekto and Wonder‘s Facebook pages for more information on their products and for future posts.

 

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