How To Care For Carnivorous Plants

How To Care For Carnivorous Plants

When it comes to carnivorous plants, following the same care routine as you would for the rest of your house or garden plants will quickly end in their demise. These unique plants have specialized requirements, based on their natural habitats and how they have evolved, that need to be followed if you want to keep your plants around long term. Whether it’s light, water, soil or nutrients, getting care right is key to keeping your carnivorous friend alive.

Light

There are more than 500 species of carnivorous plants, each with its own requirements. Some prefer full sun, while others can survive in partial shade. However, most popular species, such as Venus Flytraps and Pitcher Plants, need full sun for a large part of the day to truly thrive. This translates to at least 6 hours of sunlight when planted outdoors.

When grown indoors as they often are, the situation is slightly different. As light intensity is far lower inside, most carnivorous plants need to be placed in front of a sunny window where they can receive as much direct light as possible.

Those that prefer partial shade are susceptible to burning, and some carnivorous plants that have been accustomed to grow in lower lighting conditions may struggle when thrust into full sun. Check the requirements of your specific plant and slowly introduce them to changes in lighting conditions to avoid any potential damage.

Water

Carnivorous plants evolved in acidic swamps and bogs where nutrients were scarce, causing them to develop their traps in order to survive. Due to these native habitats, it follows that these plants are major water lovers. Their soil needs to be kept moist consistently and some species can even grow mostly in water with just a little soil to keep them anchored.

Again, how often you water will depend on the species, but most prefer consistently moist but not soggy soil. Outdoors and in a sunny spot, this means watering a couple of times a day in hot weather. In these cases, it’s best to place these plants near a water source or where rain naturally collects around the garden to let nature do the work for you. Indoors, you’ll need to water once every few days and more often if the top layer of soil ever appears dry. Only water with collected rainwater or distilled water.

Soil

Unlike most of our garden plants, carnivorous plants prefer soil with little to no nutrients. The poorer the quality, the better it is. The soil should also retain lots of moisture to keep the roots consistently saturated and to recreate the environment these plants love.

When planting in containers, it’s best to make your own soil mix as many potting soil mixtures come with nutrients and added fertilizers that can burn the roots of your plants. A mixture of palm peat and river sand is best, adjusted according to how much water your chosen species prefers. Some can even grow in water alone, so make sure you know what you’re dealing with before you get to planting.

Fertilizer

Fertilizer is a part of many gardener’s routines. However, when growing carnivorous plants, you can cut this step from your schedule altogether. When placed in the right spot, your plants will get all the nutrients they need from the bugs they digest. As they as used to low-nutrient soil, any standard added fertilizer will only end up burning the roots and potentially killing the plant.

If your plant is not getting enough nutrients from bugs naturally, some choose to drop insects from pet stores into the traps to help the plant along. Alternatively, there are specialized fertilizers you can place inside the traps to provide any nutrients that may be missing. Avoid using your standard garden fertilizer and always read the instructions on any product before feeding your plant to avoid doing more harm than good.

How To Choose The Best Plants For Containers

How To Choose The Best Plants For Containers

You can grow almost anything in containers. With the right size pot and the right conditions, most plants that are typically reserved for garden beds or backyards will thrive (some even more than if they were grown in the garden). There are even varieties of plants bred specifically for growth in containers.

But, while you have almost unlimited choices in what you can grow, your garden conditions will still limit which plants will grow well. These are a few things to consider in picking your ideal container plants.

Climate

Local temperatures dictate which plants you can grow and how well they will grow. To assess the climate in your region, you need to understand the climate type. In South Africa, we have a wide variety of climate types, from lush subtropical to arid desert and almost everything in between. If your containers are going to be placed outside without protection, you need to ensure the plants chosen are suitable for your climate first.

Light

Where indoor gardeners use terms like ‘bright light’ or ‘low light’, outdoor plants are distinguished by the terms full-sun, partial sun, and shade. Full-sun plants need over six hours of sunlight per day (some need more), partial sun between three and six, and shade plants under three hours. Other descriptors you may see are morning or afternoon sun, which speak for themselves. You will need to limit your choices to a certain range of plants whose light requirements match your outdoor conditions.

Other Considerations

Other conditions like humidity and wind can influence a plant’s growth but can also be managed to meet the plant’s needs. Humidity can be altered with the same practices used indoors – grouping plants or placing them on a tray. Wind, which damages weaker plants, can be blocked with screens or shields.

The two conditions you are unable to control are climate and light, so start there. When you purchase a plant from the nursery, it should indicate the plant’s conditions on the label, but you can also ask someone for help to find the perfect plant for your conditions.

Companion Planting

When choosing plants that will share a pot, consider plants with similar conditions that are known to grow well together. When combining plants in the same pot, they are sharing light, space, and most importantly – soil. Any maintenance you do will apply to all plants simultaneously.

Before grouping plants together, ensure their desired conditions are matched, so one plant does not survive at the expense of the other. For example, when planting a herb container, thyme and rosemary will grow well together as they have similar needs, but sage will die because it has different water requirements. Similarly, mint tends to dominate any pot and is best planted alone.

Time

After considering the plants, don’t forget to consider yourself. You, as the gardener, will be committing time to care for whatever plants you choose and some are more demanding than others. Like any good relationship, you should understand the level of commitment required before jumping in. Plants in containers need to be watered more often, checked for pests regularly, and need more plant-specific care than those left to their own devices outdoors. Decide how much time you want to spend on plant care and which difficult plants you are willing to deal with before you buy.

While making your choices, don’t forget that they are not set in stone. Container gardens, unlike established backyards, are made to be tweaked, changed, and played with until you settle on what feels right. In fact, you don’t have to settle on anything at all. Container gardens embody variety, change, and experimentation. Embrace those factors, learn along the way, and you will master choosing the right plants and container gardening in no time.

Planting Trees For The Future Generations

Planting Trees For The Future Generations

It’s that time of the year again where the green industry plays an important role in reminding people about the importance of planting trees.

Arbour Week has been celebrated since 1800, founded by two lovers of nature, husband and wife team Julius and Carrie Sterling Morton. They were distressed by the lack of trees in Nebraska and quickly planted trees, shrubs and flowers in their own garden to start out with. Soon the trend followed.

“Trees were needed as windbreaks to keep soil in place, for fuel and for building materials, as well as for shade from the hot sun,” says daff.gov.za

Plant a tree

It is the year 2021, and we are still encouraged to plant trees for reasons that will remain pertinent forever. It is said that you do not plant a tree for yourself to enjoy, but for the enjoyment of future generations. Therefore, it is important to make sure that we have trees standing and providing us with shade for generations to come.

Trees are important to us for the following reasons:

  1. Trees help to hold soil in place and prevent soil erosion.
  2. Trees are an important habitat for wildlife; some animals spend their entire life living in trees and others depend on the forest for survival.
  3. Trees feed us – just think of all the nutritious fruit and nuts we pick from trees.
  4. Trees help increase property value by 5% ,or even higher depending on the size of the tree.
  5. Trees help with saving energy by providing shade in summer and blocking strong winds in winter, therefore saving us energy we spend trying to cool and heat our spaces.
  6. Trees help reduce loud noises in urban areas when planted strategically.
  7. Some trees provide medicine for our use, such as tea tree and moringa trees.

The list of benefits from trees is much longer than these 10 point, such as how they help to regulate local water cycles by holding the water, therefore preventing flooding and maintaining water vapour in the air!

How to plant a tree

Plantland has a wide selection of trees available to choose from. You can choose indigenous trees or deciduous trees, flowering or evergreen. Just make sure you choose a tree you will enjoy looking at for years to come.

Tree planting procedure:

  1. Dig a hole twice the height and width of the container of the tree. Fill the hole with water.
  2. Mix the soil with a nutritious soil (like Malanseuns Compost) and add some bonemeal to the mixture to ensure healthy root growth.
  3. Remove the tree from all packaging and place it in the hole, then fill up with soil to the top of the tree roots.
  4. Press down firmly to ensure the tree is stable. Build a dam around the hole, to make sure the water will drain to the roots when watering.
  5. Water your tree thoroughly twice a week until the tree can sustain itself.
  6. Fertilise with 2:3:2 fertiliser when needed.

Trees are good.

Planting trees, even just one or two, can make a huge difference. Trees are our lifeline to cleaner air and a healthier environment as trees improve air quality by producing oxygen. We need trees now more than ever! Teaching our children from little to appreciate trees will do the world good. View our wide range of trees on plantland.co.za or in store

Container Garden Design Tips

Container Garden Design Tips

Container garden design is a matter of personal style and preference. Some like their garden neat, others like them wild. You may prefer foliage, while your neighbour favours flowers. That’s part of the excitement – injecting your own style, making what you want, and arranging it whichever way you want.

While there are no hard and fast design rules, and creativity remains the foundation of your own container garden design, there are some general principles that can make your containers (and the garden as a whole) look better.

Sizing Containers

Sizing your containers is not only important in terms of care, but also in design. Plants in the wrong size pot – whether too big or too small – can look out of place. Balance sizing so your plants look healthy in their home, not weak and diminished. It is also possible to go too big. You don’t want your pot to be top-heavy or overflow from the sides. Keep the plant size around double the height and width of the pot at the most.

Consider Colour

Colour can have a massive impact on the design of your containers. Widespread colour design principles used indoors apply here too. For a dramatic look, place contrasting colours (in pots and plants) next to each other. For a calmer, harmonious look, choose plants and pots with similar shades of the same colour. Don’t forget foliage when considering colour – flowers may not be around the entire year, but foliage often is and can add a pop of colour in off-seasons.

These principles don’t only apply to colour, they can also apply to the texture, size, and design of your pots. Contrasting textures in leaves and flowers add variety and interest. The same goes for the sizes of the leaves and flowers, or their density. For harmony and uniformity, choose plants with similar textures and sizes. You can also contrast the pot itself with the plants inside it. Use simple pots with flamboyant plants, artsy pots for simple plants, or keep the pot colours and textures uniform to highlight the plants themselves.

Arrangement

Before planting, consider arrangement within the pot and the wider garden. The first, and most important, factor to keep in mind is plant care. When placing plants in the same pot, they will be sharing sunlight, soil, and water, so it’s vital to ensure all these requirements are correctly matched. Never place two incompatible plants in the same pot – no matter how good they look together.

Matching plant’s needs within the same pot doesn’t have to be a headache though. It actually gives you an advantage in plant care. As the needs of each plant in the pot are the same or similar, they all require the same type of soil, the same sunlight levels, and the same watering levels. By creating your own soil mixes that suit the plants perfectly, placing the pot in the ideal sunny spot, and watering as needed, you’ll cut down your care time and make it all the more likely that your plants will thrive.

After care, comes design and placement of the plants within the pot. The tallest plant in your pot should ideally go in the centre or at the ‘back’ if the pot is placed in a corner to form a focal point. Surround the centre plant with smaller, complimentary plants called fillers. The edges of a pot are ideal for trailing plants, as if they are spilling out of the pot. Trailing plants also make a good cover for any unsightly marks on containers. It comes down to three fundamentals: thriller, filler, and spiller.

When arranging your pots, apply the ‘Rule of Three’ by grouping pots of different heights together. Add one or two tall plants (trees are ideal) to ensure the garden does not appear one dimensional. Group plants of different types – flowers and foliage, or shrubs and succulents – to add variety.

#IndoorJungle: Why You Should Fill Your Home with Houseplants

#IndoorJungle: Why You Should Fill Your Home with Houseplants

It’s no secret – the internet loves houseplants. And it’s not hard to understand why. Indoor plants instantly brighten up a room, bring you closer to nature, and are an ideal way for gardeners with no outdoor space to scratch their gardening itch. In fact, there are countless benefits to owning and taking care of indoor plants, from mental health to interior design, and beyond:

Indoor plants are good for your mental health and can relieve stress

Indoor plants turn every day into a self-care day. Studies show our mental health is positively impacted when we’re surrounded by nature. Greenery is proven to lower blood pressure, release muscle tension, and counter the effects of staring at a screen all day (yes, you).

Plants are so good for you, a new branch of mental health treatment centred around gardening has emerged — Horticultural Therapy. The Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association defines it as “a formal practice that uses plants, horticultural activities, and the garden landscape to promote well-being for its participants.” Horticultural therapy has reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD in patients, and improved cognitive abilities in dementia patients.

The presence of plants, and the act of taking care of them, also relieve stress. After a long day at work, instead of flopping in front of your TV or taking out Twitter, let go of your stress by spending some one-on-one time with your plant children. They get the attention they need while you get calmer. It’s a win-win.

Indoor plants increase productivity and memory retention

We all need to be productive sometimes. Incessant distractions like the ping of a notification make focusing on any task almost impossible in the 21st century. For the small price of an indoor plant (and the time it takes to keep it alive), those problems can almost disappear.

A 2014 study by the University of Exeter found that filling your office with indoor plants can increase productivity by up to 15%.

“Simply enriching a previously Spartan space with plants served to increase productivity by 15% — a figure that aligns closely with findings in previously conducted laboratory studies. This conclusion is at odds with the present economic and political zeitgeist as well as with modern ‘lean’ management techniques, yet it nevertheless identifies a pathway to a more enjoyable, more comfortable and a more profitable form of office-based working.”

Marlon Nieuwenhuis

Other studies show that nature can aid memory retention and increase alertness. If you can’t remember what you had for dinner two nights ago, an indoor plant or two may be for you.

Indoor plants are good-looking

Plants look great wherever you put them. This is an obvious point, but no less relevant.

Modern design has previously focused on muted tones and clean lines, ushering in a new emphasis on the wild, chaotic character of nature as a retort. Designers capitalized on this trend by loading every fabric and wall print with Monstera or Palm leaves. Instead, upgrade your interior design by using the real thing.

The options are almost endless when designing with plants. Want structure? Go for a Zamioculcas zamiifolia. Want a soft, comforting look? Ficus lyrata. Want to become an Instagram plant influencer? Monstera deliciosa, and don’t forget to hashtag #MonsteraMonday.

Indoor plants are the interior design jack-of-all-trades

Indoor plants aren’t just a pretty face. These practical benefits round off a room and solve some demanding design problems:

  • Plants can increase indoor humidity levels for dry areas or tough winters.
  • In an apartment block and tired of hearing the intimate details of your neighbor’s day? Use plants as a natural soundproofing material.
  • Upgrade your bachelor apartment with a living screen separating the living and bedroom areas.
  • Fill in empty corners with statement pieces or add some interest overhead with a few trailing plants.

Caring for indoor plants provides a sense of accomplishment

Keeping a plant alive can be onerous, especially for self-proclaimed plant murderers. As Theodore Roosevelt apparently said, “nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty”. He probably wasn’t talking about frantically watering the plant you forgot in a dark corner for three weeks, but it still applies.

Nurturing is part of the human experience. You don’t have to go full plant-parent and name your plants or sing to them — just caring for another living thing is enough to provide that connection and accomplishment we all seek.

Of all the companions to choose from, plants are super low maintenance. They won’t berate you for ignoring a text or ask, yet again, why you haven’t figured out what to do with your life. Plants don’t judge.


With all these positives, you should be convinced to fill your home with as many houseplants as you can find space for. Hopefully, you’ll have your own #IndoorJungle in no time.

Optimal Plant Health and Plant Nutrition (EcoBuz Range)

Optimal Plant Health and Plant Nutrition (EcoBuz Range)

Did you know?

A maize plant sets its maximum yield potential within the first seven days of planting. Likewise, in gardening the first seven days of an annual’s growth are regarded as critical growth periods.

Across the globe, increased attention and interest is being placed on overall health and wellness. Trends have shifted from simply ‘looking’ good to ‘feeling’ good. Being fit, strong and active, both physically and emotionally, is a growing priority for us all. With the rampant spread of diseases such as cancer, the value of health cannot (and is no longer) underestimated. Plant health echoes this conversation.

Diagram Plant Health

Healthy strong plants will always be prized over weak, struggling ones. As with human health, continued research and significant developments are continuously being made in plant science. As knowledge of the many growth processes increases, so too does the research and development on tailoring products to maximise each step. So what have we learned and what do we as gardeners need to know about plant health? In nature, plants predominantly need water and sunlight to survive. They are reliant on nutrients within the soil, air and water for nutrition, and grow as best they can within their environment. As such, nutrient-rich soils support enhanced growth when compared to sandy poor soils – hence earlier discussions and emphasis on the importance of soil health. Mankind has been supplementing plant nutrition since the beginning of time. Early Egyptian, Roman and Babylonian records suggest minerals and manure have enhanced farm productivity since ancient times. Gardeners are well aware of the benefits of supplementing nutrition. Some of us are more knowledgeable than others and, as with most things in gardening, everyone experiences success and failure at some stage. As responsible gardeners, it’s important to embrace an integrated, holistic approach to plant health, supplementing nutrition with products that are sustainable and effective, with no negative effects on your soil, your plants and your family.

Macroelements and microelements

Plant nutrition centres around the elements needed by plants to survive. Macroelements are those needed in large amounts and include nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K), which form the basis of all synthetic granular fertilisers. Microelements are as important as macroelements, but they are only needed by plants in small amounts. They may also be referred to as trace elements. In order for plants to grow to their best potential, they need both macroelements and microelements. It’s important to review your garden’s nutritional recipe, ensuring it provides a balance of both in order to get the best out of your plants. The ‘barrel analogy’ (Liebig’s Law of The Minimum) is a principle developed in agricultural science that visually explains the concept. Liebig’s Law states that, ‘Growth is dictated not by the total resources available, but by its limiting factor or scarcest resource.’ So even if every required nutrient is available to your plants, they won’t be able to grow if they don’t have water (or any single element that is necessary for growth). Ensuring your plants have access to the full nutritional complement will ensure growth is maximised.

The Science behind plant growth

Gardeners who simply feed their plants N, P and K shortcut the natural ‘BioChemical sequence of plant nutrition’. See graphic. In summary, the boron (B), silica (Si) and calcium (Ca) ‘complex’ kickstarts plant growth, allowing N, P, K and the other essential plant nutrients to be absorbed and utilised as needed. What does this mean for us, as gardeners? That plant growth is triggered by the availability of key micronutrients. To maximise growth in your garden, ensure your fertiliser program includes trace elements and B, Si and Ca in particular.

EcoBuz nutrition

EcoBuz Plant Health

The EcoBuz nutrition range has been developed with this science in mind, offering a simple three-step approach to improving plant growth in your garden.

Step 1; HumiGro (the focus of previous features): highlights the importance of soil health and offers a solution to feed your soil.

Step 2 and 3 are liquid fertilisers, StartGro and MultiGro.

StartGro, a blend of organic and inorganic nutrition, targets the early growth stages of plants and is based largely on this biochemical sequence. Its most significant point of differentiation is that it contains no N and P, with only small traces of K. This makes StartGro ideally suited to triggering the growth process. As such, StartGro is recommended for use at planting, be it from seed, seedlings or transplants, and is suitable for shrubs, trees and more.

MultiGro offers an all-in-one vitality solution. This A – Z biostimulant enhances and maximises plant growth, promoting fruiting, flowering and overall plant wellness. MultiGro incorporates an optimal blend of organic and inorganic nutrition, which includes N, P, K plus a full range of micronutrients, added vitamins, kelp, fulvic acid and natural amino acids. MultiGro is ideal for use as a recovery tonic to revitalise stressed and deficient plants. Sustainable gardening is at the core of EcoBuz. We offer superior products tailored to achieve the best possible results with little to no impact on the environment and on our soils.

5 Reasons Why You Need to Start a Container Garden

5 Reasons Why You Need to Start a Container Garden

If traditional flower beds and large gardens don’t match the amount of time and space you have, don’t rule out gardening all together. Container gardens blend the traditional and the modern, solving a number of typical garden problems:

If garden space is at a premium

When your outdoor garden consists of a 2x2m patch of grass that is almost never sunny, or when you have no outdoor garden at all, planting in pots is the best way to add any lacking nature around you. Container plants and propagators can be placed anywhere -indoors or outdoors, windowsills, patios and balconies, even on your rooftop – as long as there is adequate sunlight.

If you don’t have the right garden for your favourite plants

Container gardens allow for more versatility; not only because you can match specific soil requirements to each plant, but also because you can easily move them around. If you want to grow a plant that requires partial sunlight but only have a baking hot balcony, you can move the containers indoors and outdoors whenever you need to, allowing you to plant whatever you want. This is also great for renters who won’t have to leave their plant children behind when moving!

If pesky pests are a problem

The isolation of container plants and less surface area means some problems typical larger gardens face are either infrequent or much easier to control. Pests and diseases are less likely to find your plants or spread to others, making eradication effortless. Similarly, problems with weeds or space invaders are almost non-existent.

If you want to help the environment and save water

While the droughts may be subsiding in South Africa, you can still help the environment and reduce the threat of drought in the future by opting for a water-wise container garden. Water requirements can be optimised for each plant rather than watering an entire piece of ground. By collecting water that would go unused (like running cold water when waiting for hot water) to water your pot plants, you can drastically limit your water usage. Alternatively, you can invest in self-watering planters that will do the job for you!

If you are a gardening newbie

Container gardens allow you to start small, experiment, and scale up whenever you want to. For those without experience with plants, pot plants are easier to monitor and modify watering or sunlight accordingly. Container gardens are a great way to introduce children to gardening or help physically challenged gardeners because they are more manageable and accessible.

Begonias to brighten up all the dark places

Begonias to brighten up all the dark places

Gardening in shady areas can be tricky. Bedding begonias, available in seedling trays, fill that gap beautifully as each plant produces masses of waxy flowers to brighten the darkest of corners. It’s also planting time for gaudy tuberous begonias, which are perfect for patio pots and hanging baskets that receive dappled shade. Buy some tubers today and start planting! Some begonias, however, enjoy adding grace indoors, and among the many hybrids of Begonia elatior you will find the right colour to match your interior decor.

Not only are these beauties showstoppers in your garden and home but the flowers are edible too! While people have been eating flowers forever, they have never been trendier than they are right now. Some are used mainly for their appearance, but others taste as good as they look. Begonias are one of the more flavoursome flowers. These fleshy-stemmed plants have been cultivated for their colourful blooms for centuries, and numerous hybrids have been bred from the 900 or so species that are found in the wild.

Two particular hybrid cultivars have found their way into the hearts and diets of modern society. The flowers are eaten fresh for their slightly bitter citrus or lemon flavour, while texturally they are crisp and moist, which makes them a great addition to salads and sandwiches. They’re especially suited to fish dishes and other meals where lemon is an important accompaniment. These tasty morsels can also be added to soups and pastas, and also make for an attractive garnish on dinner plates. A creative option is to dip begonia petals in yoghurt to create an unusual dessert that is sure to get tongues wagging at a dinner party. The colourful flowers also add another dimension to creative cocktails served with or without alcohol.

The specific types used as edible flowers are the large tuberous begonias (Begonia x tuberhybrida) and the lesser wax begonias or bedding begonias (Begonia x semperflorens). The tuberous types are not common in local gardens, but the wax begonia is one of the most commonly planted summer bedding plants. Flowers are plentiful and easily accessible to most gardeners, but be aware of pesticide usage around plants that may be considered for eating and remember to wash the flowers thoroughly before eating. Go ahead and add some flare to your drab salads this summer!

Garden Design

Garden Design

Designed to feed

By Anna Celliers

Few gardening experiences are more rewarding than picking home-grown edibles, and the ways in how they are produced are always changing. In simple terms, you don’t need much to start a veggie patch. The basic requirements are fertile soil, good drainage, full sun for at least five hours a day, water, a few basic gardening tools, packets of seed, vegetable seedlings, fruit trees and potted herbs. But why not venture a little further by also focusing on strong design?

It is all in the detail

Modern vegetable gardens are not merely functional, but are also designed with care and thought and meant to be seen as elegant and highly ornamental. They often boast ornamental hedges of perhaps lavender or rosemary, are filled with flowering plants between leafy vegetables, and are rounded off with espalier or topiarised herbs and fruit trees. Strong structural elements like fountains, birdbaths, lattice trelliswork, sundials and obelisks for climbing vegetables are often incorporated to provide interesting vertical detail and focal variety. Move away from the old-fashioned vegetable gardens with their rustic, angular beds and functional access paths, as you should not limit your creativity – feel free to choose any design for the layout of your home harvest, be it formal or informal. Your tomatoes, for instance, are not going to mind which design style you choose – they will rather respond to good food-gardening practices like healthy soil, companion plants to protect them, and enough water and food. To help you plan, we showcase scenes from different vegetable gardens and add some pointers to think about when planning a new kitchen garden.

Perfect places to plant

Soil preparation is very important if you want to grow vegetables successfully. There are different ways to go about it, including the conventional way where beds are marked out to the desired shape and size, dug over to spade depth and enriched with generous amounts of compost, bone meal and a general fertiliser. Another preparation technique is the ‘no-digging method’, where about 10 layers of newspaper are spread over the area in which the vegetables are going to be planted. They will smother and kill germinating weeds by depriving them of light. Next come a layer of straw, a layer of compost, a layer of granular fertiliser with chicken manure as a base (such as Bounce Back), and a layer of bone meal. These layers are repeated until the bed is about 30 cm deep, topped off with a final layer of compost 15 cm deep. After thorough irrigation, the bed will be ready for planting. Alternatively, use built-up beds formed with either treated timber or bricks. This method is suitable for areas where the soil is very poor and sandy.

The built-up beds can then be filled with a better soil over which the gardener has control, like commercial potting soil enriched with additives like compost and kraal manure. Built-up beds are also much easier to maintain for gardeners suffering from backache or sore knees! Pots are a boon! If space is at a premium, remember that you can grow almost any vegetable or herb very successfully in pots, as well as some fruits. You can choose different pot sizes, but it is best to stick to one simple design style. Place them in strategic areas as added focal points. We love (Img_9152 from 66 Valley Drive) On a pretty shelf, rows of terracotta pots house small veggie seedlings still needing some growing up to do before being planted out into the garden. This is functional, and normal procedure for a food gardener raising plants from seed. In this case it was done in a visually pleasing manner. So, when you are designing your own food garden, remember to include a pretty ‘nursery area’ as well, as you will always have baby plants to nurse along.

Easy and comfortable access

Pathways can be as simple as putting down a thick layer of bark mulch, gravel or straw, or they can be more sophisticated, such as paving with bricks, pavers or tiles. What they look like isn’t too important, as long as they give you easy access to weed, feed and harvest your home-grown edibles. Do not make them too narrow, as a food garden requires more

maintenance and attention than other part of the garden.

Support structures to please

It is inevitable that every bean should be given a pole to lean on, but it need not be a boring stick. If you know you are going to be planting beans, peas (and sweet peas, which should be growing next to beans and peas!) every year, plan for pretty and sturdy removable structures like obelisks and tepees. Also think about pergolas, arches or other support structures that will allow permanent plants like grape vines and granadillas to attain their full glory. It is also important to erect and plant the latter in a setting where the shade they might cast will not harm seasonal vegetables that need sun.

Other focal points

Adding a large central focal point like a ‘fountain of life’ centres the design of any garden and adds an ethereal and mystical quality. From a purely aesthetic point of view, it also makes it easier to plot out a formal planting bed design around it. If you do not want to go this big, try something smaller, like a central bird bath or perhaps a pretty container with a lemon or bay leaf tree planted in it, or just a large rock or a sundial.

Thinking about the harvest. The difference between an ornamental garden with a variety of perennials growing permanently in one spot and a vegetable garden is crop rotation. With the exception of certain edibles, you cannot plant the same crops in the same spot year after year. A practical way to help you decide where to plant what is to divide the vegetables into three basic groups and regularly alternate the areas in which you plant them. This will ensure that your garden soil remains healthy, and will prevent pests and diseases that target a specific host from becoming too much of a problem.

Root vegetables such as carrots, turnips and beetroot require light feeding and can grow in relatively poor soil. The bean family, which includes peas, requires more food in the form of compost and fertiliser, but at the end of the growth cycle their root systems return nutrients to the soil. Leafy and fruit vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, mealies, sweet peppers, spinach and cabbage need very fertile soil and regular feeding in the form of liquid fertiliser.

Slow-growing crops such as rhubarb, asparagus and artichokes remain planted in the same spot in the garden permanently and do not need to be moved around.

How to add colour in a vegetable garden

Over the years gardeners have realised that vegetables grow well when accompanied by certain herbs and flowers, which is called companion planting. This concept allows the designer of a modern food garden the freedom to be creative! The beauty about pretty plant companions (including useful herbs) is that not only are they an environmentally friendly way of keeping harmful insects out of your veggie garden, but they can also help to prevent most plant diseases. It is also a design ploy used to add colourful flowers and different leaf textures to a conventional food garden. Insect-repellent plants with aromatic foliage or flowers include lavenders, scented geraniums, lobularias, wild garlic (Tulbaghia violaceae) and catmint. One also wants to attract pollinators like bees, moths and butterflies by planting sunflowers, roses, cornflowers and sweet peas, to name a few. And then there are those, like nasturtiums and violets, that lure harmful insects away from vegetables. Ornamental garden plants can also be used to ‘doctor’ the soil, the best known of which is marigolds. Another useful way of adding pizazz to a food garden is planting ornamentals

with edible flowers, such as daylilies, hibiscus and pansies.

Protection against wind

A food garden needs protection from the elements, and first prize is to enclose it with walls. If this is not possible you will have to think about other means of protection, especially in dry and windy areas. One way is to fence your vegetable garden with quince trees. These can be pruned into a hedge and their golden-yellow fruit will ripen in late autumn, when it can be canned or used for delicious quince jam or jelly. Another good fencing option is pomegranates, which are once again available in nurseries. The plants are hardy, easy to grow, tolerate heavy pruning and will supply you with ample amounts of beautiful, juicy fruit.