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SUSTAINABLE LIVING IN THE 21ST CENTURY

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P I C T U R E S : K A R O LI N A G R AB O W SKA, O LG A D R AC H

FROM THE EDITOR THE APPETITE for urban food gardening has outlasted lockdown level 5 and today there are avid urban gardeners eating from the bounty planted in hard lockdown. We at Simply Green are thrilled about this positive sustainable trend – an offshoot of the pandemic. The theme of this first edition is vegetable gardens and we have concentrated on giving you the basics of growing your own veggies in your backyard or on your balcony. I hope you will find it inspirational and empowering, as we start this journey together to make this a better, kinder and more sustainable world. MORE ABOUT SIMPLY GREEN: This digital magazine – which also has stories online plus a newsletter and a Simply Green members club – is aimed at eco-conscious consumers and industries as well as those wanting to live more sustainably and kindly on the planet and looking for ways to do this. From green living, to green homes; eco-friendly clothing; solar and wind energy; growing your own food; living off the grid; dealing with water scarcity and climate change, we hope to cover important discussions with industry leaders in bumper issues and to show you how to do live a more sustainable life in the 21st century ... simply. TO SUBSCRIBE to our newsletter, magazine or to be part of our simplygreen club please email vivian.warby@inl.co.za. Simply Green is a sister publication to Home Improver.

CONTACT US AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY

PUBLISHER: Vasantha Angamuthu vasantha@africannewsagency.com EXECUTIVE EDITOR PROPERTY: Vivian Warby EDITOR SIMPLY GREEN: Vivian Warby vivian.warby@inl.co.za FEATURES EDITOR: Terry van der Walt terryvdwalt@inl.co.za DESIGN: Kim Stone kim.stone@inl.co.za PRODUCTION: Renata Ford Renata.ford@inl.co.za BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT: Keshni Odayan Keshni.odayan@inl.co.za SALES: Charl Reineke charl@africannewsagency.com Kyle Villet kyle.villet@africannewsagency.com GENERAL ENUIRIES info@anapublishing.com

DO JOIN US ON: @simplygreenZA @simplygreenSA

Go green!

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rby Vivian Wa

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contents 26

29

Gritty heroes: earthworms

27-28 DIY earthworm farms for kids 29

Focus on Garden Day: food gardeners

30-31 Permaculture 32-34 Sophia Lindop’s Lebanese recipes

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Dos and donts of gardening

HInts for growing vegetables

5-7 The constant gardener – Portia Mbau

15-16 My dear fellow amateur gardeners

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Composting

17-18 Give peas a chance

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Composting’s secret trio

20-21 Veggies contained

10 Prep your patch

How to help

– balcony planters

11 Raised boxes

22-23 Dealing with pests

12 Home-grown: Getting started

24-25 IOS feature. Advice from

13 How to plant a bountiful crop

urban gardeners 3

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Gardening

O, HERE are 10 top tips to avoid making mistakes that can undo all your hard work and leave you frustrated.

dos & don’ts

1 Don’t over-fertilise your vegetables because in the long run it will reduce your crops, possibly stunt growth and burn tender plants. 2 Try always to use organic fertiliser since these are more environmentally friendly.

When the gardening bug bites, it often sends newbies into a frenzy of overdoing things and, ultimately, messing up their grand plan

3 Avoid planting in shady areas because most vegetables thrive in direct and uninterrupted sunlight. 4 Improve your soil by adding compost and organic material throughout the season. 5 Avoid over-watering because you could kill your plants with kindness by turning their growing area into a soggy swamp.

BY TERRY VAN DER WALT 6 Sow your seeds at the depth recommended on the packet to save yourself heartache – too deep or too shallow and they won’t germinate. 7 Avoid planting your seedlings too closely because they will be competing for nutrients in the soil, sunlight and water. Stick to the guidelines on the packets. 8 Big is not always best, so in your enthusiasm to get growing, avoid being tempted into creating a large patch that you’ll struggle to maintain – weeding, tending plants, zapping garden pests and general upkeep takes a lot of effort. 9 Avoid using broad-spectrum pesticides, which can kill beneficial bugs like ladybirds, and end up in your body. 10 Avoid sowing too many seeds at one time, because you won’t have enough space for all of them when they start growing. You’re not a commercial farmer. You’re probably going to make some mistakes as you set off on this new green-finger adventure but try to learn from them so that you don’t repeat them. And remember that it costs nothing to ask for advice from your local nurseryman. Even neighbours and friends with a wealth of first-hand knowledge can give you tips to help you along the way. PICTURE: COT TONBRO

Happy gardening! 4

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The constant gardener When you cook food and write about it, it makes sense to grow your food. You then know exactly what has gone into it, from the seeds to the compost. Restaurant owner, chef and author Portia Mbau says not only is she food secure, her garden produce tastes better than anything she can buy too BY VIVIAN WARBY

Portia Mba u in her garden.

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PORTIA’S DELICIOUS HOME-GROWN RECIPE Moroccan Herb Salad page 20 THE AFRICA COOKBOOK by PORTIA MBAU Ingredients: 1 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped 1 cup fresh dhanya (coriander), chopped

1 cup fennel, sliced 1 cup mint, chopped 1 tbsp fresh green chillies, finely diced 1 bunch spring onion, sliced 1 small onion, finely diced 5 ripe, medium-size tomatoes, diced

PORTIA MBAU owner of The Africa Cafe, chef and author of The Africa Cookbook LUMAI DE SMIDT visual storyteller, author and graphic designer This Cape Town motherand-daughter team take us through their grow-toeat journey. “Being not only a chef, but a health enthusiast, I’ve always been attentive to the quality of my food. Good food starts with quality ingredients and, ultimately, this impacts on the nutritive value of your food, says Portia Mbau, owner of The Africa Cafe, and author and chef of The Africa Cookbook. “My other love is gardening, so it was a natural intersection for me to start growing my own food. I started quite haphazardly, but over the past eight years, I’ve been learning and improving my kitchen garden. “I endeavour to eat organic whenever I can and growing my own food gives me that control. I know exactly what’s in the soil and what’s on the leaves. And, believe me, home-grown food tastes different,” she says. While before the lockdown growing her own food was a benefit, during the lockdown it began to

The ing redient s f or t h e Moroc c an herb s ala d rec ipe abov e.

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2 tsp red chilli powder 3 tsp Himalayan pink salt Juice of 3 lemons 1/2 cup white wine vinegar Method: Mix all the ingredients and leave to stand for 15 minutes.


TOP TIPS The mother-anddaughter team have five tips for someone starting out on their own kitchen garden

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Start by growing herbs They are generally forgiving and can be grown in a small pot on your windowsill.

Portia Mbau gathers a feast f r o m h e r g a rd e n .

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The garden is a process of constant learning I’m always researching, googling and talking to friends about how to help my garden grow.

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It starts in the soil Preparing your soil with compost and fertiliser is essential to the quality of your produce.

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Make your own compost Compost can be expensive if you have a large garden. Compost your organic kitchen waste.

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Be patient Things will die but you are not a failure. Only this year did I get an orchid to flower again – my previous plants never bloomed twice. The A f ric a C ook b o o k .

Whether it be red onions, baby tomatoes or lemons, it’s exciting to see your garden flourish 7

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look like a necessity. “I heard worrying news about food security, and while I’m not someone who buys into news drama, it made me consider how incredible it would be to grow all my own vegetables and never have to go grocery shopping again.” Mbau says the pandemic gave her time at home to research things, such as greenhouses and raised vegetable beds, which she is creating right now. As part of her health regime, Mbau drinks a litre of celery juice every morning and twice a day she drinks lemon water. “So, I’m really proud of my lemon trees and celery plants. I’m also growing strawberries, which I am very excited about. “But my favourite part of the garden is my herbs. I pick and dry herbs constantly, making spice mixes and teas. I love herbs.” Adds her daughter Lumai de Smidt, a graphic designer and visual storyteller who took the photos for the cookbook and who is part of Mbau’s wonderful .instagram live channel @food.of.africa, “Whatever we’ve harvested from our garden is usually my favourite thing. Whether it be red onions, baby tomatoes or lemons, it’s exciting to see your garden flourish.” Mbau says what she enjoys most about gardening is “getting my hands and feet in the soil”. “It’s an incredibly grounding process that I consider part of my selfcare. On @food.of.africa I share a lot around self-care and how you connect with the earth, your food and your own inner quiet is essential for mental health.”


WASTE NOT WANT NOT Want to grow veggies more sustainably? Consider making your own compost from kitchen leftovers BY VIVIAN WARBY

Orga nic waste can be us ed t o m ake c om pos t by m ix ing u p v e g e t a b l e a n d f r u i t s k i n s , co f f e e g r o u n d s a n d e g g s h e l l s . B u t ex p e r ts sa y yo u s hould av oid m e a t o r f i s h s cra p s a n d d a i r y p r o d u ct s .

and become part of the cycle of life is a rewarding endeavour. Most of the composters you purchase come with instructions which you should follow for best results. Below are some basics: You will need a compost bin which you can make, buy online or find at a hardware store. Ensure it is not higher than your waist and also consider fencing it off to keep rodents and pets from it. Collect your kitchen compostables (egg shells, fruit and veg skins, coffee grounds) in a container in your kitchen – you can store them in the freezer until you need them to avoid odours. Start your bin off with a

GOOD GARDENING starts with good soil and compost, which teems with beneficial bacteria and organisms, adds natural, healthy nutrients to soil. Compost breaks up clay soils and improves sandy soils, and because you can use waste materials from the kitchen and garden, it enables you to recycle, cut down on landfill and irrigation needs, and reduce dependence on fossil fuel-based fertilisers and pesticides. Most plant-based material – including fruit and vegetable scraps – can be composted at home. Watching the food you normally would have thrown away turn into nutritious soil 8

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layer of coarse materials (such as twigs) to allow for drainage and aeration. Cover this layer with leaves. Then alternate between layers of greens (nitrogen-rich material) and browns (carbonrich material). Whenever you add food scraps or garden waste to your bin, be sure to top it with a layer of browns. If you do not add browns, your compost will be wet and break down more slowly. SOME TIPS: When you add fresh material, mix it in with the lower layers. Materials should be as wet as a wrung-out sponge. Add dry materials or water – whichever is needed – to reach

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this moisture level. Mix or turn the compost once a week to help the breakdown process and to eliminate odours. Finished compost will be dark, crumbly and smell like earth (before that it is very smelly – be warned). You should be able to create finished compost within four to six months of starting your bin. The finished compost will end up at the top of the bin or compost pile. Ensure the decomposition process is complete before you use your compost or microbes in it could take nitrogen from the soil and harm plant growth.


PICTURE: BOUD EWIJN H U YS MA NS

P IC TU R E: A DA M NIE S C I O R U K

P I C T U R E : V I K TO R TA LA S H U K

CREATE YOUR OWN BLACK GOLD BY COMPOSTING KITCHEN LEFTOVERS Don’t add these materials to your compost: meat or fish scraps dairy products fats or oils grease pet faeces kitty litter weed seeds charcoal ash non-organic materials

DID YOU KNOW Compost can: Enhance your soil’s structure. Improve the soil’s ability to hold water. Create a habitat for beneficial soil organisms. Provide a source of slowrelease nutrients for plants. Protect plants from soilborne pathogens.

TRENCH COMPOSTING

HERE IS THE SECRET TRIO OF FOOD SCRAPS FOR COMPOSTING: BANANAS: Banana peels gives your soil phosphorus and potassium – important soil nutrients. Chop up the peels – do not use whole banana peels as they will attract rodents. You can put the chopped up pieces straight into the soil. TIP: Soak a few banana peels in about 600ml of water for a few days. The minerals from the peels will leech into the water. You can then use this water for your plants (you don’t need to dilute it). The soaked peels can be given to your worms or put it in the compost.

COFFEE GROUNDS release nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and other minerals and essential oils as they break down – acting as a great natural slow-release fertiliser for your pants. Add them to the compost bin or sprinkle directly on to your soil. TIP: Acid-loving plants like blueberries, carrots, and radishes are boosted by fresh grounds.

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EGG SHELLS Rinse the shells before crushing them into small pieces. These provide much-needed calcium to the soil which prevents blossom rot – the black spots that form on the ends of tomatoes, peppers and squash caused by lack of calcium in the soil. Eggs shells can be sprinkled on top of the soil to keep creepy crawlies away and also dug in. TIP: Tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, broccoli, cauliflower, Swiss chard, spinach and amaranth will all benefit from added eggshells in the soil or compost.

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Trench composting is particularly suitable for growing vegetables, says garden expert Kay Montgomery. • Dig a trench to a depth of two to three spades, placing the soil to one side. • Place a thick layer of wet newspaper in the bottom of the trench and fill with vegetable peelings, leaves and any other plant material that is available, alternating with layers of soil. • Plant vegetables in the filled trench.


P I C T U R E : C OT TO N B R O

Prepping your patch Edible gardening is a growing trend. Starting a vegetable garden is a great way to introduce your children to the hobby of gardening and encourage them to spend more time outdoors. The garden is nature’s classroom and gives kids first-hand insight into how food is produced PREPARING A NEW PATCH Correct placement is the key to success with vegetables. Find a space that receives about six hours of sun daily. But if this is a challenge in your garden, there are crops which can grow well in partial shade. A vegetable patch does not have to be huge – 1.5m by 2m is ample. 1 0

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Assess your soil quality Sandy soil runs through your fingers and clay soil forms clumps when squeezed. Loamy soil, considered best for gardening, is a crumbly, dark soil that retains water without becoming waterlogged. If you have sandy or clay soil, improve the quality by digging in plenty of organic O C T / N O V

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matter (compost and manure) for better retention, drainage, texture and air flow.

REWORKING AN OLD PATCH Remove the last of the last season’s crops and weeds that may have invaded the patch. You don’t want them completing for nutrients and water with the new crops. If you put mulch down earlier in the season, don’t remove it, just dig it into the soil. Add more compost or manure to condition the soil and dig over to break up clods for better drainage.


Rise up Growing food for the family table is rewarding and it tastes good too. Having raised beds in wooden boxes means you don’t have to spend a lot of time on your knees and they are a solution to poor soil

BOXES AND RAISED BEDS In smaller gardens, wooden crates can be used for vegetables. They don’t take up too much space and can provide a good supply of food for the family table. In larger gardens, consider raised beds which provide the look and feel of the potagers and kitchen gardens of yesteryear. Raised beds also provide a solution in gardens where soil quality is poor. Beds can be constructed out of wooden planks or bricks and rich topsoil and organic matter added before seeds are sown.

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HOME - GROWN

Spring veggies, which can be planted now, are easy to cultivate and generous with their produce. All you need is some enthusiasm – and lots of sunshine BY KAY MONTGOMERY

Seed your imagination this spring The growing seasons in each region of the country are different, so it is always a good idea to check with established gardeners or your nurseryman before setting out. Spring crops which can be planted any time between late August through to October are plentiful but try not to start out with too many.

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Tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, beans, chillies and radishes are really easy to get growing and will reward you in no time. Cucumbers and green peppers are also worth planting. Herbs such as parsley, coriander, thyme, mint and rocket are also easy-pleasers and can often provide you with what you need when store shelves are empty or the price is too high.

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Several vegetables can be grown throughout the year in some locations, while others are seasonal. What you grow depends on your climate. You can sow seeds or get a head start with seedlings purchased from your local nursery. Remember to mulch after planting to keep the soil moist.

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P I CT URE: AK I L MA Z UM DE R

GETTING STARTED


P I CT URE: POLINA TAN K IL EV ITC H

TIPS FOR A BOUNTIFUL CROP

EASY-TO-GROW VEGETABLES

Beetroot • Eggplant • Summer cabbage • Leeks • Celery • Lettuce • Carrots • Broccoli 1 3

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BEETROOT is easy to grow. Sow seeds in rows, every 3cm to 5cm, with rows about 30cm apart. Keep the soil moist. CABBAGES thrive in well-draining, fertile soil. Sow seeds in seed trays or beds, with successive planting every three to four weeks.

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CARROTS enjoy a loose soil but don’t add too much compost when working the soil. Loose, friable soil will ensure your carrots are straight and not misshapen. Sow the seeds in furrows (1cm deep), with successive planting every three to four weeks.

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ONIONS take four months or longer from seed to harvest but they have a relatively good shelf life so you can plant a good-sized crop. Sow seeds in trays and transplant seedlings into the garden. Soil needs to drain well.


HINTS FOR GROWING VEGETABLES Grow vegetables that your family enjoys eating. Plant little and often. Sow salad crops fortnightly so that there is a continuous supply of tender young leaves. Plant beet, eggplant, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, corn, cucumber, gems, lettuce, leek, peppers, potatoes, pumpkin, radish, Swiss chard, tomatoes and turnips. Most vegetables need six hours of sun

a day. Plant so that tall varieties do not block out the sun from lower-growing vegetables. Beds should be no wider than 1.2m to make it easier for harvesting and weeding. Paths should be wide enough for a wheelbarrow. Before planting, dig in generous amounts of weed-free compost to encourage strong, healthy growth and to better retain moisture.

A 10cm layer of mulch spread around the vegetables will help retain moisture in the soil and reduce weeding. Fertilise once a fortnight with a liquid fertiliser, preferably an organic fertiliser, which will help your plants build up resistance to diseases and will also encourage strong, healthy growth.

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My dear fellow amateur gardeners... Lockdown gave the Dennis family the time to create their own veggie garden, discovering the magic of watching plants grow from seed, and the taste of home-grown tomatoes, carrots and peas BY LIENEKE DENNIS

Proud gardener Lieneke Dennis.

LIKE MANY other South Africans, my husband and I decided to start a vegetable garden during lockdown. The idea had been floating around in our consciousness for a while but like many of you, work, the stresses of everyday life and kids in various stages of education placed any plans for a vegetable patch of our own firmly on the back burner. Life was just too busy. And then lockdown came. In the first month, we took lockdown on the chin, like most of us. We cheerfully stayed indoors, caught up

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on movies, learnt to bake bread, make apple cider and video-chatted with friends and family. Then lockdown was extended and we realised something else – we were in it for the long haul. This was our new normal for now. We had time on our hands – time we’d never had before. A dear friend who lives on a homestead in Northern Cape had sent me a photo of a mound of lush, orange butternut squash which she had harvested that week. I shared it with my husband after a really excited phone

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conversation with her, knowing his love for growing vegetables, inspired by school holidays on his grandfather’s farm in Abbotsdale. Without my knowing, he popped a few butternut seeds into soil in an ice cream container and within a week, we had six seedlings, to our excitement and amazement. It became an exciting project and journey and we could see, on the horizon, the possibilities of a life that is so different to how we’ve been living up to this point.


We had a fairly neglected back garden, covered with lawn, and I happily sacrificed half of it to our new mission. Hubby dusted off his high school woodworking skills to build a dig-proof fence to curb our two dogs. Garden-building materials were a non-essential item in early lockdown, so we scrounged whatever scraps of hardware we could find: old jungle gym timbers, fascia boards, wooden pallets, old netting and,bricks. We saved the seeds from most of our veggies and planted them in cut-off cooldrink bottles. Our enthusiasm grew as

the first butternut and tomato seeds started to sprout. There is something magical in watching life grow from a seed. Like anxious parents we noted each baby plant’s birth date, each milestone in their growth. The excavation of the garden was hard work. It was a labour of love and a journey of exploration. We had an overall plan but we tackled it section by section as we could access more resources. There is plenty of information available online which we devoured. We were approaching winter and learnt the hard way not to plant seeds out of season. We 1 6

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ABOVE: We dug up half our lawn and fenced in the space with scrap timber and netting to protect it from our dogs. We also created a little deck where we could enjoy our morning coffee. BELOW LEFT: We dried crown pumpkin seeds and planted them, along with a sprouting potato in a container. BELOW RIGHT: Sprouting potatoes and sweetcorn in a raised bed.

also planted far too many seeds, until we learnt about succession planting. We were learning to plant not just for the lark of it but to embrace the idea of growing our own food. We harvested the first produce. What a moment. I’d never tasted fresh peas, only frozen. Lettuce straight out of the ground. The sweetest baby carrots. I know we still have much to learn, as we grow with our garden. I’ve learnt where to set up a garden – in a sunny spot O C T / N O V

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and one easily accessible. Consider the available space – if you don’t have much, plant in containers. Label and date what you plant and keep a notebook so that you can track when your veggies are ready to be harvested. Plant what you and your family eat. We planted what we thought would have real impact on our grocery budget. Don’t be afraid of getting your hands and knees dirty. And have fun!


GIVE PEAS A CHANCE Flow ering pea plants.

Growing these legumes is easy-peasy as they’re relatively resistant to disease and insects and mature in about three months BY LIENEKE DENNIS

I HAD never eaten fresh peas in my life, only frozen, you know, McCain or Country Harvest. So, you can imagine my excitement when I picked my very first harvest of garden peas. As an amateur gardener, one of the most confusing choices is what to grow, and the array of choices displayed on the seed rack at the supermarket is overwhelming. We decided to start with peas. Fortunately for us,

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growing peas is easy-peasy. Is that where the expression comes from? The pea plant is hardy, fairly low-maintenance, not very susceptible (it seems) to insects and disease and you can plant them from mid-winter to spring. We lucked out on that, because we were just sowing seeds willy-nilly without really thinking the seasons through. We bought a Greenfeast Garden Peas seed pack; pea seeds are really easy

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to sow, as they’re quite large. Don’t do what we did when we started and sow 40 seeds in a block. We had no idea how tall they would grow, and that they send out delicate little tendrils that cling to anything, including each other. They very quickly outgrew the first little wigwam that we built for them, so we finally bought tall bamboo poles (they don’t have to be thick), strung


Next time I’ll plant them in a row against a trellis, because everybody needs support sometimes, right? H o m e - g r own p e a s wi t h a s p r i nk l e o f sa l t.

with white rope. They are now about 1.4m tall and quite possibly still growing. I made a note to myself that next time I would definitely plant them in single rows against a trellis, a tall bamboo stick structure you can make yourself, or a netting, or something they can climb up against. Because everybody needs support sometimes, right? They like fertile, welldrained soil and full sun. Plant each seed about 3cm deep and

5cm apart. They bush up quite nicely and mature within 90 to 120 days. Our pea pods started appearing at 89 days, the little over-achievers. The garden pea has the most beautiful white blossoms and you can keep picking your pea pods as they ripen. Wait until they are quite bulgy – the skinny pods are still growing. It’s good to pick the mature pods off, then the plant can focus on more blossoms and producing more pods for you 1 8

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to enjoy. If you love to eat them fresh during their optimum growing season, I would recommend sowing a smaller number of seeds at a time, not the entire seed pack. You need to calculate what your family might require, every four weeks, so that you can enjoy them straight off the plant. This is called succession planting – you always have some crops ripening as you need them. I decided to plant three more pea plants at our garden O C T / N O V

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gate entrance with some lettuce, beet and marigolds (just for those gorgeous white blossoms) against an old burglar bar over which I’m spanning white rope as the tendrils grow. Good companions for them in a bed are carrots, turnips, lettuce, beans, sweetcorn and coriander. To preserve them, I guess I can just shell the pods, put them in a sealable baggy and freeze. Just like McCain does.


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veggies

contained Grow vegetables in pots if you don’t have much space BY TERRY VAN DER WALT

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Three white wooden boxes can be planted with microgreens and kept on a sunny balcony.

Your plants may wilt after you’ve put them in the soil but they’ll look much better in the morning.

Wooden boxes can be planted with microgreens and kept on a sunny balcony.

A BALCONY, stoep or small piece of ground at your entrance can easily be turned into a patch that produces vegetables and gives you a sense of achievement. You’re not aiming to provide ALL the vegetables you need to feed your family, just a selection that you can grow easily. Experts all agree that using bigger pots, rather than small ones, helps retain moisture and gives space for roots to grow. What containers to use? Troughs, old buckets or bought containers will all do the job, just ensure there are holes at the bottom so your plants don’t get waterlogged and die. TIP Large pots that allow you to plant a number of seedlings means more variety.

STEPS: 1 Assess the area and ensure there is space to get around the pots without damaging the plants. You are not going to be producing huge crops, so don’t overcrowd your limited space. 2 If you’re setting up on your balcony, cluster your pots together in one corner with bigger pots at the back, going down to smaller or lower containers near the front. TIP Your containers will need to be in a place where they get good sunlight and ventilation. 3 Place broken bricks or pieces of clay pot in the container over the drainage holes and cover with a layer of gravel or river sand.

potting mixture, but not up to the brim, so that you can water the plants without spilling over the edge. 5 If you’ve bought seedlings, remove each one gently from its tray and plant them at the depth they were in the tray, pressing down lightly around each plant to ensure its roots do not dry out. TIP Follow the advice of your nurseryman in spacing your seedlings, because if they are planted too close together, they won’t thrive. 6 It is usually a good idea to water your plants straight away, so that they don’t wilt. This also allows the soil to readjust and pack around your individual plants.

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Don’t fret: If your plants are looking a bit wilted and distressed after all your hard work, relax! The coolness of night will give them a chance to perk up and you’ll be surprised when you see how plucky they look in the morning. UPKEEP Watering your seedlings to ensure they don’t dry out will become an important job if you expect a harvest. Liquid fertilisers and fish emulsion can be applied every two weeks to nourish your plants and promote good growth. Your new patch of seedlings will be needing all the love and care you can give them, and as the old adage goes, the more you put in, the more you get out.


Dealing with pesky pests It can be heartbreaking when pests chomp their way through your veggie patch. There are ways to deter them which won’t damage the plants, the garden or the environment. BY TERRY VAN DER WALT

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P IC TU R E: DAVID C LO D E

HERE ARE lots of products on the market to deal with garden pests but these days more and more people are turning to home-made recipes to deal with them, without compromising their health and that of their soil and garden environment.

1 MILDEW, RUST AND OTHER FUNGAL INFESTATIONS These affect your plants, and ultimately your harvest, and can be dealt with by making up a garlic spray.

GARLIC SPRAY You will need • 4 to 5 cloves of garlic • 1 litre boiling water • 1 bottle with a spray pump Method Mash or finely chop your garlic cloves and steep them in the boiled water. Once it has cooled, strain the mixture to ensure it does not block the nozzle of your spray. Now you are ready to go and do battle with the mildew and rust.

2 CATERPILLARS, MAGGOTS AND SOFT-BODIED INSECTS These munch their way through your patch but can also be sent packing, using a mixture straight from nature.

NATURE’S REMEDY You will need: • 4 hot chillies • 1 onion • A few cloves of garlic • 2 litres water • 1 spray bottle Method: Chop up garlic and boil in 2 litres of water. Add the other ingredients. Strain the mixture once it has cooled. Using a spray bottle, you can immediately go into battle.

TOP TIPS TIP 1 It is a good idea to put a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid into these two mixtures because it serves as a wetting agent, helping the mixture stick to the surface of the leaves. TIP 2 If your patch is exposed to the elements, don’t spray if it looks like it is going to rain and don’t spray when the sun is beating down on the plants because this might burn them. Ask your nurseryman about eco-friendly products which you can use to deal with any specific invasion that stands between you and a healthy harvest.

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Keeping monkeys away Monkeys can be a menace in some areas but there are ways to deal with them without hurting them. Remember, this was their territory before humans arrived, so foraging and helping themselves to your produce comes naturally. HERE ARE FOUR WAYS TO KEEP MONKEYS AT BAY. 1 Enclose the vegetable garden with wire mesh or shade cloth. 2 Plant lots of chillies

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among your vegetables.

3 Hang up shiny and reflective materials such as old CDs or pieces of mirror.

4 Use an alarm system that switches the sprinklers on when monkeys set it off. Experts say whatever you do, remain consistent with your approach until the troop is discouraged. And don’t feed the monkeys, since this will only encourage them back to your vegetable patch.


INDEPENDENT THE

on Saturday

FOCUS ON KZN

GARDEN ANYWHERE You don’t need a proper garden to grow your own veggies. Balconies and even bits of wasteland can be cultivated for your and your community’s health s

BY DUNCAN GUY Xolani Hlongwa of the Green Village and Green Gallery projects admires tomatoes and beetroots planted in the ruins of a building in Durban’s Umbilo Road.

INDEPENDENT on Saturday’s editor Mazwi Xaba has a passion for helping homes and communities grow food gardens – which was spurred on further because of lockdown. His weekly newspaper features all the tips, tricks and stories you need to turn your balcony, garden or community land into a kitchen garden. Read the newspaper every Saturday to get the latest news from avid gardener Duncan Guy. 2 4

THE CITY’S urban agriculture scene is emerging from winter and lockdown. In Durban’s Umbilo Road, a healthy row of tomatoes and beetroots planted during level 3 are on their way towards rooting and fruiting in the dilapidated ruins of a building where former ballet artist Xolani Hlongwa has started a food garden and art centre at his Green Camp project. “It’s to show that you can farm anywhere,” he says. Much of the agricultural activity, however, now happens at his associated Green Village project in Monteseel, near Drummond. In Durban North, seedlings have

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sprouted in compost bags as Fin McLean prepares to spread the idea to inner-city balconies, complete with guides on how to grow food in South African languages, French and Swahili. His initiative, Ubuntu Farms, was born out of wanting to make a lockdown feeding scheme in the Point area more sustainable. “It will empower people to take control of their food production. We’re trying to create the idea that they can grow anything,” said McLean, 20, who has been back home from Stellenbosch University since the beginning of lockdown. He is studying sustainable urban development.

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Spring has seen herbs flourish in off-the-grid guru Graham Robjant’s garden, thanks to the worm tea he produces on-site. Vegetable seedlings are responding to the new season by growing rapidly in his nursery section. He’s sorting out his ant problem by applying black pepper, a bit of salt – not too much because it can change the pH of the soil – and vinegar, instead of commercial products which are harmful to the insects. “These things don’t harm the ants. They just don’t like them.” Robjant never wants another incident of a “creature of nature” suffering because of gardening chemicals, like the hadeda that choked to death in his hands after eating toxic slug pellets. He values the birds for doing a great job, turning the earth while foraging. A better way to deal with slugs and snails is to break up eggshells, or place copper coins in the garden. “They don’t like eggshells because they damage their sensitive membranes and the coins cause electric shocks,” he says. Sunflowers, which will attract birds and bees, are expected to pop up in a week. He battled to find seeds and ended up buying rabbit mix that contained them from his supermarket. Grasses thrive underneath his bird feeder and in other patches of his garden, courtesy of bird droppings. One is sorghum. Permaculture boffin Vanessa Meintjes recommends the grain as a way people can practise the “three sisters” version of North American planting, using indigenous food plants, with sorghum providing the structure for wild peas that are climbers and indigenous watermelons that spread below them. She also encourages cultivating food plants alongside indigenous growth to increase biodiversity. There is an abundance of monkeys in Glenwood, which has forced people to get creative to safeguard their food gardens, says Robjant. “During lockdown there was very little vehicle traffic. Monkeys became a lot braver in the territory we took away from them.” His alert young German Shepherd keeps them at bay. Robjant’s home is powered by solar panels and people constantly ask him for advice about going off the grid. He says the appliance you need to keep going is the fridge, where food is stored, not the television set. He also recommends alternatives to air conditioning, such as whirly birds that suck out warm air through the roof, or a wet towel placed over a low-powered fan. “The problem is that people want to go off the grid but they don’t want to change their lifestyles.” His panels, though, power gadgets that suit him and his own lifestyle: devices that trigger bangs to go off if a fence hopper clears his walls, others that detect when the soil needs water and automatically pump it from his rainwater tanks when necessary. 2 5

PICTURE: ANDRETTI BROWN

FOCUS ON KZN

Lunga Dlungwana, nutrition team leader from the development organisation iThemba advises residents of Sweetwaters, near Pietermaritzburg, on growing their own produce.

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Gritty heroes Earthworms in your soil do much of the hard work for you

VERMICULTURE

This is the process of cultivating worms. It is a kind of “worm farming” with the goal of using worms to decompose organic food waste, turning the waste into worm castings that can be used to supply the nutrients needed to grow strong and healthy plants. They work as your personal gardener. Besides making organic fertiliser, they help rid your soil of disease and pests.

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ARTHWORMS are an important part of a garden’s ecosystem, also providing a tasty meal for birds who visit. As earthworms tunnel down, they aerate the soil, providing better water penetration and space for roots to grow. Earthworms feed on decaying plant matter and

micro-organisms in the soil. Their castings (waste) are a rich fertiliser which supply nutrients to plants. Earthworms won’t stick around in poor soil, so encourage them to stay by improving your soil quality. Dig in organic matter such as compost, manure or leaf litter

and add organic mulch to the soil surface. Earthworms don’t like to be disturbed. Use a fork when you dig. Garden earthworms should not be confused with red wigglers (Eisenia fetida), the earthworms used in vermiculture to compost waste matter. These earthworms cannot live in garden soil. P I C T U R E : @ A LE XAN D RGRAN T

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P I C T U R E : @ A LEXAN D RGRAN T

Squirmy worms to your aid This DIY experiment will show you how to make a worm farm and give an understanding of the decomposition of food waste. Making your own worm farm is a great project to do at home with your children www.lifeisagarden.co.za

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DID YOU KNOW?

MAKING YOUR WORM FARM

Items that worms love to eat are vegetable

There are many ways to make worm farms and many commercial systems available. We created a kitchen scraps monster based on the two-bucket worm compostor. This requires materials and processes that are easily accessible.

matter, paper serviettes, paper towels and coffee grinds. Avoid meats, juice boxes, anything waxed, plastics and animal poo. The worms prefer smaller pieces, so large items like banana peels should be torn up.

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METHOD

YOU WILL NEED

1 Using the spade bit, drill holes around the outer top part of the bucket. 2 Use the sandpaper to roughen the surface around the holes in the inside of the lid. 3 Cut 8 squares of the screen or shade cloth (large enough to cover the holes). 4 Put glue around each hole and stick your squares or strips of mesh over each hole – ensuring they are completely stuck down. Set aside to dry. 5 Switch drill bits and then drill a series of holes in the bottom of one bucket. 6 Spray the buckets on the outside with a plastic adhesive spray-paint. 7 Have fun with your scraps monster and decorate it with googly eyes and pipecleaner hair and the painted polystyrene balls. 8 Place this bucket inside the second bucket. 9 Place the worms in the top bucket. If you have bought your worms from a worm farm supplier, they will come in a layer of peat moss – add all of this into the bucket. 10 Add a layer of wet newspaper and top with more vegetable matter. 11 Top with more wet paper, or cardboard (torn up pizza boxes work well). 12 Add more kitchen scraps each day and always top with a layer of wet paper or cardboard. 13 Cover with a lid and leave in a cool, shaded area, so that it doesn’t dry out. 14 Once the food waste reaches the level in the bucket where you can stack another bucket on top of the worms, without squashing them, you can add another bucket – with holes drilled into the bottom. Just be careful not to add more than ±20 cm of kitchen scraps, because the worms can get crushed under the weight. 15 Collect the “worm tea” after about 2 to 3 weeks from the bottom bucket and dilute 1:3 in water to use in your garden.

• 2 (or more) 20 litre buckets (these can be old buckets you have at home – but ensure they are clean) • 1 bucket lid (you can use the original lid or make a simple wooden top for easy handling) • Mesh or shade cloth • A drill • 10mm spade bit and 5mm drill bit

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• Waterproof glue (or glue gun) • Fine sandpaper • Scissors • Water • Spray-paint, craft paint, googly eyes, pipe-cleaners and polystyrene balls • Newspaper • Kitchen scraps • Red wiggler earthworms (about 100 worms)


GROWING THEIR OWN Garden Day is celebrated in October every year. Here urban food gardeners tell us how they began their vegetable patches

J O S E P H I N E K AT U M B A

MAMA REFILOE MOLEFE

URBAN GARDENING ADVOCATE FROM JOBURG believes South Africa should learn from the way American households responded to critical food shortages during World War II. The US government promoted the Victory Gardens concept which encouraged families to grow their own food both for nutrition and to boost morale. Katumba, 24, believes Covid-19 has given added relevance to an idea she has been promoting since late last year when she launched Biakudia Urban Farming Solutions (Bufs) which aims to support corporates, restaurants, schools, communities and individuals to start their own food gardens.

HAS DEVELOPED EXPANSIVE FOOD GARDENS ON ABANDONED BOWLING GREENS and gives free fresh produce to needy people, especially children in her inner-city community of Bertrams in Joburg. Along the way, she has overcome numerous obstacles and challenges and even the Covid-19 lockdown has left her undaunted. “I couldn’t sell produce and the vegetable juices I make at the markets and to restaurants, because they were closed, and my customers couldn’t buy from me for three months. But we still managed to run a soup kitchen and deliver food parcels to underprivileged people in the area,” she says. “Now we need to start afresh and we are already preparing to plant our summer crops.”

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N H L A N H L A M A K W E DESCRIBES HIMSELF AS A “CREATIVE ENTREPRENEUR”. This 25-year-old from Orlando West in Soweto has set out to inspire young people to lead the way in encouraging residents of the area to become more self-sufficient by growing their own food – with the most limited resources. He works with between 20 and 30 children and teaches them how to grow vegetables in containers they make from discarded plastic bottles, wood, tyres and other materials recovered mainly from a local dump site. He tries to make their time in the garden fun, creative and engaging. Courtesy of www.gardenday.co.za

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PERMACULTURE IS THE FUTURE It is based on a set of principles that allow us to look after ourselves, each other and the planet in a way that is fair and sustainable BY TERRY VAN DER WALT

P ICT URE : @ M ALL IVAN

SO, YOU’VE heard people talk about permaculture, but were too embarrassed to ask what it is or you figured it was too complex a concept to adopt in your busy life. Put simply it is the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable, self sufficient, eco-friendly and ethical. Permaculture is, indeed, a way of life that is holistic in its approach; where people live in harmony with nature with a long-term outlook aimed at reducing waste, making good use of what nature provides, and throwing in a bit of tech, just to keep it interesting.

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he term permaculture was first coined by Bill Millison, the Tasmanian son of a fisherman, who went on to become a professor in this field. He defined permaculture as: “The conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive

systems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of the landscape with people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.”

More and more people are turning to permaculture, not just because it improves the quality of life, but because it also offers them hope in a time where so much seems to be in turmoil and our very existence seems to be in doubt.

David Holmgren, a co-originator of permaculture with Mollison, came up with 12 principles that guide permaculture, offering us practical solutions in every area of our lives by taking care of the planet and people and ensuring surplus is shared fairly.

Tom a toes gr o win g i n a gr een hou se ar e usi ng th e na tur al stre ng th of the sun to thrive.

THE 12 PRINCIPLES OF PERMACULTURE 1 Observe and interact so you can respond to what is really important in moving towards a more ethical and sustainable life. 2 Catch and store energy from the sun by growing food and by using passive solar energy systems. 3 Obtain a yield, either providing food from your garden or something less tangible, such as happiness, health or mental well-being. 4 Apply self-regulation and feedback to understand where we’ve succeeded and where we’ve gone wrong. It could be something basic like ethical buying decisions, recycling or reusing. 5 Use and value renewables by using 3 1

the power of the sun, the wind and water to power our homes, grow food and regenerate our environments. 6 Produce no waste by eliminating trash through composting, recycling and reusing materials. 7 Design from patterns to details, whether designing a new vegetable garden, or an entirely new sustainable way of life. We have to look at the big picture before we get bogged down in the little things. 8 Integrate don’t segregate. Just like people, plants work well in diverse systems so companion planting is the way to go. 9 Use small, slow solutions. Start small so you’re not overwhelmed, by

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making incremental changes towards a sustainable future. 10 Use and value diversity. As with plants, human society functions best when there is a variety of different people involved. 11 Use edges and value the marginal. This simply means make use of all the resources at your disposal, whether land, workplaces, homes or society in general. 12 Creatively use and respond to Change. Change is inevitable, and we need to design for changing seasons, changing attitudes and changing climate, if we are to turn thoughts into actions to move to a more ethical and sustainable way of life.


CLUB FED

Chef, cooking instructor and author Sophia Lindop’s latest book Going Home is a collection of Lebanese recipes gathered from her family roots. She conjures up these delicacies from her garden to her plate and shows you how you can do the same.

Feast on Mediterranean delights

Aubergine salad with shaved fennel Serves 4 Ingredients 4 large, firm-skinned aubergines, partially peeled oil for frying 1 large fennel bulb Âź tsp baharat juice of a quarter lemon zest of one lemon a drizzle of olive oil 3 tbsp tahini a generous drizzle of pomegranate

molasses 2 tbsp honey handful toasted pistachios 4 tbsp pomegranate arils 8 large mint leaves, torn Method: Cut the aubergines in 1cm slices. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the aubergine slices until soft and golden brown. 3 2

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Set aside on paper towel to drain the excess oil and allow to cool. In the meanwhile, shave the fennel bulb using a mandolin. Place in ice-cold water and allow to stand until you are ready to assemble the dish. Just before serving, place the aubergine slices on a platter. Sprinkle the baharat spice over. Drain the fennel shavings and O C T / N O V

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pat dry. Top the aubergine with the fennel and squeeze the lemon juice over the dish. Top with the lemon zest, olive oil, tahini, pomegranate molasses and honey. Finally, add the pistachios, pomegranate arils and torn mint leaves. Serve as an accompaniment to a meat or poultry dish or as a main course with a fresh green salad.


Batata harra ‌batata (potatoes) harra (hot or chilli) Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients 10 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1cm cubes 60ml olive oil 2 tsp paprika juice of half a lemon sea salt flakes to season 1 medium-hot red chilli, finely sliced 3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped 30g fresh coriander, roughly chopped Method Preheat the oven to 180ÂşC. Toss the potato cubes in the olive oil and paprika until coated well. Season with the salt flakes and lemon juice. Place in an oven dish and put into the oven for an hour or until soft and browned. Meanwhile, chop the garlic and coriander. As soon as you remove the dish from the oven, sprinkle the garlic over the hot potatoes along with the chilli. Just before serving, sprinkle the coriander on top. Serve hot.

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Hummus bi tahini (with roasted carrots) Serves 8 to 10 (makes about 2 cups)

Ingredients 6-8 medium carrots (and a little olive oil and Maldon salt to roast) 400g can of chickpeas (240g drained) 3 large cloves garlic, crushed 120g tahini 60ml fresh lemon juice Ÿ tsp ground cumin 60ml olive oil Method Preheat the oven to 180°C. Peel the carrots and cut them into smaller chunks, if necessary. Toss in olive oil and sprinkle with Maldon salt. Place in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes or until tender. Set aside to cool. Drain the chickpeas, retaining some of the liquid, and place in a food processor. Peel the garlic and add to the chickpeas, along with the tahini, lemon juice, cumin, oil and carrots and blend to a smooth purÊe, adding some of the liquid, a drizzle at a time, to get a smooth consistency. If need be, you can add a little cold water to get the consistency right. Drizzle with extra olive oil and serve on a mezze platter.

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HELP US TO HELP PICTURE: @JCOMP

Millions of people in Mzansi go hungry as a result of joblessness, made worse by the pandemic. Initiatives set up by NGOs are helping to ensure nutritious meals are provided to the less fortunate but they need all the help they can get. And this is where you come in

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WAYS YOU CAN HELP 1 You can donate excess veggies from your garden to a local soup kitchen or community in need. 2 You can grow excess seedlings which can be donated to a community garden initiative. 3 You can get involved in a local backyard gardener project which teaches people the basics. 4 You can grow vegetables on your pavement which others can pick. 5 You can donate time or money to a local NGO working to alleviate hunger. Do you have a community garden or organisation in your area that is doing amazing things to improve food security and make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Send us the name and a short description of the organisation or project, where it is based, what it does, and how others can get involved. We hope to feature some of these in future. Send your contributions to terry.vdwalt@inl.co.za

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