Well… let me rephrase that…
The VERY HUMBLE Beginnings of our Veggie Garden.
Last Friday I went to a talk about vermiculture and organic veggie gardening at the Tamboerskloof home of Luci, who writes the newsletters of the Tamboerskloof website.
The first topic was covered by Barbara Jenman, who showed us her rubber-tyre design for a worm farm and explained roughly how it works. Essentially, the system consists of a rubber tyre on ‘stilts’, with the top cut off; a container is placed underneath the opening in the tyre to catch the liquid that the worms excrete (erm… I guess that would be their pee… 😉 ).
The tyre is first lined with a fine mesh ring, on which you place the ‘bedding’ (shredded newspaper – yip, finally a sensible use for the Property Times!, peat, untreated wood shavings if you can find those, which you wet a little). Then you add the startup supply of red worms in compost, and cover them with a bit of food scraps – not too much, or they’ll get indigestion. 😉
Then you cover that with a ‘blanket’ of wet newspaper, a wet hessian sack, or the underfelt of an old carpet. And lastly, you cover it with the top of the rubber tyre. As the worms munch their way through your food scraps, they leave behind ‘worm castings’, which is what you can use as compost in your garden.
The oddest thing I found out was that the worms used are not the South African variety, but a reddish Australian one. I’m not sure why, though – perhaps they have better appetites than our local version?
Barbara, who is very knowledgeable about her worms, belongs to the Earthworm Interest Group of Southern Africa. Never having given worms of the gardening variety much thought so far, I find it amazing, somehow, that such an organisation exists. You can read their fascinating Autumn/Winter 2008 newsletter here.
Now that I’ve started looking for information on vermiculture, it seems to be everywhere! The cleverly titled website Global Worming lists the following reasons why worm-farming is better than a ‘normal’ compost heap:
- “Vermiculture requires much less space
- Vermiculture does not produce bad smells and green house gases
- Vermiculture can be done anywhere, even indoors
- Vermiculture can process waste in less time
- Vermiculture saves you money on fertilizers, soil conditioners and insecticides
- Worm Tea (liquid worm castings) is both a natural pest repellent and organic fertilizer
- Worm Castings have more ‘available’ plant nutrients than compost
- Worm Castings contain agents that control plant disease
- Worms will revitalize your garden’s soil in many more ways than compost
- You can sell the castings and worms once you have an excess, to pet shops, nurseries, landscapers, farmers, and tackle shops.”
It all sounds very sensible to me!
Organic veggie gardening
The second topic was talked about by Joanne Polzin, who has recently established her very own veggie garden in her back yard. Though I don’t think she is (as yet) able to feed her entire family on the produce, she spoke with such passion and enthusiasm that I felt inspired to go home and get started myself. If you want to read more about her project, go to her first post. I hope she’ll update it soon.
A really interesting and more large-scale neighbourhood project is the Ariston Elemental Organic Garden Project in Claremont (specifically at the end of Dunluce Avenue, Lansdowne Road, Palmyra Road and Montrose Avenue), which is run by Brigid Jackson. I have yet to go and visit this, but hope I’ll have time soon.
Our humble beginnings
In the meantime, here are some photos from the veeeery humble beginnings of our veggie garden:
The last red pepper we ate was so full of seeds, that I kept them aside – now I’ve seeded them here next to the pretty pansies. Last time I tried to grow red peppers, I used seed trays and really pampered them, but they all inexplicably died… This time round, I’m trying the tough-love approach: Grow… or don’t. At least they’ll get some nice sun here in the afternoon.
I bought some carrot and cucumber seeds from the nursery and seeded them in, respectively, the brown and green pots in front of the lemon tree because the packet says they demand FULL sun. I don’t know if there’s enough space in the pots, or if it would have been better to sow the seeds directly into the cleared ground next to it, but given the local cat population, which seems to think that cleared grounds = kitty litter, I thought it best to give the seeds a chance to develop first. The white pot contains the rest of the red pepper seeds, just in case.
Lettuce and chard – I had moved this window box into the sun, because I thought the lettuce required full sunlight; but today I read that both lettuce and chard prefer more shade, so I will have to move these somewhere else – thus leaving this window box available for some more carrots!! 🙂
And on Saturday after the talk, I immediately sowed some radish seeds in this window box, where two basil clippings had managed to cling to life —
— and LOOK! Ok, you might need a magnifying glass, but I promise, there’s a little green thingy poking out of the soil!
Right, now HOW LONG will it take before we can harvest???