My Garden: What Stayed and What Left

I haven’t written about my garden in ages. Partly because I’ve been working in it whenever I’ve had the opportunity (lots, if you make the effort!), partly because I’ve been studying after hours and then partly because I’ve been enjoying the few moments I’ve had free having a social life. As one does. However, I reckon it’s about time I just sped you all up on what’s going on.

Since we last cast an eye soilwards, summer has seemingly arrived early here in the Winelands, prematurely booting spring off her floral throne. It’s been hot and dry already and that’s only supposed to kick in in a month or so. Roughly six months ago, I had only one raised bed made and installed and nary a vegetable in sight.

Suffice it to say, I have a second raised bed by now. It was made out of a ¾ bed, with the help of self-same friend who built the first one (he’ll be getting some free veg for sure!) and his son.

The buchu plant died a sudden death, despite my optimism that mine would not, so I’m no nearer to making my own buchu tea. But one day that will be a reality. The compost heap is coming on nicely with the help of my neighbours’ garden refuse and my own kitchen scraps. The cable ties are still keeping it all together, despite the raging south-easter.

For the smaller raised bed I had to build a chicken wire fence as a neighbour’s dog was digging up my seedlings. Now, everything in it is going wild. There are tomato, onion, marrow and broccoli plants (I thought I was sowing something else, so these will no doubt go to flower and seed soon, without collecting R200, since broccoli is a winter crop), coriander, linseed, sage and tiny little basil plants – a first for me!

The larger raised bed contains the rest of the ill-fated broccoli, some marrows, spinach, rocket and onions. To shield it from the sun, I built a makeshift dome from six rebars, irrigation tubing, 40% shade cloth and … cable ties! It works very well as it’s easy to remove and put back over the plants.

Both beds were plagued by worms a few weeks ago, but diligent hand-plucking twice a day sorted that out within two weeks. I have learned some new eclectic dance moves in the process. Also, what I thought was a chilli bush was covered in aphids, and the ladybirds and I were steadily losing the battle (even my potent garlic tea and castile soap spray couldn’t help curb the large volumes) when I gladly eventually realised it wasn’t a chilli bush. I promptly pulled it out (it was some type of inedible berry) and voilà! Problem solved.

So now it’s a waiting game for the new plants to show their stuff. I’m already eating the spinach, and there are signs of marrows on the way. Muy exciting! I still need to get new lettuce going, so that would be the next project. The seeds I sowed a few weeks ago have not yet come up, so I suspect they were too old.

The only downside to all of this is that despite only using organic methods in my own garden, not 5 metres away, the vineyards are being sprayed to kingdom come with chemical pesticides. I’ve constructed barricades, but most of my gazanias have been damaged, plus some of the other plants. It saddens me that the soil around me is being poisoned more every year.

Earlier this week, I came across this hugely uplifting and encouraging story and video posted on a forum I follow, about one farmer’s unexpected journey from “natural” farming to “chemical” farming methods, and I’m tempted to send it to the farm manager. It may be fall on deaf ears, but maybe, just maybe a little seed falls in the good soil.

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