REFLECTIONS IN MY MOUNTAIN GARDEN
As I walk around my gardens here in Haenertsburg, high in the Drakensberg mountains of Limpopo, I see how far we’ve come in nearly nine years and how much I’ve learnt. I’ve discovered that dried amaranth leaves are good for chicken food and that they love radish leaves as well as the gorgeous deep pink and white flesh ground up with some grated carrot. This year was the first time for sowing radish and carrot seed together. While the carrots take their time to grow, radishes spring up quickly.
The spaghetti squash outdid itself this summer, vining over a mesh tunnel, providing us with roasted delight. Green beans were abundant and I found out that cooked green beans are a great treat for the chooks. Single string tomatoes were a winner this season and seeds were saved from everywhere. The carrot flowers are as pretty as a bridal bouquet as they prepare to offer us seed for the next sowing.
The strawberries grew quite well in their hanging baskets, but I am planning to give them a space in the veggie garden alongside leeks and onions, their good companions. Winter brassicas have been planted with the dwarf beans, another good pairing, and if the chamomile succeeds this year, she will go and join them in their raised bed.
Speaking of which, raised beds are nice, but not totally necessary. A no-dig bed is simply cardboard laid over grass or weeds and then topped with a good mixture of mixed composts, vermiculite and coco peat, a third of each. How thick? Think carrots. The reasoning behind no-dig beds is that it protects the integrity of the soil, leaving the world underneath alone to carry on with its magnificent infrastructure undisturbed.
I’ve been experimenting with re-growing leeks and onions from pieces of root ends. It works! Exactly as shown on the University of YouTube. It is quite amazing how three onions are growing out of one root piece and leeks turned out to be just as willing.
Succession sowing was successful this year. A continuous supply of green beans, carrots and tomatoes resulted from staggered planting times and experimenting with different locations, some in full sun and others in partial shade.
March is a good time to start preparing the beds for winter planting, for refreshing the soil and pruning plants for a well-deserved rest, ready to spring up again in springtime. There are areas in my winter garden which I cover in cardboard to suppress weeds, and in areas where a heavy feeder has been harvested, I will plant a cover crop such as alfalfa or mustard and leave it to improve the soil. By keeping something green and growing all year, it also helps to sequester more carbon.
I follow the planting advice on www.gardenate.com for the summer rainfall region in South Africa, and when I’m doing our garden in Phalaborwa, I follow South Africa, Humid, Subtropical. Check it out; it has great info on plant companions and how to grow your vegetables and herbs of choice.