Spring is in the air

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Spring is here, and with it Grahamstown seems to have woken a bit from its winter slumber. It is nice to hear the birds chirping in the trees again, and it is going to be nice to put the long johns aside once more.

There are two big bits of garden news this week: one regarding an indigenous garden project, and one regarding general spring planting.

The project to build a new park in town seems to be gaining some momentum, with a lot of interest from the staff at the Carinus art school. There is a nice big plot at the back of the art school and we plan to develop the plot into a garden. The plan will incorporate water-wise, indigenous and educational aspects.

Emphasis will be put on keeping the garden as low-cost as possible, so if you have any aloes you’re tearing out or garden materials that could be reused, we will be running a drive in about a month’s time. We will also be reaching out to the municipality, schools, and the business community, all of whom could benefit from learning how to maximise robust indigenous life in their respective terrains. If nothing else, water-wise gardening is becoming essential, so the quicker we gain momentum in encouraging an indigenous replanting of town, the less dust we will all have to put up with.

I think the space has a lot of possibility, especially because it already draws pupils and artists from all over town. If nothing else, it will create a vibrant and creative space both driven by and giving back to a Grahamstown institution. The more we can get people to see gardens as a creative and imaginative endeavour, the sooner we can begin seeing a town filled with birds and flowers. This goal may take a few years to achieve, but time will thank us.

This weekend is the ideal time to plant pretty much anything you want to see growing over the summer. This includes all of the cucurbits (squashes, pumpkin, butternut, etc) and brassica (spinach, lettuce, cauliflower, etc). Nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, chilies) are all already doing well, and I have already started seeing some self seeding here and there. An interesting combination you could try is mielies, green beans, and gem squash – each uses a different layer of the soil and air, so they should grow nicely together.

Having said that, watering your veggies is going to be a problem. Tomatoes and similar veg are likely to struggle as the summer comes in, though your roots (beetroot, potato, ginger, garlic, etc.) may manage decently.

A good alternative is to start planting a proper herb garden. It is the perfect time to be getting herbs in the ground, and if you get them started now, they will spread easily around the rest of your garden when they go to seed. A good starting set is basil, dill, coriander, rocket, rosemary and sage. These will all grow nicely in planters and small kitchen herb plots.

You can complement that with lemon balm (which has a truly lovely smell), borage, chives and mint in other beds. All of these plants will embed themselves and spread in the soil effectively, making your ground more sustainable and providing a bit of support for flowers and veggies in later seasons. If these plants get too much, just chop them up and mix them into your soil around your chosen plants and they will act as nutrient supplements.

  • Do you have a project you’d like to see featured in Gardening in G’town, or a gardening question? Please contact  chirag.patel@feedingtheself.org or 073 557 8909. Feeding The Self is a cross-NGO project focused around building gardens and using them for teaching and community building.
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