Friday, April 15, 2011

Reaching the end - Who is left?

The season has definitely started to reach it's end here in our garden. Most of our beds are empty now, with their previous inhabitants either harvested or casualty of some pest. Apart from our butter-nuts mentioned in the previous post, here is a bit of a run through:

Our heart shaped bed raging with ripening
tomatoes and healthy beetroot.
Firstly, our heart-shaped bed is now the only one that has some real activity taking place. As we mentioned before, we planted 6 tomato plants and six beetroot plants in it and I have to say they are all flourishing. After our first attempt at tomatoes failed miserably, we decided to give it another go. 

Our first batch of tomato plants fell victim to what I believe was Gray Leaf Spot disease. Even though the plants got big and many tomatoes started forming, their production soon stopped and the leaves all started going brown. Eventually we lost all of them and didn't get a single tomato from them. I haven't really found much regarding the treatment of this disease, so if anyone has a remedy, please share!

The new plants have been most giving with their fruit and we've had a steady supply of incredibly delicious tomatoes coming from them. 

The cucumber plants have been pulled out - They were probably the most giving in the whole garden. We ended up giving some of them away as we just had too many! Our sunflowers all turned out great.. Some much more than others. They were actually good indicators of where the best sun in the garden is, seeing as we planted them all over. Some got very tall and others stayed short and small.

Some of the taller sunflowers from the garden.
Our little sunflowers on the left - not the sunniest
of spots in the garden.
Our watermelons also took a dive from the same wilt that claimed one of our cucumber plants. Makes sense seeing as watermelon plants are also vines. To avoid it, they say one should rotate crops each year, plant disease-resistant varieties, and sow radishes in your melon patch - which apparently they deter cucumber beetles, which transmit the disease.

The Zucchini plants delivered a few enormous fruits! That's just before the powdery-mildew got them and now they too are over.. 

Currently, our gardening is still continuing though - we've still got our pepino melon plant and the spearmint along with my newly-found interest in making cuttings, which I'll post on soon.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Reaching the end - The Butternut-bed..

After a long absence due to work and academics, we are back! Regardless of how long it's been since we've posted an update, the garden has still been running it's course.

Seeing as this was our first, and very experimental attempt at a home-grown-organic-veggie-patch, a lot of lessons were learnt through the ups and downs of the garden. In the end, a lot of rewards came from the experience, along with the frustrations of pests and diseases that we also had to endure.

Two of our butternuts - The other fruits
are not from our garden ;)
We had five butternut-plants in our bottom bed. These guys started slowly but were soon growing at an amazing pace and soon crawled well beyond their own bed - and then came the powdery-mildew. Many plants appear to be succeptable to this fungal disease that appears as a white or grayish powdery growth on leaves, stems and buds. It started off slowly on one or too leaves, and then it spread quickly onto all five plants. Once a leaf was covered in it, it soon wilted and died.

This process goes quite quickly and pretty soon our first casualty came. The butternut-plant was left without a single leaf, it's stem drying out and it's one butternut at the end. Luckily, the mildew did not harm the fruit. We harvested it and pulled the dead plant out. This pattern surged through the bed, killing off all five the plants and leaving us with 3 butternuts - quite a tiny harvest! Nonetheless, we ate one of the butternuts recently and it was heavenly.. Dare I say, it was definitely the most tasty, scrumptious butternut I had had in a long time.

There are apparently a few ways one can treat this problem.. One we used, although we started it up a bit late, was actually quite effective:

Get your hands on some Ascorbic-Acid (Vitamin C) from any pharmacy or co-op. You can even just buy cheap and simple generic Vitamin C pills and crush them up. Mix a teaspoon or two into about a litre of water and spray this on the effected areas. Remember to spray under the leaves as well. This worked well to dry out the mildew and it made most of it die away - but you have to do this daily for as long as possible. It helped once we started but the damage was already done.

Apparently, something that works even faster, which can be used together with the Ascorbic acid, is Plant/Food grade hydrogen-peroxide. Here's a great link to the uses of it. Spray it on the same way you would the Vitamin C - dosage I'm not sure of.

Here's another link to some other approaches to countering this disease. If you have any tips/ideas on this topic, feel free to share them!

Next time we'll definitely be better prepared to preventing this disease from claiming our plants!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Progress Report - How everyone's doing

Since our last update, the garden has seemingly gone through some ups and downs - but everybody seems to be doing well for the most part (I'll mention the downs in my next update). Since our first harvest of Bok Choy and Spinach, we've enjoyed quite a few delicious salads courtesy of these plants. Our cucumber plants lost some leaves close to where the stem enters the soil, but the plant seems to be doing well regardless.. Despite the few leaves that seemingly shrivelled up and died, which has stopped happening, we have enjoyed quite alot of delicious cucumbers from them! We only realised once we started getting our first cucumbers that these aren't the English Cucumber, that we get in the stores here, but of the pickling cucumber variety. These are shorter with a prickly skin but taste just as good, although we've had one bitter one.

For our first attempt, the cucumbers have definitely been the most rewarding harvest-wise.

On the melon side of things, here's two photo's showing how our butternuts and our watermelons are doing:

One of our butternuts

A baby-watermelon

Britney and Pepe, our spearmint- and pepino-melon plants, respectively, have grown so much and are doing really well:

Our spearment is very happy here.

Our Pepino melon flourishing in his pot.

I'll do another post soon regarding some of the dips the garden has taken. Peace

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Serpent's Return

A while ago, we shared with you our first encounter with our unexpected visitor - a large Boomslang (Click here for the post). It didn't take her very long to show her face again! We had just finished watering and I sat down to have my coffee when a little bit of movement pulled my attention upward - and there she was once again!

This time, the camera was close by and I managed to get a shot of her as she was  exiting into the neighbours yard like before. The above-shown photo shows her lower-half - from her middle to her tail. It was still quite a sight seeing her fully extended across the arch, moments before this photo. Easily 1,3 meters in length.
We decided to name her, seeing as it was now clear she enjoyed visiting our garden from time to time. The name that stuck is Nyoka, which literally just means 'snake' in isiXhosa (one of South Africa's 11 official languages).

Monday, January 10, 2011

Progress Report

It's been 50 days since we started our gardening venture. With everything in its place, here is a sneak-peek into how far our plants have come. Please feel free to refer back to earlier posts for comparison of progress.


Top left - the mixed veggie patch. Top right - the cucumber patch. Above - the butternut patch.

The three beds with Mimilu watering.
Our tomato plants.
The first baby tomato.
The watermelon patch.

One of many baby watermelons.

Myself - busy harvesting our bok choy and spinach.
Our first harvest!
All the bottom beds.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

An indigenous touch.

Out of the six main biomes of our beautiful earth, Fynbos (which many consider synonymous with the Cape Floral Kingdom) is the smallest, but richest per area. Over a third of all South Africa's plant species call this biome their home, even though the Kingdom covers less than 6% of the country! One of the most famous Fynbos species is of course the Protea, with the King Protea being our country's national flower. Out of all the different Protea species, the one that joined our rapidly-growing little garden is the Liebencherry.

We planted her next to the sunflower bed - seeing as they love the sun. They are very drought resistant, low-maintenance plants that can bush out a width of 1,5 meters and reach a hight of about 2 meters. Not to mention their beautiful red-pink flowers, whom I'm told will arrive around our winter (June/July).

Despite all the beautiful plants that have made their way to South Africa from all across the world, I still think its important to look after and promote indigenous plant growth. We will definitely be adding a few more members of the Fynbos family to ours pretty soon.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Heart-Shaped Bed

Whether you see it as a kind-of-homage to Kurt Cobain's Heart Shaped Box, or an attempt to bring more love into our garden, or simply the most suitable shape to fill a space, a heart-shaped bed was our next addition. We needed to plant six more beetroot- and six more tomato starts - this would be their home. It took a good while to dig the bed out. Between breaking up super-hard clay and cutting away old hard roots, it seemed never-ending - but, after a good while of manual labour, we could start preparing the soil.

Once our usual compost and Gold Dust had been mixed with the clay-rich-soil, the new occupants moved in. We would have to put up some bamboo to support the tomatoes at some point - but that can wait for now. We framed the bed with some white stones we got from the nursery in order to make it stand out. Tree bark and some of our stones were used to join the bed into rest of the garden.

Although the sun had already left us, the finished
product still stood out very well.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Painting with Sunflowers

Apart from the few baby sunflowers we had planted in our vegetable beds, we still had a small army of ready-to-plant ones waiting in trays. After scanning the unused sunny areas in our garden, it was clear that they would find their new home behind the wall that runs along our watermelon patch. Although the soil was - again - rich in clay, this spot gets a nice amount of sun throughout the day. After the tedious task of digging six holes, each about 30 cm's deep, we started mixing in the Gold Dust and compost. 

Saya getting in there with her fashionable-lady-
Once the soil seemed like something could actually grow in it, we deemed it ready and started removing the babies from the trays. Saya carefully planted them, two in each hole. Once everyone had settled in, we watered the bed and rounded the bed off with some bamboo.

Mimilu added the final touches, which were Teddy-bear sunflower seeds being planted in the remaining open areas of the beds. We were told these don't need to be tray-planted first, and can be planted directly into the soil. So now, all that remains is to wait until we have our own row of sunflowers colouring in the old, blank wall behind the watermelon-patch.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Britney and Pepe

Our last visit to the nursery also saw to the arrival of two new perennial plants - a spearmint plant, who Saya named Britney, and a pepino melon plant, which I dubbed Pepe. We planted Britney into a fairly shallow but wide pot right next to the tomato patch. We mixed a lot of compost with some of our clay-soil. Pepe found his way into a tall-rectangular-shaped pot, right by the watermelon patch's entrance. The pot has a lot of decorating potential seeing as it has flat, large sides.

Our spearmint on the left and our Pepino melon on the right.

Besides the amazing smell of spearmint, I am told it has quite a lot of uses, ranging from medicinal to food-related. Here's a link to a site with a lot of uses and information for this special herb. The Pepino melon I chose because it already has it's first melon and because I'd never before seen one of these plants - although I'm told the fruit is delicious.!

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Quick Update..

Some time has past since we dug up our first beds. Despite the grub-attacks that have claimed two of our beetroot plants, everyone has been doing well. Casualties aside, all the plants were still there and have been joined by four Bok Choy (Chinese Cabbage), some tiki-torches and tiny sunflower plants. Here's a few photos to show how they're doing.

Beetroot, Spinach, Egg-plant, Cucumber,
Bok Choy, Rocket and Sunflowers.
The cucumber bed.

Three little sunflower plants with butternuts surrounding them.