Wednesday, February 5, 2014

5 Gardening Lessons From The Climate, Weather, What I Grow & What My Family Needs

water damage in one of the garden walkways
I've been looking for a quote about gardening in Johannesburg which is so true it made me laugh. I think I read it in a magazine.

The gist of it is that, the climate in Johannesburg allows you to grow anything. "The problem with it is that most of you do," the source is quoted as saying, referring to some of the cluttered Joburg gardens.

That's where I cut my gardening teeth - an urban garden where I had a hard time killing whatever I planted.

I didn't appreciate how priviledged I was having four-season rains and moderate temperatures until I  moved to the North West province, where the climate is hot and dry... when it's not storming.

This past week we had some wonderful rains, which gave my veggies a good soaking. I am very happy about that. I finally feel like my summer crops will survive the weather. However, the rain also resulted in water damage like what you see in the pic above left. And that I was not so excited about.

Lessons Learnt

1. Work with your environment, not against it - I've heard that said numerous times, but it was meaningless to until I started gardening here in Phokeng and had to contend with various plants that thrived in hot dry weather (that I considered weeds or useless to me), while the plants I did grow struggled. Moving forward, I plan to grow plants that are not only edible, but can easily thrive in hot dry weather.

2. Understand your gardening space - I know, I know. Another old saw. Still, at first it seemed to me I had it easy -  a big gardening space, around 450 square metres ( around a small residential stand in Johannesburg), fenced, with access to water and some trees to provide some shade but not enough to block the sun for most of the garden beds.

We are on a slope, with a dam one house over, so I expected soil erosion and the clay soil. Still, it wasn't until I watched some of my soil float away, to be replaced by a different layer from neighbours' yards,  but not in the places it was needed, that I began to understand what these conditions meant.

These past couple of days we created clear routes for water to flow through our yard during heavy rains, and we have enough pathways that the water doesn't have to be bogged in one particular area.

The route were chosen based on how the water travelled during this season. Instead of blocking the water, we're assisting it, working with it. And I wouldn't have known to do this until I experienced it.

Beauty in unexpected places
3. Embrace the unexpected - See that beautiful morning glory on the stone floor?

It's growing in a tiny crack I didn't even know was there. Wisdom says remove it and close the crack.

Maybe I will close it when the plant is spent. Meanwhile, we're all enjoying the flowers each morning from the kitchen view.

So yeah, I love growing things. But I'm also happy when my garden suprises me. In case you're wondering, this is a country/village garden, on a such a tight budget it squeaks, not a tidy, manicured, cosmetically engineered garden. So I'm grateful for anything that grows that's not a weed.

4. Mulch, mulch, mulch - Thank you Nana Chel for reminding me on the forum. And if anyone reading this is not convinced, consider the first pic in this post and imagine that kind of damage happening in your beds. So yeah, I need to do a lot of mulching this season.

We grew the little peach tree & 4 others from seed
5. Refine your plans as you get to know your garden space - After the rains, I looked at the garden and I could see some good possibilities for planting fruits, and then underplanting those trees. That expands our food choices (I spend a huge amount on fresh fruit each week).

The challenge however, is that I don't want can't wait 5-7 years before harvesting our fruit.

So I'm going to source some dwarf fruit trees that could potentially fruit soon.

The challenge is the cost, of course. But I won't know until I start shopping around what is possible or not.

Meanwhile, we also have a lot of seed that we will grow to saplings. That will be our long-term investment.

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