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Archive for September, 2009

There’s more to bees than honey and stings. Without them, we’d have a lot less food on our plates – honeybees pollinate more than 30% of everything we eat, which is why scientists are increasingly concerned about the mysterious phenomenon of Colony Collapse Disorder, the apian world’s answer to the Marie Celeste…

“The Vanishing of the Bees” is a feature-length documentary highlighting the real impact a declining honeybee population could have on the world we live in and the food we eat. Check out the trailer here:

YouTube – Vanishing of the Bees Trailer.

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aubergine2Whether you call them brinjals, eggplants or aubergines, they all originated in India and come from the same family as tomatoes, potatoes and peppers. Pick them at their very best and freshest and kiss goodbye to the bitter taste often associated with more mature, shop-bought ones.

If you’re looking to save money, consider this: a tray of six aubergine seedlings from your local nursery will set you back around R16; one large or a couple of smaller aubergines at the supermarket will set you back around R9. You can expect 5-6 good-sized aubergines per plant (or more if you harvest them when they’re still small). Well, you do the maths… (more…)

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Worm composters beware! Pesticide-covered watermelon could kill your squirmy friends – and make you sick too.

164009_watermelonIf you’re reading this blog, there’s every chance you’re the owner of some type of worm composter. The people over at FullCycle in Noordhoek, Cape Town are reporting that several of their customers noticed their worms died after being fed watermelon. In looking for a possible cause, they found that a pesticide by the name of Aldicarb (brand named “Temik”), although severely restricted for use in other countries, is listed for use on crops by the Department of Agriculture in South Africa. (more…)

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tomseedlingsOf all the vegetables you can grow for yourself, tomatoes are probably the most rewarding both in terms of crop potential and from a flavour point of view – shop-bought ones are bred for shelf life and pretty much taste that way. Your own, freshly picked toms will have a distinctive aroma and won’t taste like styrofoam. If you get carried away and produce too much, cook up a storm, freeze it and you’ll be eating your produce well into the autumn. You also don’t need much space – toms grow just as happily in containers as in the ground. Here’s how to do it…

Tomatoes grow easily enough from seed but bear in mind that you’ll need to sow in late winter if you don’t want to wait too long for your crops. Assuming, then, that you’re buying a seedling tray (or two) from your local nursery:

To plant into the ground:

Plant into soil that’s been well prepared. This means forking over the ground and removing weeds, big stones and old roots before digging in some compost. Choose a spot that’s relatively sheltered from the elements but which gets decent sunlight (or the tomatoes won’t ripen). Tomatoes like a bit of space and are prone to disease if they don’t get enough air circulating among the leaves, so space them at least 60cms apart, preferably up to 75cms. If you’re lucky enough to have a big garden and want to plant a couple of rows, allow 90cm between them or you’ll end up trampling and bumping into your pride and joy each time you water or go to harvest.

To plant in containers:

One plant per good-sized pot – at least 30cms diameter, but try for 38cms+ if you can. Fill the container with compost (preferably mushroom or other organic-type if possible) to the level of the “lip” or ledge that runs just below the top.

In both cases, carefully remove the seedlings from the tray by pushing from the bottom of the container. Don’t be too rough – a bit of damage to a leaf is usually okay, but stem damage almost inevitably translates into a dead plant. (more…)

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With Planting Season officially starting in South Africa tomorrow, there’s no better time to give it a go. If you’re just starting out or don’t want to spend too much time on your garden, here are some suggestions that are almost guaranteed to get you results…

radish1) Radishes – If you think you don’t like them, that’s probably because you’ve only ever tasted the half-soft ones that have been hanging around the supermarket for a week before you get to them. Freshly harvested, thinly sliced radishes are the making of a salad – peppery, crisp and with great colour. Best of all, they’re practically idiot-proof and grow really quickly (you should have your first crop in about three weeks), making them ideal if you’ve got kids or you’re just impatient. Sow every 10 days or so and you have a continuous supply. Water regularly or they can become woody and too peppery.

rocket2) Rocket, mixed leaves – One tray of mixed-leaf seedlings from your local garden centre, planted out, will keep you in fresh salads for weeks. Rocket will grow like a weed again and again, and you should have your first crop in a month or so.


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One small radish…

An apple a day might keep the doctor away but what about the psychiatrist?! Over the past year, I’ve found that growing a few vegetables in my very small garden seems to make me a much nicer, less stress-bunnied individual. Okay, so maybe it can make you just a teeeny bit obsessive (ask anyone who’s ever sown a packet of seeds how often they check up on their progress) but it’s enormously satisfying, it doesn’t cost much and you don’t need a few acres to get a kick out of it.

Even in very small gardens (such as mine in the burbs of Cape Town) it is possible, with just a little bit of work to have something from your garden on your plate every day. This is what my blog is about – one small radish, lettuce, carrot, beetroot, artichoke, cucumber…your organic dose of one a day, along with a few recipe suggestions for what you can do with your bounty, getting rid of pests without resorting to chemicals and some musings on life and food in general.

My first artichoke

My first artichoke

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