South Africans are feeling nervous about food security, but instead of going out to panic buy, we thought we would help people start their own food gardens.
South Africa (14 July 2021) – With food security a hot topic once again in a country where it is always an issue, we thought we would look at how to start a small veggie garden in your own backyard or balcony.
Over the last year, we have promoted several stories that celebrated home and community gardens. As families became reliant on food parcels that lacked nutritional diversity, turning to grow greens and herbs was a great way to bulk up family meals and add some extra nutrients.
Whether there are food shortages or not, being prepared and self-sufficient can’t hurt; plus, once you have set up, it is easy on the bank account.
So, where do you start if you have never grown anything in your life? We will start with the basics and work our way through to the more complex ideas, but this article is for beginners so that we won’t go too in-depth.
The first thing you need to know when starting a garden is what season you are in. Different fruits and vegetables react and grow differently, depending on the weather.
As we are currently in the thick of Winter, it will definitely affect your ability to grow. Don’t fear, though; Spring is around the corner, so now is the time to start preparations.
For the best resource to know what to grow now and in what province, check out the Livingseeds Gardening Group. Each month the group moderators share a growing list for each province. You can find the monthly grow guides here.
The Seeds and Seedlings.
To grow fruits, herbs, spices and vegetables, you need seeds. Most grocery stores sell a basic selection of seeds. Garden centres, nurseries, hardware and specialised seed companies are also great ways to get seeds in South Africa.
If you have friends that grow their own, ask them to share a seed or two. We have learned gardeners are super generous.
Seeds can also feel overwhelming, and that is ok; many garden centres will also sell seedlings. These make everything go a bit faster as you don’t need to baby the seeds.
Knowledge and Lessons
There is so much information out there in fellow gardeners, YouTube videos, websites, podcasts, books, and so much more.
It is important to understand what is needed to be a successful gardener. From growing requirements, soil and nutrients, companion planting and more. The key is to start slowly and learn as much as you can at the same time. We recommend selecting two to three vegetables and learning everything about them before taking on more. Garden overwhelm is a thing, but it can be helped.
Here are some pointers on learning about growing your own.
- Select a fruit or vegetable.
- List its growing requirements.
- Learn about the pests that could affect your plant.
- Collect all the tools, soil and nutrients that a plant would need throughout its lifetime.
- Run into any issues? Troubleshoot using all the resources above.
If you do this each year, before long, you will know how to grow enough fruit and vegetables to feed your family and maybe even your neighbours.
Find a Community
Community is everything in gardening. In South Africa, there are several Facebook groups that offer the community feel for gardening. We are joined to most of these to take a look below and select which ones work for you.
- Livingseeds Veggie Gardeners
- Self Sufficiency & Sustainable Living (South Africa)
- Self Sufficient Homesteading and Gardening
- Slow Food Community Seed Savers of South Africa
- Composting SA
- Urban Homestead South Africa
So what can you do now?
- Go into your garden and select an area where you will garden.
- If you have grass in the area, put down cardboard to kill it off.
- Decide if you will do raised beds or in-ground beds. If raised, start the process of building those up.
- Collect your seeds as per your seasonal research.
- Fill your garden bed(s) with good compost and topsoil.
- Start planting.
- While you wait for the first things to grow, learn and learn some more.
- Engage with your selected community, ask questions and learn some more.
Have more questions? Pop them in the comment section, and we will try to answer them, but joining the groups above will be your best bet! Happy growing!