Tuesday, September 29, 2009



Today I had to plant up a new section that Superman built for me at our front gate. It's in full shade so no veggies here, just some pretties!

We let all the chickens out together as we are trying to integrate the two new girls. They are still very skittish.

This is Little P (named after a MTB World Champ - Steve Peat)

And this is Minnie (named after Greg Minaar - SA MTB Hero)

They are in a seperate coop during the day for a few days, but we will put them into the permanent coop tonight when the 4 existing girls start settling for the night. We hope this alleviates the pecking as they settle in.

While I was planting the new bed, Sam, our matriach decided to see what I was doing and hung around hoping for a worm or two.

Then I had to figure out a way to keep "big white dog" out of the flower bed. Somehow I think these stakes will not do much to protect them...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pretty Berry Blossoms

When we planned our second area last year August I knew that I wanted to grow fruit. But we didn't have the space to plant trees. So I chose to plant some berries.

The four I chose were Cape Gooseberries, blackberries, blueberries and booysenberries. We also added 4 granadilla vines for a bit of fruit.

My black berry plant wasn't looking to good though at the end of summer and when I read up on it's ailment it seemed like it needed potassium.

At the time I had some overripe bananas...Potassium rich! I blended them up skins and all and made a gooey banana smoothie, dug a little trench around the base of the balckberry and then covered it with soil.

And look at this now....all the gorgeous spring growth...

And a close up of the blossom...they are all over the plant and have the most beautiful baby pink on the edges.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Spinach & 3 cheese ravioli

My Swiss Chard Spinach has suddenly gone crazy and is delivering such gorgeous leaves. On Friday I decided to use what we had and make a meal using local ingredients - mainly homemade or homegrown! The only ingredient that I had to buy was some Peccorino & Feta cheese.

These are the ingredients: For the filling: Homemade cream cheese, Peccorino, Feta cheese, spinach, 1 egg. For the pasta: 4 eggs, flour, olive oil, salt water. For the sauce: 250ml cream (from my friend's cow!), 10 fresh sage leaves, butter and garlic.

Make the sauce first and set aside to be heated later. Melt the butter, fry the garlic, add the sage leaves and cream.

Mix the filling ingredients together, add steamed spinach that has been finely chopped.

Make the pasta dough

Roll out long strips of pasta. Spoon teaspoon fills onto the base...

Cover with a second pasta sheet. Press down around them to join the sheets.

Cut around the filling with a pasta cutter.

Boil in lots of salted water until they float. Spoon into the sauce to coat then into pasta bowls, sprinkle with Peccorino and enjoy with a "chatty little red" as my Dad used to say!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Growing beans

On Monday evening I set up my runner bean poles for my second sowing. I like to sow about 2 weeks apart, but I know for prolific growers like beans it could be more. This year I am determined to can and freeze surplus produce hence the closer sowing times.

My darling mom brings me back organic seed from her annual visits to the UK. They even have the Prince of Wales stamp of approval on them...LoL!

Beans can be grown up any trellis for climbing varieties, which I prefer to bush beans.

We have these scarlet runner beans on an A-Frame, but in my main veggie garden I planted stakes in the ground and ran a support pole across the top.

Two bean seeds can be planted at the base of each cane. Keep the ground damp until they start to sprout. You should see then within 7 days with warm day time temps.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Organic Pest Control

We had a great morning in the garden today as the rain has held off for the first time this week. So we mixed in manure to our beds where we will be planting corn and potatoes in a couple of days. I also added 2 bags of manure to each compost pile which helps in the decompostion of the materials.

Then we gave the chicken coop a deep clean and replaced the straw in their tyres.

We also dug up the last of the winter potatoes and have enough for two meals.

All the beans and corn I planted 14 days ago have sprouted nicely. I like to protect my seedlings from pests in a natural way.

Around the corn I sprinkle crushed eggshells. This stops snails getting to them. We don't have any snails anymore, thanks to the chickens, so I don't have a photo of that for you.

For my beans and squash (and any other stemmed veggie) I cut an empty toilet roll in half and gently push it into the soil around the stem. This stops cutworm from munching through the baby plant. If I find any cutworms in my compost they go to the chickens who see them as fine dining.

My cauliflowers are coming on beautifully, I wish I had planted more! A couple of days ago I saw the caterpillars of the White Cabbage Moth on the leaves so I sprayed them with an eco-friendly solution. No more caterpillars!

The spray is:

5 liters of water
250 ml vinegar
1 tablespoon of dishwashing liquid

Spray it on the leaves. This spray is useful for any caterpillars and any plant. You can also use it on mildew infected leaves.

Then while this is a bit of a distasteful topic I thought I would mention it. In Dec 2008 a family/ies of rats moved in somewhere in our garden. We have slowly been eliminating them with traps...we think we have the last one...it came scuttling out of the compost heap 2 weeks ago when we cleared the compost into bags.

People have asked, why don't you just leave RATEX out for them...well simply, we have owls in our area and Ratex moves down the foodchain and even the decomposing body of the rat will leech the poison into the soil.

So we got some eco-friendly bait and 3 traps and set them for the blighters. Last year they ate all our broccoli and I had become rather scared for my chickens as the rat would burrow into their coop at night.

But it's now been a week since we set the last trap and there are no new tunnels, so let's hope that is the end of the family!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Why do you call it Irish Stew, Mom?

We had rain all morning so I couldn't get into the veggie garden until late afternoon.

Besides for pulling up lots of weeds, we added our compost to two areas to prepare them for potatoes.

I also put cutworm collars (toilet rolls) around all my beans and squash that have just come up.

Then we did the fun thing...looked to see what we had to eat. This is what we found:

A lovely firm head of frilly cabbage....some potatoes...leeks....carrots and celery (not in the picture).

So at supper time Incredible Hulk asks: "Why do you call it Irish Stew, Mom?"

My anwser, well the Irish Catholics had so many children they had to stretch their food with veggies, particularly potatoes. So we had 500g of organic beef tonight with lots of homegrown veggies.

The cabbage went into my sisters farmhouse cabbage recipe: Melt butter, fry onions, fry shredded cabbage. Add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, lots of black pepper and caraway seeds. Yum!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Virtual visit to The Gravel Garden

I have mentioned in previous blogs that I am using a lot of heirloom seeds this year. I have bought them from two sources - www.livingseeds.co.za and The Gravel Garden. Because Shannon (from the Gravel Garden) doesn't yet have a website, I asked her to send me a little info about her heirloom seed business. All the photos here are her glorious tomatoes.

"I am a mother of two who loves making compost ,cooking and growing fresh food,keeping chickens and saving seed . I started gardening 12 years ago by necessity rather than passion. We had moved from Cape town to Somerset West to inherit a neglected garden on a 2400m2 plot.

It wasn't long before passion bloomed and in order to justify "staying" put in the garden. I opened a small backyard herb nursery in 1999. Saving seed from old varieties of vegetable has seen the demise of lovingly planted Roses and extensive indigenous gardens planted by myself in the last ten years.If we cant eat it , we generally don't grow it.. (barring a couple of pretties for the bees and butterflies) Seventy percent of the garden is now utilized for the growing of heirloom vegetables and saving seed which takes the plants well past harvest stage.

I love what I do and am continuously motivated by the enthusiasm of my children and their friends . This is a way of life that percolates and inspires people of all ages to better appreciate how and where their food is produced."

The chicken coop @ The Gravel Garden

A little on heirloom seeds:

"My definition of an heirloom vegetable (and there are a few) is the seed that has been nurtured and saved over generations. These seeds were smuggled over borders and seas in times of strife. Often sown into hemlines and jackets, immigrants from all over have always travelled with seed that had traits they found desirable. Flavour, productivity, disease resistance being some of them. Some modern day varieties have been bred and although not strictly heirlooms (50 years or older) are still on seed lists for heirlooms because of their ability to produce true seed.

I started growing heirloom vegetables about 4 years ago. Having had a veggie garden for a couple of years I was constantly on the lookout for “new” varieties. What I didn't figure on was that finding that “old” varieties were where all the taste was, especially when it comes to tomatoes. The tomatoes that we have become accustomed to are generally all picked green for shipping countrywide and gassed with ethylene to speed up ripening. This means that they can sit in cold storage for a long period and make it to your salad looking perky and ripe as if it where just plucked from the vine.

The taste....well, that seems to have fallen by the wayside hasn't it? Older, tastier (so much tastier) varieties are just not marketable. They don’t travel or store well. Their shapes are far from uniform and just don’t fit in those little polystyrene punnets. So the flavour of our fruit has been compromised and we forget how good that used to be.

There are virtually thousands of open-pollinated varieties out there. The real beauty of this is that gardeners and farmers can save their own seed from these fruit and vegetable and hold these 'genetically diverse gems' in safe keeping for future generations who just might need to have a little “food security” in the future."

For a full list of heirloom seeds contact Shannon at thegravelgarden@telkomsa.net.

We mail countrywide and seeds can also be purchased from me at my Backyard Nursery and Kitchen gardens.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sweet sweet spring

Every morning I go out and "survey my land". Superman normally joins me as we look at our little farm outside our kitchen door.

This morning we saw this most beautiful reminder that Spring is waking up.

We caught the vine leaf as a drop of morning dew slipped off it. The day has been gloriuously warm...hope it holds for the weekend. I am going to try to grow loofahs in tyres as the only climbing space left for the loofah vine is on a concrete surface...here's holding thumbs it works.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The last of the great spud stealers

I have been eyeing my potato plants for about a week now wondering when I can sneak a peak at what is going on under the soil...tonight I wanted, no, neeeeeded gnocchi and didn't have any potatoes in my cupboard.

So I snuck my hand under the soil and felt some pretty good sized spuds down there...

I took these from 2 plants...and they cleaned up to a pearly white completely blemish free.

I made spinach gnocchi (spinach also from the garden) with a creamy salmon lemon zest sauce....it was delicious!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"Chitting" Potatoes

A week ago I put my seed potatoes out to sprout - or "chitted" my spuds - as the pro's say!

Basically seed potatoes eyes need to develop before they can be planted.

In a box on some damp newspaper and in the shade for a couple of days and the purple eyes start to show. They will be ready to plant out this weekend, then I will start the next batch.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Preparing new ground

Today my elder daughter and I prepared the ground for our seedlings. We removed the sweet potato runners that need to go somewhere else, not sure where yet!

Then we added about 10 bags of our worm filled compost...it is thick and dark and free of smell.

We have in the past walked in this bed too much so we turned it over (sorry the no-dig enthusiasts) and then lay planks down that will be the walk ways.

We now have 4 mounded beds to be planted up. The second one I planted watermelon seeds. These melons are Amish heirloom ones called "Moon and Stars" which are apprently smaller than the big ones you find in the shops.

Can't wait! If you want to plant watermelons too for a summer snack please read the "how-to" here: http://www.simple-green-living.com/how-to-grow-watermelons.html

Repotting tomatoes

Today I repotted the tomatoes whose seed I sowed about a month ago in Winter. These did not go into our new hotbox but germinated in the old one. They are Carbon Heirlooms.

The idea is to sow them just a little deeper than they were originally. This apparently makes a stronger plant.

So, here we go, these should be ready to be planted out with the Spring Equinox on the 22nd. I am not sure of they will go in the upside down buckets or in a raised bed....

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Compost - it's so good, it's so good!

On Thursday we emptied out our compost that we have been making for about 8 months. It is really great stuff. Full of earthworms and rich moist and dark brown.

We have about 36 bags to add to the raised beds now. We used old bags from the horse manure I bought a couple of months back.

We had a second heap going to the right which has now been transferred to the cage and this opens a new space for the next heap.

On my green site I have instructions how to make compost: http://www.simple-green-living.com/how-to-make-compost.html

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The bug has bitten

I wasn't going to do another post today, and I wasn't going to work in the garden today...but well...the seed sowing bug has bitten.

Today I planted seeds for squashes and beans against the A-Frames.

This is what I planted:

Pumpkin (some Italian name Heirloom) - 5
Borlotto Fire Tongue Beans (Heirloom) - 12 Picture below
Butternut (Hybrid) - 3
Scarlet Runner Beans - (Heirloom) - 12
Gem Squash (Hybrid) - 10
Baby Marrow (Organic from the UK) - 10
Metre Long Beans (Heirloom) - 12

I hope they are happy in their situation. I was also thrilled that all the compost I dug in was from our own home brew!

Incredible Hulk and I also planted 35 Indian Rainbow Corn in the main veggie garden.

Sprouted seeds

Science says that if you plant a seed in soil and give it water and light it will grow...

I did expect this to happen, we were hoping for 5 days...we got sprouted seeds in 3. I planted in trays on Saturday and last night when we opened to water we found the kale, cucumber, and Swiss Chard already saying hello.



Just before this blog post I went to look again and my beet is up as well as some of my heirloom tomatoes and some of the loofahs....how exciting, I just had to share!