Spring is in the air

Grocott's Mail - - OUTSIDE - CHI­RAG PA­TEL

Spring is here, and with it Gra­ham­stown seems to have wo­ken a bit from its win­ter slum­ber. It is nice to hear the birds chirp­ing in the trees again, and it is go­ing to be nice to put the long johns aside once more.

There are two big bits of gar­den news this week: one re­gard­ing an indige­nous gar­den project, and one re­gard­ing gen­eral spring plant­ing.

The project to build a new park in town seems to be gain­ing some mo­men­tum, with a lot of in­ter­est from the staff at the Jo­han Car­i­nus Art Cen­tre. There is a nice big plot at the back of the art school and we plan to de­velop the plot into a gar­den. The plan will in­cor­po­rate wa­ter-wise, indige­nous and ed­u­ca­tional as­pects.

Em­pha­sis will be put on keep­ing the gar­den as low­cost as pos­si­ble, so if you have any aloes you’re tear­ing out or gar­den ma­te­ri­als that could be reused, we will be run­ning a drive in about a month’s time. We will also be reach­ing out to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, schools, and the busi­ness com­mu­nity, all of whom could ben­e­fit from learn­ing how to max­imise ro­bust indige­nous life in their re­spec­tive ter­rains. If noth­ing else, wa­ter-wise gar­den­ing is be­com­ing es­sen­tial, so the quicker we gain mo­men­tum in en­cour­ag­ing an indige­nous re­plant­ing of town, the less dust we will all have to put up with.

I think the space has a lot of pos­si­bil­ity, espe­cially be­cause it al­ready draws pupils and artists from all over town. If noth­ing else, it will cre­ate a vi­brant and creative space both driven by and giv­ing back to a Gra­ham­stown in­sti­tu­tion. The more we can get peo­ple to see gar­dens as a creative and imag­i­na­tive en­deav­our, the sooner we can be­gin see­ing a town filled with birds and flowers. This goal may take a few years to achieve, but time will thank us.

This week­end is the ideal time to plant pretty much any­thing you want to see grow­ing over the summer. This in­cludes all of the cu­cur­bits (squashes, pump­kin, but­ter­nut, etc) and bras­sica (spinach, let­tuce, cau­li­flower, etc). Night­shades (toma­toes, pep­pers, chilies) are all al­ready do­ing well, and I have al­ready started see­ing some self seed­ing here and there. An in­ter­est­ing com­bi­na­tion you could try is mielies, green beans, and gem squash – each uses a dif­fer­ent layer of the soil and air, so they should grow nicely to­gether.

Hav­ing said that, wa­ter­ing your veg­gies is go­ing to be a prob­lem. Toma­toes and sim­i­lar veg are likely to strug­gle as the summer comes in, though your roots (beetroot, potato, gin­ger, gar­lic, etc.) may man­age de­cently.

A good al­ter­na­tive is to start plant­ing a proper herb gar­den. It is the per­fect time to be get­ting herbs in the ground, and if you get them started now, they will spread eas­ily around the rest of your gar­den when they go to seed. A good start­ing set is basil, dill, coriander, rocket, rose­mary and sage. Th­ese will all grow nicely in planters and small kitchen herb plots.

You can com­ple­ment that with lemon balm (which has a truly lovely smell), bor­age, chives and mint in other beds. All of th­ese plants will em­bed them­selves and spread in the soil ef­fec­tively, mak­ing your ground more sus­tain­able and pro­vid­ing a bit of sup­port for flowers and veg­gies in later sea­sons. If th­ese plants get too much, just chop them up and mix them into your soil around your cho­sen plants and they will act as nu­tri­ent sup­ple­ments. • Do you have a project you’d like to see fea­tured in Gar­den­ing in G’town, or a gar­den­ing ques­tion? Please con­tact chi­rag.pa­tel@ feed­ingth­e­self.org or 073 557 8909. Feed­ing The Self is a cross-NGO project fo­cused around build­ing gar­dens and us­ing them for teach­ing and com­mu­nity build­ing.

Em­pha­sis will be put on keep­ing the gar­den as low-cost as pos­si­ble, so if you have any aloes you’re tear­ing out or gar­den ma­te­ri­als that could be reused, we will be run­ning a drive in about a month’s time.

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