Sustainable living: Vegetable gardening

Sustainable living: Vegetable gardening

Sustainable living

Saving water in your vegetable garden

Growing your own vegetables has multiple benefits, not only for yourself but for the environment too. With the rate of price hikes, especially on fresh fruit and vegetables, now is definitely a good time to start your very own vegetable garden, if you do not already have one. This way, you are also sure that the food that you and your family are consuming is as organic as you want them to be. And if that is not enough motivation, by growing your own vegetables you are also decreasing your carbon footprint. YAY!

Having said all that, growing your own vegetables isn’t always all that simple. There are a  few key points that should be considered, for example, where to start it to ensure enough sunlight, to make sure you will have enough time to care for them, and lastly to know what to plant and when.

Even before the drought, South Africa was classified as a water scarce country, and now even more than ever we need to do our best to save water. This is not impossible when taking care of your vegetable garden. There are a few simple things you could do to save water, and costs, and still have a beautiful and ‘fruitful’ vegetable garden.

1.    Build boxes for the garden

By planting and growing your vegetables in these boxes it will not only contains the water to the desired area, but it also prevents the soils, and nutrients, from washing away with the water. You could either build a bunch of smaller boxes or you could build a bigger box and then just divide the space in the box between the vegetables you’re going to plant. A decent size for a smaller box is about 1m x 1m. This size is ideal if you are planting smaller vegetables, because you will be able to fit enough in the box for your household. If you plan on planting vegetables that will take up a bit more space, it might be wise to build the bigger boxes that can always be used for the vegetables that take up less space as well.

2.    Best time to water your plants

In summer it is always nice to water you vegetable garden just before night fall, as it is not at all cold at night, the flowers will flourish. But in autumn/winter time (yes you could have fresh and juicy vegetables during winter too) it is generally best to water the plants in the morning, so as to ensure that they do not freeze during the icy winter nights. It is also advised that you thoroughly soak the plants well at least once a week.

3.    Know what is in season

By planning beforehand, and making sure you plant at the right time, you could save yourself a lot of effort to keep a plant alive that is not meant to be alive right now. It is true that commercial farmers use all kinds of modified seeds, and synthetic fertilisers to grow fruit and vegetables out of season due to demand, but for our own vegetable gardens, I think the aim should be to keep it as natural, sustainable and organic as possible. Later on I will be sharing a table that indicates which vegetables can be planted during April and May for each of the provinces.

4.    Make your own compost

For a lot of people this sounds like way too much effort, or they feel that it is not attainable when you only have a small garden, like when living in a complex. It is really not that much effort, and if you are diligent, pretty soon you will not be able to imagine a time when you would throw the peels and freshly cut grass clippings in the dustbin. For everybody who do not already have a compost box at home, I will be doing a DIY post about just that early next week :D. By making your own compost you are not only helping to minimise the waste at waste dumps, but you are effectively recycling energy and nutrients back into new energy and nutrients in the form of your own home-grown vegetables. It will also save you a bunch of money by not having to buy it.

5.    Keep it clean

Weeds steal your gardens water and nutrients. It is important to try and pull them out before they sprout seeds, this way you can try to get rid of them before they get a chance to spread. Also watch what you are throwing into your compost box, if you throw weeds that have already formed seeds, you are probably planting them back into your garden. To save water and help keep weeds away, as well as assist in keeping you plant’s roots cool, you can also put down some mulch.

Planting in April/May

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