Home gardening in the drought

Gillian Makaranga, Pat Featherstone and Kirsten Meyer.

Mulch, mulch, mulch – that’s the response Soil For Life founder Pat Featherstone has for anyone asking how to drought-proof their garden.

The grounds off Brounger Road in Constantia are looking particularly lush thanks to a gift of a borehole and novel ways of watering plants.

“Mulching is the most important thing that every gardener should be doing as a thick layer will greatly reduce evaporation and save water,” said Ms Featherstone.

“Mulching also smothers weeds and encourages better root growth by keeping the soil cool in summer, and, of course, it feeds the soil.”

Gardeners could use leaves, bark and even shredded newspaper for mulch.

Catching and storing rainwater was a fantastic way to be water-wise and keep your garden happy, she said.

“Your roof is the best place to harvest from and all you need is to fit gutters. The water can then be channelled into clean drums, large buckets, old baths or any kind of home-made tank. To prevent mosquitoes from breeding in the water, add a tiny drop of cooking oil to suffocate them. The oil will also reduce evaporation and is harmless to your plants,” said Ms Featherstone.

Recycled PVC pipes and 2-litre Coke bottles can also be used. Cut the bottle just below the neck, cut the pipes into 45cm pieces, drill or cut holes into them and sink the into the soil around vegetables. They can water the plants for about a week.

She also promotes Hugulkultur beds. “The ultimate way to garden if you have the future in mind,” said Ms Featherstone. “This is nothing more than burying wood under the soil to increase its ability to hold water, and to increase soil fertility.”

Drought-resistant plants are also good to plant, such as cow and pigeon peas, jugo (nyimo) beans and peanuts and marog.

Soil for Life held its annual general meeting on Friday August 18 and the guest speaker was Tozie Zokufa, of Humane Society International and a Soil For Life board member. Many years ago, he launched Meat Free Mondays and in October 2015 this became Green Monday, which encourages everyone to reduce their consumption of eggs, meat and dairy products because of the suffering animals endure in “factory farms”, the presence of antibiotics in meat and the high water cost of cattle farming.

For more information on Green Monday, and to sign the pledge, visit www.greenmonday.co.za

Soil For Life provides a home food gardening programme, and 209 gardeners have completed the first cycle of training between March and May this year with a further 245 set to finish their training at the end of August.

All of the home gardeners have established gardens and set up seed boxes (mini-nurseries) and compost heaps and are producing a wide variety of fresh produce.

Soil For Life’s garden is open to the public on Saturday December 2, from 9am to 3pm. There will be garden demonstrations, talks and activities. Earth-friendly food and drinks will be on sale, as well as compost, seeds, seedlings, planters, organic veggies and more.

There will also be a raffle to win a mini succulent garden.

Entry is R20 with proceeds helping people in low-income areas grow their own food. Contact Julian at 021 794 4982 or email info@soilforlife.co.za for details.

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