Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The start of 'Dirty Hands, Clean Food'

Sharing a bit of bubbly to
celebrate being homeowners...
As of December 2014, we finally have our own house - complete with almost 500m2 of land that is perfect for a vegetable garden. So now we can grow all our own food and get chickens and some goats and make cheese for the whole world and never need to buy wrinkled and wilted fresh produce ever again... Um, yah, once we've fixed the plumbing and mended the roof and painted the wall and and and and...

Ok, so home ownership is not for sissies! But gardening keeps me sane in the midst of it all - so I decided to start slow, but at least I decided to start!

I'm going to be honest from the outset - this blog is mostly for me to keep track of the before-and-after moments as we transform this suburban space into an oasis of edible greenliness.

Almost 500m2 of sand, builder's rubble,
weed seeds and syringa berries.
Watch this space!
You are welcome to join us on the journey but I must warn you - I haven't had a very good track record with gardening so far! My  green-fingered father has been known to hand me plants rather gingerly with plaintive requests of 'Please try not to kill this one.'

But it isn't all bad - somehow we've managed a few successes - so to make myself feel better about all this I'll include some pictures below.

Because I'm not very good at watering plants, we had set up an aquaponics system at our previous house, and got some peppadews, basil and tomatoes growing quite successfully.

Aquaponics is a mixture between hydroponics and aquaculture - use fishpond water with fish poop in it to water and fertilize your veggieswhile growing fish at the same time. The veggie planter acts as a filter for the fish and so the cycle continues.

The aquaponics system shown below is *not* our aquaponics system - but it was the first (and only) one I'd actually seen in real life before we started ours! I found it at the CT Organics outlet at what was then the Dunrobin Nursery in Pietermaritzburg.

We have a very rudimentary aquaponics system on the go at the moment - but we'll definitely pursue the aquaponics thing again - we (My husband Hans and I) really feel that aquaponics is something that can form part of the solution for hunger and poverty in our country and continent. So we are experimenting with various ideas as we can afford them! Currently our biggest expense is the pond pumps that don't seem to like fish poop too much but we have figured out some cheap and effective pre-filtration systems that seem to be doing a good job.

The photo below on the left shows some tomatoes from our system, with some basil photobombing in the corner there. There is nothing quite like a home grown tomato! I had despaired of ever eating a fresh tomato again as all the tomatoes in the shop seemed either underripe or mealy - but since we started growing our own I find myself just eating freshly picked tomatoes with a little salt as a snack! And basil, ah, basil... my most favouritest herb! Basil is a good enough reason to do aquaponics all by itself!

This picture below includes some of our aquaponics tomotoes along with some not-so-baby marrows from our veggie garden turned pumpkin patch. It just took over and by the time I managed to get into the veggie garden again, these 5 marrows were peacefully nestling  in the spots where my bok choi used to grow. No matter. At least they weren't just weeds! And we got some good mileage out of these marrows! I'm actually looking forward to growing some more this size.

I cut them in half and took out the seeds, the roasted them in the oven until soft, then stuffed them with cooked minced meat, covered with cheese and baked until heated through and the cheese was bubbling. You can also freeze them once they are stuffed and cheesed for a quick supper another night, and you'll probably need to do that anyway because unless you have a family of 6, including some ravenous teenagers, it's unlikely that you'll use both halves at once! Next time I have some of these I'll do an official recipe.

These beauties just popped up on their own in my herb pot so I honestly can't take any credit for this bunch. Fortunately my mom was able to identify them as some long lost seeds of hers that somehow got into my herb pot, which was situated in what had been her garden.

Apparently they are San Marzano Redorta tomatoes - well known for having a low juice / seed content which makes them ideal for making tomato paste. They are also bigger than the regular San Marzano tomatoes. (If you'd like some seeds you can get some online from Living Seeds.)

So those are some of my previous successes... join me as we trust for more!

You'll notice that for the first few posts, the date of posting doesn't quite match up with the content that is posted - so most of these pics were taken in 2014 - but as the blog catches up with reality the content dates and post dates will converge and it will be a bit easier to follow.

Please do subscribe if you want to be notified of new posts - you'll get to hear why I choose to garden the way I do, and you'll get to see how our little garden expands, and you'll be able to share our tragedies and our triumphs. If you don't subscribe, you might miss the links on Facebook and that would be truly tragic.


  1. Ah, a new blog to read. I am ever striving to get a veggy garden going but we have very little sun in the garden. And basil and rocket are the veggies of the gods!

    1. We have a spot on the Southern Side of the house that only gets afternoon sun - and it is situated such that the sun creeps up the bed - so the plants at the bottom get about an hour or so more sun than those at the top - I'm looking forward too seeing what effect this has! I'm finding that bok choi is doing really well there as too much sun makes them bolt / go to seed prematurely. I'm also thinking of doing some vertical gardening up the fence on that side so that the shade of the house is less of an issue, and apparently if you have a white wall that gets some sun, it does reflect light into an otherwise dark space... All the best!

  2. So glad to see this. And so proud of you. What have you got growing at the moment?

    1. I'll post a link here when the posts catch up with the present :-)