Grow your own vegetables with the trench-bed method

2008-08-27 00:00

Hilda Pheto describes the Food Gardens brand of vegetable garden. “We remain faithful to the trench-bed method. It is a trench that you dig that is one metre by two metres; one metre is the size of a spade — so it is one spade by two spades.

“We wanted to reach the most illiterate person because this practical means of measurement can reach people who would not normally be able to use a method that is highly technical. The method is so down to earth, it is so old, but people have realised that it is actually going to work because fertilisers are expensive and people need something that is sustainable.

People have tried tunnels, hydroponics — they’re wonderful but they’re very technical and they’re high maintenance,” explains Pheto.

According to Pheto, “the trench-bed uses the household waste, so it is eco-friendly, and you clean the environment at the same time as you feed the soil, so it works well. With this method you just break the soil up, de-compact it, then you put in the biodegradable matter: anything, the old bones, mielie cob, grass, leaves — you’re encouraging earthworms underneath that love the humid fertility so the veggies can deep root.

“We don’t use any agric-chemicals, no matter what. We say that we are using organic principles. We use garlic chives, marigold and companion planting to confuse the insects as pest control.

“We do not dig it for five years. You are not causing the carbon to escape — it preserves the carbon footprint.

“You can extend this trench to up to 10 metres long for family use — it encourages people to start small businesses. You can block-plant spinach or beetroot.

“We use minimum water because we encourage grey-water harvesting and rain-water harvesting and mulching. This method works in rural areas where there is no water, as well as in urban areas.”

Lastly, it is important to plan your vegetable garden properly. Plant what you will enjoy eating — variety is good for your health and for the soil, and sow seeds in correct seasons. The Food Gardens Foundation has a seed-sowing guide that shows which seeds you should plant for each month of the year for your climatic region (see below).

For more information, visit www.foodgardensfoundation.org.za or phone 011 880 5956.

• A practical, step-by-step guide to trench gardening is also available on http://biophile.co.za/gardening/starting-a-vegetable-garden

Suggested sowing times for the midlands

SUMMER

December. Amaranth morog, bush and climbing beans, beetroot, cabbage, carrot, mealies, radish and sweet corn.

January. Amaranth morog, bush beans, beetroot, cabbage, carrot, kohlrabi, CM kale, leaf mustard, leek, lettuce, radish, Swiss chard spinach and turnip.

February. Beetroot, cabbage, carrot, CM kale, kohlrabi, leaf mustard, leek, lettuce, onion, parsley, radish, Swiss chard spinach and turnip.

AUTUMN

March. Broad beans, beetroot, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, carrot, CM kale, kohlrabi, leaf mustard, leek, lettuce, lucerne, onion, parsley, radish, Swiss chard spinach and turnip.

April. Broad beans, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, carrot, leaf mustard, lettuce, lucerne, parsley, radish, peas and turnip.

May. Broad beans, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, lucerne and peas.

WINTER

June. Cabbage, Chinese cabbage and peas.

July. Cabbage, peas (chillies and green peppers may be planted in very protected areas).

August. Bush beans, beetroot, brinjal, cabbage, carrot, chillies, green pepper, leaf mustard, leek, lettuce, lucerne, peas, Swiss chard spinach and tomato.

SPRING

September. Amaranth morog, bush and climbing beans, beetroot, brinjal, cabbage, carrot, chillies, cucumber, green pepper, lettuce, marrows, leaf mustard, leek, lucerne, mealies, parsley, pumpkin, radish, squash, Swiss chard spinach, soup celery, sweet corn, tomato and turnip.

October. Amaranth morog, bush and climbing beans, beetroot, brinjal, cabbage, carrot, chillies, cucumber, green pepper, leaf mustard, lettuce, marrows, mealies, New Zealand spinach, parsley, pumpkin, radish, squash, Swiss chard spinach, soup celery, sweet corn and tomato.

November. Amaranth morog, bush and climbing beans, beetroot, cabbage, carrot, leaf mustard, lettuce, mealies, New Zealand spinach, radish, soup celery, sweet corn and tomato.

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