Hastings on Food

2015-08-20 06:00

SALUTATIONS budding green fingers. I find an immense quantity of pleasure and fulfillment when I use vegetables or herbs from my garden that I have grown. It supplements the formulation of a meal and unquestionably tastes a whole lot better.

There is a misconception that vegetable gardens are hard work. What does become challenging is if you start on a large scale as it soon becomes intimidating and burdensome and usually fails. It is best to mark out the area you wish to cultivate and do it in stages.

As growing vegetables is in essence an ongoing undertaking I spend as much time as possible in my garden as I find it relaxing and extremely meditative while observing the progress of each item, which is especially rewarding.

Apart from saving you money another benefit of a vegetable garden is that it encourages the family to get involved, by contributing where they can and enjoying the rewards when consumed.

The size of a vegetable garden depends largely on the amount of space you have available. If you have no real garden then a window ledge should suffice even if it’s just for a few herbs and salad ingredients.

Here at the Wild Coast, one of our various projects is our own vegetable and herb garden. We also do compost production using left over consumables.

The vegetable garden is managed by Alex Nzimakwe our organic production manager. Nzimakwe has a dedicated passion for what he is doing. He is one of our unsung heroes and his efforts are both remarkable as well as commendable.

As our project grows we are able to use more home grown products, and guests, who are even unaware of what we are doing, comment on the quality and taste of the vegetables and herbs.

Hopefully we will embark into phase two in September as well as look at the viability of other projects such as revitalizing the coastal mussel stock.

So for your garden what are the basics­.

Ensure that your soil is packed with natural nutrients and try to plant your seeds at a depth of about three times their width. If you are transplanting an existing plant remember roots don’t like air and don’t like being disturbed so ensure the plant is secure.

Watering your plants is of paramount importance and should be done at least three times a week.

Make your own organic fertiliser by placing manure in a dustbin bag with some holes in the bottom then submerge it in water for two weeks, discard the plastic bag and bottle the liquid­ that remains, thereafter when using the liquid dilute it first.

Most seeds will take between six and 12 weeks to germinate and are easily done at home where you can plant them in trays or tubs and manage them in the evening as well as the early morning.

When it comes to transplanting them to the garden preferably north facing, this should be done in the early evening so they can recover overnight and not have to straight away endure the heat of the sun. Most vegetables require about six hours of sun per day.

Once you have your first successful plants and wish to grow more you can consider companion planting, which involves planting vegetables that are mutually beneficial next to each other, this helps alleviate a single type of vegetable saturating your area with high demands for nutrients.

Good companion plants will not contend with each other for root space, light nor necessary nutrients.

The other advantage about companion planting is that it’s easier to manage pests as they normally only attack one particular type and if other aromas and shapes are present the pests tend to overlook them. By not having to use chemicals to combat them you keep your plants totally organic.

In addition, along the edges of your garden you should plant marigolds as when you brush up against them they release a pungent pest confusing smell. You should also plant rosemary, thyme, sage, chives and lavender which are also very effective deterrents and their flowers attract predators and pollinators. Here on the South Coast the biggest pest problem is white fly so ask your nursery for plants with sticky stems that attract them.

Companion groups for tomatoes are basil, carrots, onions, garlic, and parsley, for baby marrows they are beans nasturtiums and peas, while sweet peppers and chilies do well with basil and eggplants. If you have rose bushes plant your garlic under them.

To repel insects use fennel for flies and fleas, citronella for mosquitoes, rosemary for leaf hoppers and aphids, tarragon for snails, mint and garlic also help repel many insects

When growing tomatoes, depending on the numerous varieties available, you can plant them in pots, hanging baskets, in the ground along a fence or other support structures, they require lots of fertiliser as this will also enhance the flavour of the fruit. When they are ready to transplant place in deep holes up to the top set of leaves as the covered stems will grow more roots and your plant will be stronger. Without supports they will sprawl across the garden and attract unwanted pests.

Incidentally, in my garden the only vegetable the vervet monkeys don’t like is my tomatoes to deter them from eating other items I sprinkle cayenne pepper around my plants

For growing sweet peppers or chilies, after selecting your seeds, using a good potting soil plant the seeds in planters trays, empty margarine tubs, or egg trays, which are biodegradable so you can plant the whole thing when transplanting, keep indoors for about eight weeks. Try and ensure the temperature indoors is around 23 degrees and only water them when the soil feels dry.

When ready to transplant, in an area­ that gets full sunlight, dig trenches about 16cm deep and 48cm apart, transplant your plants keeping them 40cm apart. Close with a mixture of the dugout soil and compost and press down.

It will take about 60 days for your peppers to be at least 12cm, whereby you can start to pick and enjoy them. Avoid using chemical fertilisers as they will enhance the plant, but yield little or not produce. Peppers can be grown with eggplants and basil however, be careful as basil bushes can become very large.

It is best to grow baby marrow straight from seed, because the roots are delicate and they do not fare well if transplanted, they are one of the easiest vegetables to grow and prefer lots of direct daily sunlight. It’s best to harvest the crop when small as the flesh is tender and the seeds are smaller. Once you begin picking the baby marrow the plant will still produce for a number of weeks provided you keep on harvesting. Although it takes some work the golden orange baby marrow flowers are delicious when stuffed and deep fried.

Hundreds.Stuffed baby marrow flowers with ricotta cheese


· 8-12 baby marrow flowers

· Oil for deep frying


· 100 grams ricotta

· 2 tablespoons grated parmesan

· Chopped mint

· Chopped chives

· Chopped basil

· Chili flakes

· 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

· Khoisan sea salt

· Rainbow pepper


· Mix the cheeses together with the remaining herbs to taste


· 100 grams self-raising flour

· 40 grams maizena

· ½ teaspoon baking powder

· ½ teaspoon Khoisan sea salt

· 200ml ice cold sparkling water


· Mix dry ingredients together

· Add the water to form a batter

· Add more water if batter is too thick.

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