Lovedalia reaps what she sows

2017-10-05 06:01
Lovedalia Tsewu marvelling at her garden in Gugulethu.

Lovedalia Tsewu marvelling at her garden in Gugulethu.

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From vertical gardens that grow herbs, to greenhouses, water wise patio planters and community gardens where cabbages and cauliflowers are king, South Africans from all walks of life are joined by their love of gardens no matter what size, shape or form.

That’s why, on Sunday 15 October, we’re celebrating Garden Day with a simple ambition in mind: to encourage people to down tools and spend some quality time celebrating their gardens.

One person who has committed to downing tools and celebrating her garden this year on Garden Day is passionate gardener Lovedalia Tsewu from Gugulethu.

Having retired from domestic work in her early 60s, Tsewu found she was simply unable to sit around in her home, with nothing much to do and only a state pension to support her.

After recovering from a hip replacement operation in 2013, she was ready to take serious stock of her situation.

She had a few beds of flowers growing in her yard, and thought about developing a vegetable garden. This could supply her and her two sons with nutritious fresh food as well as her extended family who share her home: her late brother’s daughter, her three children and her partner.

She had no idea about how to grow vegetables but had heard about Soil for Life, the Cape Town organisation that trains people in low-income areas of the city to develop their own organic food gardens. She put together a group of 15 people in her community and together they undertook a three- week training course with Soil for Life about four years ago. For Tsewu the decision to start a veggie garden has, as she says, “changed my life”.

Started on a small patch, her garden now spreads right across the yard and down a narrow lot alongside her house.

She not only feeds her and her extended family, but has established a second veggie garden in a nearby Educare Centre, which means that children attending the facility can now eat fresh and nutritious food.

With her eldest son, Raymond, as her assistant gardener who also relieves her of some of the hard physical work, Tsewu’s veggie production is at times sufficiently prolific to enable her to earn extra income by selling surplus to families in the community.

Right now, she is harvesting spinach and carrots, with tomatoes, green peppers and brinjals next in line.

She has also risen to the challenge presented by the drought gripping the Western Cape and severe water restrictions that have been imposed in Cape Town. She has installed six large drums that store the limited rain that has fallen in the city and also uses household grey water to feed her crops. Some of the saved water is funnelled into bottles and transported by wheelbarrow to irrigate her Educate Centre veggie garden.

She has also contacted a State agricultural department to assist her to obtain larger water tanks, and a person there has even spoken about possibly accessing underground water, but she’s still waiting to hear whether she will get some extra help.

Tsewu is keen to share her expertise, but laments that no one has taken up an offer she has made to provide free training to other community members. She would like them to experience the great pride she feels from growing her own food. “I have taught myself to feed myself, and I am able to feed my family, the kids in the Educare Centre and to sell food to the community,” she says. “I have also trained my son Raymond, so if I am no longer able to continue developing the garden, he will be able to carry on.”

Planting Garden Day Ideas

What you do in your garden on Garden Day is completely up to you. But we think it’s a great opportunity to get together with friends and family so that as many people as possible can celebrate together, it’s all about growing goodwill

If you don’t have your own garden, visit someone who does and enjoy it with them.

Share your Garden Day celebrations on your Instagram and other social media accounts using the hashtag #GardenDay


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