Not many people can say that they are a master gardener, but Gaye Boshoff is not most people.
In 2016 the Johannesburg native merged her passions for graphic design with her equal passion for gardening, developing the Honeybloom food calendar, a planting guide that tracks the four phases of the moon.
Okay now, “moon gardening” may sound a little strange if you have never heard of it before. But it is an ancient practice and a principle of permaculture.
“Gardeners and farmers have been using moon phase gardening for ages. Best of all, it’s a fairly simple concept. Just as the moon’s gravitational pull causes tides to rise and fall, it also affects moisture in the soil,” she says.
Along with her husband, Pieter, and their two children, the family also grows their own food on Honeymoon Farm, an 11-hectare smallholding in the Harkerville forest between Plettenberg Bay and Knysna.
Gardening is a gift she believes. “It is healthy, wealthy and wise. It becomes contagious when you get into it,” Boshoff says.
From the city to the Karoo
Boshoff matriculated from Pretoria High School for Girls and is qualified with a Higher Diploma in Graphic Design from what used to be the Technikon Witwatersrand, now part of the University of Johannesburg.
In 2005 Boshoff swopped her high-paced job in graphic design for a simpler life in the Karoo town of Ladismith.
“I have always been a hippie. I just didn’t like the city, so I moved down when I was about 22. I did not like the city; it was just too much for me. I wanted nature.
“In the Karoo, you have got to be able to sustain yourself out there in every way. I learned about biodynamic farming. It was ‘out there’ and crazy; that was a lot of using the planets, astrology, and all sorts of things.”
When she met her husband, the duo moved to the Harkerville forest where they have since laid roots.
“We didn’t have any money, but we managed to buy a little piece of land.”
“It was full of alien trees, there was no road, there was no dam. I remember carrying big logs and the two of us building a bridge together over the little stream.”
Reality sunk in once her children were born. “Now we had to utilise this land… permaculture was the best way to go.
“It’s just such a pleasure to be able to feed my own family and knowing they’re getting all those vitamins, all those minerals, everything without using any chemicals or any artificial things in my garden.”
Boshoff’s smallholding boasts a variety of leafy greens, root vegetables, nut and fruit trees and an apiary.
‘My garden, my pharmacy’
The Moonbloom calendar helps gardeners know when to plant or sow. “Scientifically it’s simple, and it stems to permaculture. That for me made so much sense because it is like the foundation of the planting within permaculture,” she explains.
Food is medicine, she believes, and working the land is an easy form of cardio. “It keeps you healthy, wealthy and wise.”
Starting your own garden is not as hard as you think. “Everyone can grow. As long as you’ve got a bit of sun and you’ve got a bit of water and you keep your soil nicely rejuvenated.”
To start your own garden, you need to start at the foundation, knowing what to plant. And stay away from tomatoes in the very beginning, she suggests.
“Know what to plant first, tomatoes are actually difficult to grow, they are prone to pests and fungus. So, learn to grow something that is simple.”