Amid a global pandemic it has become increasingly difficult to provide for your family’s financial and nutritional needs.
Nowadays the healthy option isn’t always the best option for your pockets. Seen the price of potatoes lately?
No need to toss your wig just yet though. What if we told you that you can bring the fruit and vegetable aisle into your back yard?
The health benefits of edible gardening are as abundant as the garden’s yield, suggests Western Cape-based gardening expert Gaye Boshoff.
Edible gardening is a labour of love, and your pockets will thank you, she says. “It becomes contagious when you get into it.”
Garden of Eden at your doorstep
Imagine enjoying fresh fruit and vegetables from your own garden all year round, and by planting specific fruit trees and vegetables you can make this possible.
Choosing what to plant is the tricky part though, Boshoff says. You need to know when to plant, when to harvest and what part of the country it flourishes in.
“There are quite a couple of factors that come into it but one of the things is to know what grows well in your area. Find out that first and to stick to that.
“It is always nice to go and experiment and buy different seeds and see if it works, but stick to what you know works.”
Luckily, with the help of Dr Imke Kritzinger, horticulturist and all-round plant-lover, along with our own research we selected six different plants for you to try out:
Avos are known for their nutritional value, packed with vitamin C, E, K, B-6, potassium, magnesium, the very important omega-3 fatty acids, and many more.
The best avocado to plant in South Africa is the Fuerte cultivar. This is important because it’s the only cultivar that can tolerate temperatures as low as -4°C. You will also need to find a location in your garden where there is plenty of sun exposure.
Once your tree starts producing fruit you can expect to harvest between March and August in warmer regions and between May and November in cooler regions.
Guavas are among the fruits that contain the most Vitamin C and you can harvest within the first two years of planting. Guavas flourish in hot areas with little to no frost, but it is still able to grow in areas that experience some frost. In this case, young trees must be covered for protection.
The Fan Retief cultivar is most suited for South Africa and it’s the one that we all are most familiar with. It can handle hot summers and cold winters and you can harvest the fruit during March and April.
According to Kritzinger, tomatoes are always good to plant in your garden. Planting basil close to your tomatoes will help them thrive and the Afrikanertjie flower’s scent deters insects. It’s also important to stake your tomato plants to keep them upright.
Tomatoes are easily grown from seeds. First, plant the seeds in seed trays for four to six weeks. Then transfer the seedlings to a patch of land or a planter with a spacing of 40-60cm. They will be ready for harvesting within 9-12 weeks after sowing. Be sure to plant them in a sunny spot and away from potatoes, because they do not like one another. Plant new seedlings every four weeks, starting in September until the end of December to keep your harvest constant.
Green beans are one of the easiest things to grow, explains Kritzinger. There are two kinds of beans, runner beans and bush beans. Bush beans ripen quickly, within 8-10 weeks. Runner beans take up less space, as it is a creeper.
Runner beans also produce beans for longer, so Kritzinger recommends that you choose the bean type that’s best suited for the space in your garden. Timing is everything! The planting season is from September to January, and you can expect a harvest one month after planting. Plant them 70cm apart to ensure that you can harvest beans from October to February.
Beetroot is a great option to have in your garden because you can literally eat all of it – roots, bulb and leaves. Young leaves are high in vitamin A and can be used in a salad and the older leaves are great in a stir-fry. The roots are high in vitamin C and the bulb contains a lot of natural sugars and antioxidants.
The best time to sow beetroot seeds are during spring and autumn. After six to nine weeks, they will be ready to harvest. Make sure to regularly water your beetroot, as they prefer moist soil. An interesting trick you can use to promote bigger bulbs are to step on the leaves as soon as they are large and mature.
The best news is that you can use the potatoes you have in your house currently to grow more! When you leave a potato laying around for long enough it will start producing sprouting stems called “eyes”. Once this has happened, ready yourself to get your hands and knees dirty because you can start sticking them in the ground.
The only downside to planting potatoes is that they need space, but Dr Kritzinger has given us some creative ways to solve this problem. She recommends planting potatoes in pots or used tires that you can stack and fill with soil as the plant grows. You can even reuse an old or broken laundry basket. Plant potatoes from January to March and September to October. It will take about 15 to 20 weeks for them to be ready to harvest.