Starting a backyard garden is easier than you think because you already have everything you need. Just look around for scraps from your kitchen, like garden peels or rotten veggies, and you’re good to go!
Nomalanga Ruiters (33), a micro gardener associated with Abalimi bezekhaya, says this doesn’t have to be costly, it can literally begin by just using the vegetable seeds in your cupboards.
“In our homes we tend to throw away old or rotten vegetable foods, and these foods could be very beneficial in the creation of a very healthy garden. You can collect seeds from old tomatoes and store them in water until the tomatoes rise on top of the water, clean the seeds, and cover them until summertime comes to begin planting.”
Ruiters started her backyard gardening journey in 2019 when she struggled to find employment in the city to make ends meet. She struggled with gardening in the Mother City’s sandy soil until she was nurtured by Abalimi bezekhaya. Today, she is nurturing other first-time gardeners around Wetlands, alongside the N2 where she stays.
What else can you plant for free?
Ruiters shares three more ideas for planting a garden for mahala:
- You can take the seeds inside green peppers and plant them in your garden with no hassle.
- You can take carrot and potato peals plant them to get more of these veggies.
- You can take the seed-like endings of beetroot and carrots and plant them.
We are now in autumn and according to Thandeka Maseko (23) from Mpumalanga, mustard spinach is one of the easiest vegetables to plant this season because of its strong high nutritional value.
Cabbage is another vegetable that is easy to grow, Maseko says, especially when planted on a smaller scale.
Maseko started out as a gardener under her father, and through the expansion of her backyard garden decided to monetise on the skill she acquired from her parents.
Khayelitsha gardener Manelisi Mapukata (50) says some of the vegetables that you can plant this season, that you won’t need to dig deep in your pockets for, are:
- Sweet potato
Mapukata is a veteran gardener and farmer in chief for the Mapukata urban farm based in Gugulethu, Cape Town. This urban farm feeds and employs a large number of people in this area.
It all starts with your soil
Before you start planting, Mapukata says it is very important that you study and prepare your soil before planting your seeds.
“The soil needs nutrients before planting any seeds, therefore I always encourage people to start by planting grass in the soil they wish to utilise for rich nutrients,” he says.
This is because chemicals are very expensive, and they have an effect in the quality of the food that you will be producing.
Other household things you can use to fertilise your soil include:
- Egg shells
- Wood ash
- Egg boxes chopped and added on the soil
And for those who are concerned about pesticides, Maseko says, “weeds can also encourage pests on crops. So, the best and affordable option is to eliminate them as soon as they show to save yourself some money. Always use preventative measures.”
Always remember to remove weeds way before you begin planting.