Organic vegetable gardens are all the rage. It's not just about providing nourishment for your family and savings on your grocery bill; it's fashionable. Admittedly, when I created my first potager garden, I wasn't particularly interested in the nourishment part, I just wanted it to look pretty. I am all about aesthetics and a potager garden appealed to my senses. I love wood. Seasonal flowers. And, watching things grow. It ticked all the boxes.
What I didn't know was that vegetable gardens take time. More time than tending even a rose garden. Constant vigilance is how I think of it now. You have to plan what you're going to plant, where you're going to plant it, and what you're going to plant it next to. You have to think about your soil. What nutrients do different vegetables need. What are their water requirements. You have to find ways to kill nasty bugs without using toxic pesticides. You have to harvest regularly, make sure it gets enough light. You have to fertilise organically. Jeez. The list is endless. So my advice to you is be prepared to work hard. Or hire someone to do it for you.
Companion planting with herbs and edible flowers is definitely the way to go. This natural method of controlling pests, disease and weeds helps to eliminate the need for pesticides, but it is not foolproof. Pair plants that have the same moisture, nutrient and sun needs. Basil and tomatoes are great companions. They love hot weather, lots of sunlight, rich soil and moisture. Basil is great for repelling milkweed insects, aphids,and mosquitoes and it acts as a fungicide. Soil borne diseases are most often caused by fungi and nematodes (round or thread worms). Dahlias and white marigolds repel nematodes. They're pretty and edible, so put them in. Other tomato companion plants are carrots, parsley, asparagus, alliums (leeks, onions, shallots), borage and celery.
I am an advocate of watering your own garden. I find it therapeutic. You get to learn the rhythm of your garden. The different patterns that occur.You discover hidden treasures buried under bigger plants, you see what needs attending to and you don't waste water. But, for busy people and large gardens it is often a trial. Drip irrigation systems are best for vegetable gardens, but make sure the roots of your vegetables are being watered. Watering from above can cause leaf diseases and encourage pests to attack the plants. As I said in the beginning, vegetable gardening is not for sissies.
Last night when it briefly stopped raining I picked loads of Pak Choi for our dinner. I was harvesting in the dark as the rain had caused a leak in our roof which subsequently affected all the outside lights so I couldn't turn them on. Grrrr.
As a gardener I am always excited to see the rain but emotionally it drains me.
Here are some photo's of the Pak Choi that I took this morning - the sun was coming up and the rain had finally stopped.
I’m often asked what you can do with Pak choi. Pak choi is a leafy green, Chinese cabbage, also known as Bok Choy. It has white stalks with oval shaped glossy green leaves.
Pak Choi (part of the Brassica family) is high in antioxidants and vitamins and is very low in calories. It’s great in a stir fry mixed with other greens like spinach and red cabbage, carrots, peppers, courgettes and bean sprouts plus a protein. I usually use Woolworth’s strips of chicken breast and serve it with Chinese noodles or angel hair pasta.
Last night we just steamed it with peas and carrots.
Tatsoi, also a Brassica, is the new Spinach. Once cooked, it tastes similar to Spinach but apparently is has more nutrients. I cannot offer you any proof, I just like to cook with it.
In a Green Flan - which I discovered how to cook when M and I were in Tuscany last year - Tatsoi is easier to use than Spinach. The leaves are tastier and its less difficult to manage. The creamy flan ingredients probably negate the goodness of the Tatsoi but who can resist a flan?
Tatsoi is a wonderful veggie patch addition as you will get several harvests from a single plant.
It's an adaptable green and can be used with other greens in a salad, such as spinach, rocket, watercress and Mizuna. Its tangy peppery taste also pairs well with mandarins, apples, mint and fennel. A great dressing with Tatsoi is soya sauce, brown caramalised sugar, plain yoghurt, lime juice and a little ginger.
M and I attended a Go Magazine Photo course in Prince Albert. I loved it. I now know how to use the manual settings, and I'm practicing using the shutter speed and aperture. For two whole days I felt as if my camera was an extension of my arm.
It was good to spend time alone together. We talked. Like we never do at home. He's a good man.
Here are some of the pictures I took. Some I like. Others I wish were better. But its a start. Something new to sink my creative side into.
The soil was rich. The plants healthy. You could feel the care and attention. The intelligence behind the planting. I loved the doctor stick labels. And the faces of the workers. A picture perfect still-life.
We had to get up really early to catch the morning light. Bright. Refreshing. It was cold in the Klein Karoo.
Its early morning, the Louries are making a mad noise, the hadeda's are squawking their heads off as they're chased by my mad pack of hounds; Monty, Jake and Oscar our Boerboel puppy - you'll get to know them in due course - but right now all I want to do is check out my tomatoes.
They suffered terribly in the hail storm the other night and are looking a little worse for wear. I've draped all the tomato plants around bamboo sticks which will hold the fruit. The leaves are a little raggedy but all in all - I'm happy....
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