Articles Posted in the Garden category

Quick wins in the garden

October 19, 2010
Posted in Garden

We go on a lot at Treevolution about growing and eating your own food. Sometimes we might make it sound a relatively easy thing to do. And usually it is. But there are times when it can be exceedingly frustrating and you wonder if it is all worth it when you look at your less-than-abundant crop.

It’s easy to be disheartened.

If you’re feeling this way then go out and get yourself a few lettuce seeds or seedlings, some tomato seeds and a couple of basil seedlings.

As far as I am concerned these are not only the most rewarding of plants to grow but also the most essential for summer.

Lettuce seeds – we tend to use the Lolla Rossa variety – are among the easiest seeds to grow. Fill a couple of seed trays with vermiculite or seedling soil, plant the seeds and water them every few days, keeping them lightly damp at all times, and within a week you’ll see signs of life.

This year I am using vermiculite for most of my seeds. It’s sterile, holds a good deal of moisture so seeds don’t dry out and I’ve had fewer problems with disease. You can get vermiculite at most hardware and gardening stores and you can use it on its own or together with a good seedling soil.

Tomato seeds and basil seeds are just as easy to grow. Both take little longer to sprout than lettuce seeds but once going they’re pretty robust. If you can’t wait then get a few trays of seedlings which will also do the trick.

The loose-leafed lettuces like Lolla Rossa are perfect for the family because you can pull off a few leaves at a time and they just keep on giving. They have frilly leaves and grow loose, not in in a round ball.

Basil, once it’s got going, grows like a bomb. The beauty of basil is that it’s one of those plants that loves being picked. Rip off a few leaves for dinner and it’ll start growing back immediately. At the end of the season, before they die off, pick the remaining leaves, toss them in a liquidiser and freeze them in icecube trays for use throughout winter.

Tomatoes also take a while to get going – plant them in the garden for full effect – but once they do, and if you’ve got a good number of plants, you’ll have enough to last you out the summer.

There’s not much like a weekend lunch made up of freshly-picked lettuce, basil and tomatoes. Add a bit of good cheese and it’s almost perfect.

Lettuce on the edge

January 15, 2009
Posted in Garden

thirsty lettuce

It’s been raining pretty heavily here in Joburg for the past few days, which I’m very grateful for because I nearly killed my lettuce and they need all the help they can get from Mother Nature at this point.

After a mere two days of not watering them I was horrified to find my lettuces all wilted and dead-looking. It’s been extremely hot here in Joburg, but there have often been thundershowers in the late afternoon so I kind of assumed that it would be okay to leave the watering of my veg to  nature for a few days. Big mistake.

I have been trying to nurse them back to health for the past week and some of them look almost as good as new.

survivor-lettuceBut for two particularly parched-looking plants, it was touch and go. For a few days the only evidence that they weren’t stone dead was a brave little tuft of green poking out from the middle of a soggy brown clump. The little tufts are getting bigger every day, though, so I think they’ll be okay. I’m amazed at their resilience. (The lettuce on the right is the one on the top right in the big photo a few days later)

I’ve learned my lesson: lettuces do not like to be ignored, they need to be watered every day.

I now have a rain gauge so I can get a better idea of just how much rain has actually fallen during a thundershower.

Home-grown convenience food

January 13, 2009
Posted in Garden

butter lettuce

Lettuce is an incredibly useful thing to have growing in the garden,  because you can pick a leaf or two from a plant when you need it – even from quite young plants. It’s convenience food at its best. So you have a constant supply of fresh salad greens. And, anyway, salads made from freshly picked leaves just taste better.

If you grow your own, you don’t need to buy bags of salad that usually contain more than you need and end up being stored in the fridge for days and eventually thrown away. You pick as much as want when you want it. And, if you’re a regular salad eater, you’ll save money.

You just need to make sure you have enough lettuce plants growing at one time to meet your needs. I have planted 6 butter lettuces and 6 Lolla Rosas, which I hope will do for my family of four. I bought them as seedlings from my local nursery – I have given up trying to grow lettuce from seed for the moment (something keeps eating my seedlings) – and I picked enough leaves for a salad just three days after I planted them. How’s that for instant gratification?