Spekboom is good for: oxygen and health benefits

South Africa’s miracle plant

The Spekboom is a nice-looking, indigenous to South Africa, drought-hardy plant. Spekboom is good for:

Spekboom is good for growing a windbreak or privacy hedge. These plants are very easy to shape when a box hedge is desired.

  • Spekboom is known for its incredible carbon-storing capabilities and
  • many health benefits.
  • It is one of but a few plants that release oxygen during day and night and as Spekboom creates clean air – it is a fantastic indoor plant
  • It promotes soil binding flora, which helps prevent erosion.
  • Another benefit of the Spekboom is being edible. The plant offers many health reasons and it is an eady-to-grow food source.
    This sprawling shrub, or small tree, naturally grows in the rocky areas of the bushveld and semi-desert regions. Bees and butterflies love its masses of soft pink nectar-rich flowers, which is followed with small papery three-winged fruits.

Indigenous people use the plant for medicinal and domestic purposes, including:

  • Spekboom has skin soothing properties and treats ailments like rashes, insect stings, sunburn or blisters with crushed leaf juice.
  • Plant parts treat heatstroke and thirst by sucking a leaf or throat and mouth infections by chewing leaves.
  • The stems are good building material when dried and used as thatch for roofing of the huts/homes.
  • Mozambican breastfeeding mothers believe these leaves help increasing their milk production by eating the leaves.
  • The leaves are best eaten in the mornings while still sweet. The succulent leaves turn more sour and bitter with the climbing sun.

Most importantly: Comparing the Amazon forest hectare for hectare with a Spekboom thicket and Spekboom wins at removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Ten times over. 5 Hectares of Spekboom can remove 20 – 50 tonnes of carbon per year.

2020 kicked off for South Africans with this Spekboom Challenge:
A) plant 10 spekboom trees,
B) share and post it on Social Media as #spekboomchallenge and
C) challenge a friend to do the same. (Gardening Eden wants to up this challenge to 20 spekboom trees in 2020 – add #20spekboomchallenge to your share)
Because of this challenge, thousands of spekboom trees have since been planted and in some cases, the challenge amount has grown to 10 plants per person (or more). Which is great since a single mature spekboom can remove 8.5kg of carbon a year. Keep in mind that typically 9.18 tons of carbon emissions per person are released from vehicles alone.

More good news…
Stellenbosch – outside Cape Town, South Africa – will soon host the largest African labyrinth with 13 circuits – consisting of spekboom trees. The garden diameter will be 220m and visible far from above.
It will be called “The Great Labyrinth of Africa” and be built at the Stellenbosch Bridge Smart City development.
“If we don’t regress carbon emissions by 2025, we’ll go past the tipping point and all of humanity will face extinction,” said Peter Shrimpton, Chief executive of the Heart Capital and founder of the Great Labyrinth Project .

The Labyrinth of the Chartres Cathedral in France is the design that the “The Great Labyrinth of Africa” is based on.
Image: Smithsonian Magazine

Propagating is easily done from cuttings in spring, summer and autumn. Keep them dry-moist and use river sand to root in – and ensure your final soil is well-draining. These plants are quite fast-growing and will not need, but respond, to compost and water. Seeing that this succulent needs very little to thrive – growing as many as possible is ideal. It is ideal for windy areas as a windbreak. They can be planted in dry desert or coastal gardens.

Spekboom is the best plant for the beginner gardener because it needs very little attention. As long as you elliminate poor drainage and overwatering, you can’t really get it wrong. Since this anazing plant is a greenhouse hero, it shouldbe on every balcony and windowsill, and we believe all traffic islands and highways should be hedge-planted with it too.


Prairies are used for excellent pest control

Prairie gardens can be described as natural, native gardens. They are pleasing to look at because they include flowers, grassy textures and you will always see wildlife. Subconsciously, the human eye understands that it is looking at a healthy ecosystem and that these plants grow where they belong. Prairies are used for organic, natural pest control because its design attracts, deters and takes care of every possible problem known to that area.

To get a prairie right, you have to ideally copy what grows there naturally.

The latest trend in organic, perma-cultural, regenerative and even mono-crop farming includes environmentally friendly pest-control methods – which are in fact as old as the hills. Biological pest control methods involve planting wild flower strips (let’s call them bug highways) around their crops. The plants attract pollinators and beneficial insects to take care of pests. Herbs are especially successful in both attracting the right insects and yet deterring pests. Thus rendering the use of pesticides useless. As pesticides impact on bees negatively (to name one terrible side effect), planting prairies only makes sense.

Check out this list of pollinator-attracting plants https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/30/bee-gardening/ and the companion planting list will show plant combinations that deter pests and what https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/28/companion-planting/

A good tip is to plant 1 third grasses and 2 thirds perennial flowers. These plants should be planted in clumps of 7 each (i.e 7 grasses next to 7 flowers of one kind and also 7 of another – and repeat as you i.e plant your border around the veggie patch). Include bulbs for your under-planting and you will have a great-looking mini-prairie in no time. Look at your nearest botanical garden. What mid-size flowering perennials and ornamental grasses did they include there? Those are good choices to go on the list. Make sure your soil is well draining and fertile by adding compost and mulch. Adopt no-dig principles and let the mycorrhizal fungi settle.

Prairies are used for their many benefits: mainly-indigenous prairie gardens are mostly maintenance-free, attractive and highly beneficial in terms of inviting back wildlife and restoring ecosystems. They act as mega supermarkets to pollinators and birds, reptiles and other critters that was part of the once natural balance.

Indigenous wildflowers, grasses and bulbs are conditioned to thrive where they are from and thus have lower water and feeding requirements, but higher resistance to disease and pests. They cause soil improvement, prevention of erosion plus higher yields of food crops.

Prairies are used for farming and food gardens where natural methods are practiced. Purely indigenous is not where the focus should be but rather everyone lives by the golden rule of diversity above all else. If great diversity can be achieved through indigenous choices, that is of course best and also the main idea behind permaculture. We can only benefit by honoring this all-inclusive method, and our planet’s health will be restored in no time.


What is urban farming? A solution!

What is urban farming and its benefits? Growing enough food in the garden for one, or many families, to survive on. Urban agriculture saved Cuba from going under, and it can save the world from looming food challenges.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union 30 years ago, Cuba lost its main food provider and were thrown in the deep end. This was the time of dig-deep and stand together.

Their plan of action however proved successful and the world can now benefit from their lessons learned. Cuba looked at available land and started growing food as fast as possible. Rice, citrus, tomatoes and greens, potatoes and bananas are the crops they focused on (which replaced the once all important sugar cane mono crop).

What is urban farming in terms of effort and planning? We have outlined the basic how-to’s of urban gardening here https://gardeningeden.net/2019/11/26/farming-urban-backyard-homestead/ with very easy to follow guidelines and how to create your own successful allotment.

Due to a lack of synthetic control measures, Cuba had to (fortunately) resort to biological control including compost (https://gardeningeden.net/2019/11/06/diy-compost-easily), companion planting (https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/28/companion-planting/) and attracting beneficial insects (https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/30/bee-gardening/).

About 5 years after their food imports came to a halt, Havana itself had 25,000 family-and urban cooperative tended vegetable allotments.

Thanks to constant soil improvement (see these easy tips on improving soil health: https://gardeningeden.net/category/soilhealth/) and regenerative and permacultural gardening (https://gardeningeden.net/2019/11/04/permaculture-abundance/) methods, these allotments soon produced food all year round. Single crop (mono culture) spaces such as sugarcane farms, largely came to an end, to make way for organic food-producing land.

We need to remember that all climates differ and growing according your climate can easily be summarized as follows:
-Grow most leafy (salad) greens and vegetables during a warm summer when sunshine is available.

-Fruit (shrubs, creepers and trees) are best planted in the early spring in a moderate climate. 

-Root vegetables such as beetroot can be planted at the end of summer for maturing during autumn/fall.

-High-yielding winter grains like rye is best grown in cold, wet climates. Corn and rice for example are better suited to warm, moderate climates.

“For other countries vulnerable to sudden loss of food supplies, Cuba’s experience suggests that urban farming can be one way of staving off potential famine when imports are restricted, expensive or simply unobtainable.” By Climate News Network, 13 Nov. 2019.

This wonderful video should be titled: what Cuba can teach the world about organic farming


Why Mycorrhizae is Important to plant and soil health

The internet of plants, also known as mycorrhizal fungi

Why Mycorrhizae is Important: the fungi exist in undisturbed soil and plants thrive because nutrients will be shared and distributed equally.

Mycorrhizae (meaning “fungus root” in Greek) should be on your best friends’ list. Why you ask? Micorrhizae are the most successful partnerships of all time. This beneficial fungi are expert miners for water and nutrients, with a focus on phosphorus. At first the miccorhizal fungi spores germinate in the soil and make their way to colonize the nearest plant roots. This is the start of a life-long symbiotic relationship between plant and fungi, called “mycorrhiza”. The fungi connects many vegetables and shrubs, flowers and trees with each other – many 100 times the original root space due to the hyphae that spreads and develops a network of filaments (fine and intricately branched hyphae threads).

In the soil food web, the underground ecosystem is made up of insects, worms, algae and bacteria, microscopic creatures and fungi. Saprophytic fungi decomposes woody material, and mycorrhizal transports food in the soil.

Every plant that serves as host to this fungi, benefits through the receiving of the water, nutrients and phosphorus and then gratefully gives thanks with much-needed glucose to the fungus. After photosynthesis, extra sugars are traded by the plants for protection and food. Fungus can spread much wider and further than root systems – giving trees and plants access to soil food outside of their reach. A win-win situation. Being part of an extended feeding community makes mycorrhizae-connected plants visibly healthier.

The list of benefits and why Mycorrhizae is important to your plants, include:

  • Nutrients are delivered on the plant’s demand and need.
  • The fungi reproduce by means of spores, with or without the presence of a host.
  • Production of more vigorous and healthy plants.
  • Resulting in higher yields and improved crop production.
  • Improved flowering and fruiting.
  • Establishing after transplanting seedlings are more successful.
  • They have a much higher tolerance for soil salinity and need less irrigation and feeding.
  • Soil structure improvement and elimination of erosion.
  • Stronger and much healthier root formation plus fewer soil pest issues.
  • Mycorrhizal fungi respond to inequality of resources by moving phosphorus from richer to poorer areas across networks.
  • Reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions (greenhouse gas).
  • Possible reduction of heavy metal impact in host plants.
  • Increased resistance to soil-borne pathogens (bacterial or fungal).

Micorrhizae thrives in undisturbed soil that is rich in organic matter. Use no-dig gardening methods (https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/02/the-no-dig-gardening/) and cover your soil with compost and other natural materials such as wood chips that will eventually break down to further feed the soil. Do not work the compost or material into the soil – just leave it on top as a blanket.

While it is possible to buy and use Mycorrhizal fungi inoculants, it may be of a combination of fungi that does not suit your plant needs. Endomycorrhizal fungi (aka arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi) for example is associate with about 90% of plant species, including vegetables, grasses and many ornamental plants. Ectomycorrhizal fungi however is only associated with about 5% of plants, but are very important for conifers, beech, oak, willows and other deciduous trees. You can either mix the powder into the root balls (or seeds) before planting, or adding it to the watering can before irrigation.
The ideal is however to let your green space recover to its natural health balance, which it will if you let it. If you do opt for this method, make sure to test your soil for available phosphorous for example.

Ever wondered why Mycorrhizae is important and beneficial to plants?

Remember the No-No’s:
Tilling and hoeing will make it impossible for the fungus to settle and thrive. Even annual tiling.
Synthetic fertilizer, pesticides, weed-killing plastic solarization and of course fungicides will destroy your precious micorrhizae. Monocultures, specifically cabbage family members slows down the successful spread.

Note: Mycorrhizal fungi may start of as a friend but end up taking over and turning parasitic due to poor light conditions for example where photosynthesis can not happen fast enough or where soil that is chemically fertilised .


Rosemary benefits and uses and requirements

“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember”
William Shakespeare

Want to increase your memory by 75%? A series of tests have shown this is possible by smelling the essential oil of rosemary daily. Memory improvement is at the top of the list when we discuss Rosemary benefits and uses.
Mental alertness and long-term memory is boosted by sniffing this herb and it is also nowadays used for migraines and digestive issues. The memory benefits have been mentioned as far back as in Hamlet when Ophelia declares: “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance: pray, love, remember”.

Rosemary contains an ingredient called carnosic acid, which can fight off damage by free radicals in the brain and 1,8-cineole a compound that has been linked to memory function. ***Please note: Pregnant women and users of chronic medication should always check with their health practitioners before taking any supplements or natural treatments and epilepsy sufferers should take caution with camphor dosages.

Rosemary benefits and uses include: good sources of iron, calcium, vitamin B-6 and is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which are thought to help boost the immune system and improve blood circulation, alleviate muscle pain, improve memory as mentioned and even promote hair growth.

Growing requirements:
Well-draining, sandy soil and a sunny spot outside, or a brightly lit indoors space, is ideal for this perennial evergreen. Terracotta pots are perfect as it let excess water out and Rosemary’s do prefer drier conditions above constantly moist roots. Your rosemary plant prefers you to always let the soil dry out in-between thorough watering. Wind or drafts are not loved. Trimming the tips regularly (for cooking or finger-crushing for sniffing) will cause your plant to grow bushier. Always cut above a leaf node and never take more than a 1/3 of the stem.
Propagation through cuttings are easier than most plants. Soft stem cuttings, of about 10cm, that are placed to stand in water, will have roots within 2 weeks.


Air purifying indoor plants: the top 18 list

For breath is life, and if you breathe well you will live long on earth. (Sanskrit proverb)

Air purifying indoor plants are more than just pretty faces. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum ‘Mauna Loa’)

Add these plants to your next Garden Centre shopping list:

Spider plant (Chlorophytum elatum) – removes Formaldehyde, Xylene . Requirements: adequate light and draining. Transplant baby plants.
Peace lily (Spathiphyllum ‘Mauna Loa’) – removes Benzene, Carbon Monoxide, Formaldehyde, Trichloroethylene, Xylene . Requirements: Moist, well-draining soil and good light.
Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum) – removes Benzene, Formaldehyde. Requirements: Low light and humidity (or mist sprays on the leaves).
Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii) – removes Benzene, Formaldehyde, Xylene, Trichloroethylene. Requirements: Moist, but well-drained soil. Good light.
Variegated snake plant, mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’) – removes Benzene, Formaldehyde, Xylene, Trichloroethylene. Requirements: Care should be taken with watering. Less is more. Don’t water more than once a month during winter, and only every 2 weeks during summer. * This is one of the very best air purifying indoor plants for bedrooms as it also produces a lot of oxygen during the night.
Heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron cordatum) – removes Formaldehyde. Requirements: Humidity.
Selloum philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum) – removes Formaldehyde. Requirements: Bright, but indirect light.
Elephant ear philodendron (Philodendron domesticum) – removes Formaldehyde. Requirements: Good light and moist growing conditions with well-draining soil and allowing the soil to dry out between watering sessions.
Red-edged dracaena (Dracaena marginata) – removes Benzene, Formaldehyde, Xylene, Trichloroethylene. Provide enough growing room and light.
Cornstalk dracaena (Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’) – removes Benzene, Formaldehyde, Xylene, Trichloroethylene. Requirements: Very soft, indirect light and less water than the average house plant.
Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) – removes Formaldehyde, Benzene, Trichloroethylene. Requirements: Provide enough light minus draft or direct sunlight and regular well-draining watering.
Barberton daisy (Gerbera jamesonii) – removes Benzene, Formaldehyde, Xylene. Requirements: Plenty of natural light and keep the soil moist but well-drained.
Florist’s chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium) – removes Benzene, Formaldehyde, Xylene, Trichloroethylene, Amonia. Requirements: Good light and air-flow, water drainage and moist soil.
Aloe vera (Aloe vera) – removes Benzene, Formaldehyde. Requirements: Do not over water and place plant in a sunny spot.

Air purifying indoor plants like the Aloe Vera has additional topical health benefits.

Janet Craig (Dracaena deremensis “Janet Craig”) – removes Benzene, Formaldehyde, Xylene, Trichloroethylene. Requirements: Moderately moist soil, very good drainage and soil that does not receive more than an annual application of fertilizer.
Warneckei (Dracaena deremensis “Warneckei”) – removes Benzene, Formaldehyde, Xylene, Trichloroethylene. Requirements: Moist but well-draining soil. Never over-water.
Banana (Musa oriana) – removes Formaldehyde
(Depending on where you live, some of these plants may not readily available as they are listed as invader species in non-indigenous terms). Requirements: Bright light, rich and moist soil.

English ivy (Hedera helix) – removes Benzene, Formaldehyde, Xylene, Trichloroethylene. Requirements: Generous watering and a sunny spot.

Pineapple Plants – as revealed by NASA, do not remove toxins from the air, but due to their night-time oxygen production and improvement to air quality, these plants can actually put an end to snoring. Requirements: Very little water and mild to warm temperatures.

Air purifying indoor plants remove what toxins and why?

Removes what? Trichloroethylene from paint, varnish, lacquers and printing inks, glue and paint removers.
Why: Symptoms include headaches and nausea or vomiting followed by drowsiness and in extreme cases coma.

Removes what? Formaldehyde from waxed paper, tissues or paper towels, paper bags, plywood and synthetic fabrics.
Why? Symptoms include nose, mouth and throat irritation, and in severe cases, possible swelling of the larynx and lungs.

Removes what? Benzene from plastics and cleaning products, wax, resins and glue, lubricants, tobacco smoke and drugs.
Why? Symptoms include irritation to eyes, sleepiness or dizziness, confusion, headache, increase in heart rate, and in some severe cases, unconsciousness.

Removes what? Xylene from tobacco smoke, vehicle exhaust pollution, rubber and leather.
Why? Symptoms include irritation to mouth and throat, headaches and confusion, heart challenges, liver and kidney damage or even coma.

Removes what? Ammonia from floor waxes, window cleaners and fertilizers.
Why? Symptoms include: eye and throat irritation and coughing.


Health benefits of turnips and how to grow them

Food should be the medicine, and medicine the food.

Turnip greens are the easiest self-grow super food.

Health benefits of turnips and how to grow them can be summed up as a super food that is super easy to grow. Growing requirements: wait for the last frost to pass and sow seeds 1cm deep in well-draining soil with ideally full sun but tolerant of semi-shade. Harvest the super healthy and nutritious greens as soon as 3 weeks, but take care not to remove all the leaves off one plant. (Roots are harvested after 1,5 months.) The video below shows everything you need to know.

What makes turnip greens a super food?

The ANDI Index (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index which measures mineral, vitamin and phyto-nutrient density in relation to caloric content) rates health benefits of turnips greens among the top foods that earn a possible score of a 1000 points.

A 55-gram cup of raw leaves contains:

-33 mg of vitamin C (a cup of raw leaves provides more than a third of the daily recommended amount)
-105 micrograms (mcg) of folate (this is a very high level)
-318 mcg of vitamin A (a cup of the leaves provides more than a third of the daily recommended amount)
-138 mcg of vitamin K (a cupful of raw turnip greens provides more than one day’s recommended amount)

To boost skin, eyes and hair. Typically the vitamin A and C content is brilliant for your skin and eye health and iron is all important for hair growth and preventing hair loss. Eyes (glaucoma treatment), skin (lessening sun-damage), multiple sclerosis, and migraines are among the benefits topics.

Brain protection is an added health benefits of turnips and it may also protect brain tissue in stroke survivors and dementia cases.

Digestive issues and constipation is prevented and treated due to the high fiber / water content.

Fertility is improved in women wishing to fall pregnant when consuming iron-rich foods such as turnip greens, spinach and green beans. Turnip greens are high in folic acid which is also very important for fertility and pregnancy health.

Energy is regulated by iron and a cup of daily leafs will provide your body with a boost.

Mood and sleep patterns is improved by Choline. This nutrient in turnip greens benefits memory, muscle movement and sleep. Also high in folates, a diet rich in turnip greens, will help with depression by preventing an excess of homocysteine which blocks the feel-good hormones from reaching the brain.

Diabetes diets will all benefit from turnips. Turnip greens should be present in diabetes menus due to their extremely high vitamins, minerals and 5g fiber / cup content (daily fiber recommendation for women is 21 – 25g and for men 30 – 38g). Intake of the present alpha-lipoic adic, a powerful antioxidant that lowers glucose levels and increase insulin sensitivity, while also protecting against oxidation stress-changes further makes this a diabetes-friendly option.

Health benefits of turnips in osteoporosis and oxygenating treatments. This leafy green is extremely high in dietary nitrate which helps pump oxygen to muscles during exercise. Bone health is boosted because of the exceptionally high calcium content and turnip greens also provide great amounts of vitamin A, phosphorus, and magnesium for further promotion of bone health, and these too are present in turnip greens.

Studies suggest that consumers of turnip greens and other similar plant foods lower their risk of obesity and diabetes, cancer and heart disease, eye diseases, dementia and osteoporosis.

Please note: Cardiovascular-caution individuals should check with their physician about high-nitrate diets. Users of Warfarin or other blood-thinners, should not suddenly eat greater or smaller amounts of foods containing vitamin K as it affects your body’s blood clotting capabilities and thus the drug’s action. Additionally, keep in mind that a cup of greens are quite high in sodium, so adding salt should be avoided. Lastly, make sure to store nitrate-rich vegetable juices such as turnip leaf juice, properly in order to avoid accumulated bacteria due to nitrate converting to the harmful version of nitrite.


Grow potatoes in containers to save space

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. – African proverb

Don’t have enough space for potato growing? You’re probably right. Unless you grow potatoes in containers. I have learned from a bunch of great gardeners about their tried and tested methods to growing potatoes and sweet potatoes above soil. These clever ideas all revolved around containers made from either firm materials such as wood or also other surprising materials such as feeder bags. All surprisingly do-able, smart ideas aimed for growing potatoes with least effort and best yield. Note: these “containers” are mostly recycled, cheap or free.

My favorite grow potatoes in containers examples are:

A wooden box container made from 4 x small doors: When all the doors are locked together, they form a square planter. The planter can either have a bottom or be open to drain into the soil it stands on.

  • Pro’s: If made from a hard wood, or wood that is for example scorch-treated, this container will last forever. You can move it around and harvesting is made easy by unlocking the doors when the time is right.
  • Cons: to grow potatoes in cobtainers this way, can be a pricey process, especially if you build them big enough to carry a descent amount of spuds.
  • How To: Fill a third high and plant. Keep filling to hill as the potatoes grow. Once the potato stems have browned, open the doors and let the potatoes roll out.

Did you know? The scorching method has been used for centuries in Japan and is known as shou sugi ban. The fire-charring method on the wood surface is followed by a coating of natural oil which effectively preserves the wood as it is also followed with a coating of natural oil.  

Rolled hessian or feeder bags: Allowing you to always at the right height.

  • Pro’s: The depth can easily be adjusted by simply unrolling the sides. These bags can be used as a recycling alternative and will most likely be free. Watch out for over-watering though!
  • Con’s: Finding a descent hessian bag may not be as easy as plastic options and nobody wants to grow in plastic. Fabric bags may not last longer than a season.
  • How To: Roll the bag low so that your first planting depth is correct. Unroll and fill with soil as you need to hill around the ever-taller plants. At harvesting time, simply empty the bag out.

Wire fencing loop containers: Double loops of recycled wire fencing works a charm and any size is achievable.

  • Pro’s: Finding damaged fencing is easy and usually free, making this a fantastic recycling option. The material is light and easy to work with allowing an easy set-up and harvesting. The material can also be used again and again.
  • Con’s: If you are using damaged wired fencing, make sure there’s no rust or sharp points.
  • How To: Double loop the fence into a barrel and secure. Fill to the right starter height and add soil as the plant grows. Once at brown stem, harvest-stage, un-fasten the fence and let it roll open to release the soil and spuds.

Stacked tire towers: A re-using idea well known by any and all that has ever likes recycling tires in the garden. It is another easy-to-dismantle idea to grow potatoes in containers.

  • Pro’s: Used tires are available to any and all, mostly always free of charge. The material itself helps retain water very well and will last probably forever.
  • Con’s: Is the material used in making a tire safe for eating? Although nobody suggest you eat the tire itself (smirk), the rubber/tire particles can leech into the soil. An alternative to planting straight into the tires, is to line them out with un-printed and plastic-free cardboard, followed by the soil so that there is no direct contact between tire and soil. Don’t let the soil get too wet.
  • How To: Lay tire 1 down, fill with soil and plant. Once the plant needs to be supported, stack the second tire on top and fill with soil to hill around the plant. A final, 3rd, tire will be needed for height. When the harvesting time comes, these tires can simply be removed.

Buried under a mount of old wood chips is a method used by some successfully, although it is not planted a container.

  • Pro’s: This is the lowest-effort option of all and your soil is fed while the wood chips break down.
  • Con’s: wood chips can lack in nutrients and rob your soil and plants of nitrogen while it breaks down. Make sure to read and understand the How To below.
  • How to: Never use new but at least 1 year old wood chips. Grow a legume, such as peas or peanuts, nearby to provide further nitrogen. Lay your potatoes or sweet potatoes on the ground and dump a mound of wood chips over these. As the stalks grow through the chips, keep adding more wood in order to ‘hill’.

My favorite option for sweet potatoes is a wired fencing loop that can act as container and also trellis for the edible greens that we harvest. For potatoes, I will probably daydream about becoming a good bag lady (hessian or other cotton) .



Growing Vegetables in Shade – a list of shady plants

Did you know? Green leafy veg that is grown in shade, is less bitter.

Does your garden site receive as few as two hours of direct sunlight a day or only get dappled sunlight? Growing vegetables in shade is possible! – but make sure you select plants that will tolerate and grow in these conditions. You can not force or convince a fruit bearing vegetable like tomatoes, to thrive in shade.

Partially shaded: A garden that has light shade or dappled shade all day, or gardens that receive 2 – 6 hours of direct sun per day, either in the morning or the afternoon with light or full shade otherwise.

Lightly shaded gardens receive a few hours of sun plus plenty of indirect or reflected light for many hours each day.

Deep shade refers to almost no sunlight at all. Only root crops will tolerate these growing conditions.

Growing vegetables in shade will be successful with these vegetables that will grow in partial shade:

  • Beets (will tolerate a lot of shade)
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots (will tolerate a lot of shade)
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chard
  • Chinese Cabbage
  • Endive Greens
  • Garlic
  • Horseradish
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Lettuce
  • Leeks
  • Parsnips
  • Peas
  • Potatoes (will tolerate a lot of shade)
  • Radishes
  • Sorrel
  • Spinach
  • Summer Squash
  • Turnips
  • Watercress

Examples of herbs that will grow in partial shade include:

  • Angelica
  • Basil
  • Catnip
  • Chives
  • Garden Cress
  • Horseradish
  • Lemon Balm
  • Loveage
  • Mint
  • Parlsey
  • Rosemary
  • Sweet Flag
  • Valerian
  • Woodruff

Keep in mind:

  • Growing vegetables in shade means maturing will take longer.
  • Planting near walls will reflect more light on your plants.
  • Planting in containers will allow you to move your plants around as needs arise.
  • Yields will be smaller when griwing vegetables in shade.
  • Seed germination will be more successful if done indoors.
Just over 4 minutes of great advice!

Farming in small backyards: Urban homesteading.

Farming in small backyards vs growing gardens simply for ornamental reasons, which are now as outdated as owning a Prince Albert tea set that may almost never be used. Farming in cities and towns, known as urban agriculture, is the future and possibly the planet’s saving grace.

Where to start when considering farming in small backyards?
Combine edible and ornamental plants, insect and animals and micro-climates to create a sustainable ecosystem. The outcome should be a beautifully space to harvest food and also relax in.

Edible and ornamental plants are grown side by side as companions (see https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/28/companion-planting/ ) to attract beneficial, and deter harmful pests. This really works! Your need for pest control will drop dramatically. Always plant successively so that you harvest today, next week and the week after from the same type of plant by sowing plant types 10 days apart.

Container gardens are a great consideration in regards to farming in small backyards: turn a little (possibly rented) outdoor space or window area into a small urban farm. This is an easy and cheap answer to most people.

Most importantly, the focus needs to be on polyculture (a word to describe growing many different plant types together) which will maximize yields. Combining climbing plants on a corn plant (which acts as a trellis) with pumpkins at their feet (to shade out weeds and help with water retention) is a great example. In order to do this successfully, you will need to feed your soil with compost. This is a great opportunity to stay within your own loop and use your own kitchen and garden waste to create soil food (see how to compost easily: https://gardeningeden.net/2019/11/06/diy-compost-easily)

Animal inclusion does not come easier than keeping quails (for smaller gardens) or chickens. Quails can be kept in a mobile upside-down chicken-wire “box” that allows them to move on bare earth but be protected from predators. They can thus be constantly moved to new spaces. Make sure the size of this wire-basket is big enough to allow their bodies to take up only 10% of the entire space and the rest is for moving around. Provide water and top-up food. Chickens and quails provide free pest control, fertilizer and eggs. It’s a win-win situation.

Ornamental plants are grown to attract pollinators or feed your bee hive if you have one. Group larger numbers of flower plants and herbs together because insects need spot these plashes from far away or they will fly to your neighbour’s. Would you like to see a plant list of pollinator attracting plants? Check these out: https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/30/bee-gardening/
Alternatively, keep your own bee hive. It’s never been this easy. Check out the mason jar method: https://gardeningeden.net/2019/11/25/is-mason-jar-beekeeping-method/


Mason Jar Bee Hive: the diy method

Beekeeping made easy

Want to keep your own bees? It’s never been this easy.
Mason jar bee hive is an ideal consideration for small spaces. The smallest suburban backyards can be a perfect haven for honey bees to build hives.

Note: Find out from your nearest municipal office what you may do in your given location before setting off to make your mason jar bee hive. Another great idea is to contact a local beekeeping group and ask them for advice regarding the bees that occur naturally in your area. They will most likely be the best people to advise you.

For a mason jar bee hive, you will need:
a) 1 piece thick, unpainted plywood (this is where the honey jars are inserted into where the hive will exist so keep in mind the weight factor when you consider the strength and thickness of this wood);

b) 4 pieces of unpainted wood for the top frame, 2,5cm (1″) in height. The plywood should be a bit smaller than the surface area of the brood box;

  • Screw the 4 pieces of wood around/to the plywood to create a frame.

c) Place and trace around one mason jar lid at the corner of the plywood. Use a hole-cutter and cut out the circle hole inside the lid-tracing otherwise it will be too big when you want the mouth of the mason jar to fit the hole snugly;

  • Once you are happy, cut out all your circles.

d) Beehive bottom board (same size as the top frame);

e) Assemble the hive next. Set the bottom board, followed by the brood box where worker-made cells will house eggs, larvae and pupae to develop. Then place the queen excluder at the top;

  • Tip: Plastic excluders weigh much lighter. (Don’t know what an excluder is? An excluder is a barrier inside the beehive that allows worker bees through, but not a larger queen or drone to get past.)

f) 4 paint-free wooden side-panels for the hive, all of similar heights;

  • Finish construction by attaching and screwing together the wood panels and the frame to create a box-like structure with the plywood and holes on top while the bottom is open.

g) Wide-mouth, sanitized mason jars Fit the jars and ensure they all fit properly around the holes;

h) Starter strips / empty combs;

  • Finally fit the jars with starter strips or empty combs inside to lure bees inside (and keep them happy outside with these plants https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/30/bee-gardening/). These starter strips and empty combs are available for sale on the internet and sellers post them to you. Let the bees do what they do best. Get bees from a farm. Like the empty combs/starter strips, you can find one near you online. Once filled with honey, you can close the jars lids for cover again.
  • Note: not all bee spesies are o.k with this type of bee hive.

The only question left is, why have you not done this before now?

How to garden free: newspaper and cardboad hacks

How to garden free and environmentally friendly is always on my mind and I love using newspaper and especially cardboard. For many, using it in organic food gardens is an ongoing debate.

Both have been used widely as a mulch, natural weed killer, and as potting cups.

As newspaper and cardboard breaks down, carbon is released into the soil. Carbon is an essential element to healthy soil.

The golden rule, according to the experts, is to use only plastic-free cardboard without glossy print and newspapers without colored inks. Currently newspapers are printed with safer inks such as soy ink and the general consensus is that it can safely be used.

How to garden free: 8 x Top Hacks with newspaper and cardboard boxes. These make life EASY!

1) Make your own biodegradable seedling pots out of newspaper:

The internet is full of different origame instructions. Or follow the world’s simplest method ever:
-Tear the double sheet into 2 pieces.
-Roll a longish cone.
-Fold the point over the edge, into the wide mouth, to secure the shape and close the bottom off. With this very basic shape is, your pots are meant to sit in a box together until planting day. They will not stand by themselves.
-Repeat until you have enough, and place them snug enough into the temporary box, pre-planting.
-You now have biodegradable planting pots ready to fill with soil. So go ahead and buy heirloom seeds!

2) sowing your heirloom seeds and raising seedlings without competitive weeds can be done if you start the process with the help of a weed blanket:

-Add wet newspaper sheets to a raked surface. Make sure to overlap them well to ensure great coverage.
-After designing your planting scheme, draw or paint the outline design on to the sheets.
-Cut out the ‘pattern’ of your planting spaces (the “holes” where the plants will grow through). Secure the sheets down with rocks if it is windy.

Now you can start with your sowing can be done followed by a layer of compost and mulch.

3) Create a perfect 50/50 carbon/nitrogen compost booster:

Add shredded newspaper to the same ratio as foliage to your compost. Tip: run over a few newspaper sheets next time you mow the lawn. Shredded newspaper to the compost bin is like a sprinkling of fairy dust.

4) Trap pests the easy way: Place damp newspaper is an alluring place around plants/trees before night fall, and pick them up the next morning with all the quilty visitors underneath.

5) Lasagne gardening on a base of newspaper:

Create a moistened bed of newspaper (1cm thick layer) and add on top:
– layer of small sticks and twigs
– layer of foliage
– layer of shredded color-ink-paper
– layer of compost and soil
– repeat all these steps except the bottom base (which you only do once). * Keep moist and covered with a mulch. After 2 months, you will be left with a most fertile, magic planting bed for your heirloom seeds to be sown.

6) Create an instant cost and maintenance-free pathway with cardboard boxes:
Open up your plastic-free, non-glossy cardboard boxes and overlap/lay them to form your path. Weigh down with a few rocks here and there. Follow up with mulch, wood chips or gravel. You may need to add a new cardboard sheet every other year.
How to garden free includes this very cheap, or free method – plus, you will never deal with a single weed.

7) Instant fix to impossible sand or clay soils:
Collect smaller plastic-free and non-glossy carboard boxes such as wine boxes. Dig a hole where you wish to plant, insert the box, but filled with good soil and compost. Plant next with the chosen plant, or sow your heirloom seeds in situs and finally cover the area with mulch so that the box is out of sight. This method works very well! The box will eventually break down, to further enrich the soil.

8) Easiest method to minimize weeds and maximize water: Tear up cardboard boxes that have no plastic or glossy print. Place these around your shrubs and trees, not quite over-lapping but close to. The ideais for water to easily get through the gaps, to the roots of your plants, but to beclose enough to suppressweeds. These cardboard sheets will become soil food in time and putting new cardboard carpets down will be needed now and then. Cover all areas inbetween plants that you wish to keep clean. Cover and hide with mulch.

These simple methods are game changers!