Tag Archives: food garden

Every Home Must Have a Garden

“Every home must have a garden” declares Ntombenhle Mtambo passionately.

Not content with turning her tiny back yard into a food forest, Ntombenhle has been pestering the uMngeni Municipality for the past 8 years to allow her to use a vacant plot, which Mpophomeni residents have been using as a dumping site, for a food garden.

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“This is so important,” she says, “Everyone should have the ability to afford a healthy lifestyle. In this garden we will share skills and teach people to recycle all the things they think are waste.”

r barrowfull of plastic waste

The Mpophomeni Conservation Group has set about creating this community garden with great gusto. Watch this short video of the original dream: https://vimeo.com/92513329

Volunteers began a few months ago, clearing the rubbish from the site – eish, so much buried plastic and chunks of concrete!

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Neighbour, Bonokwakhe Madlala brought them all gloves when he noticed they were working with bare hands.

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Then Hilton and Howick Rotary, who share Ntombenhle’s vision, erected a fence to keep the goats and chickens out.

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A fence is absolutely essential if you want to grow food in a township where livestock roams freely.

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Thandi Sheleme who runs the crèche next door to the garden is terribly excited and keen to start a garden on her side of the new fence too.

mpop garden creche

Paul Duncan of Dovehouse helped draw up a plan based on permaculture principles. Zane Mnchunu of MIDI, who are delighted to be associated with the MCG garden commented Paul’s a magician, I’m convinced! What a man. Well done guys. Garden is looking good.

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Quick as a flash, swales were dug to harvest the rain and beds were made.

r mpop garden october digging swale

Ntombenhle and Tutu have been planting seeds at Qhamukile School nearby, so were able to collect lots of seedlings for the new garden from there – including onions, spinach and comfrey.

r mpop garden october onions

Barend Booysen brought bags of manure and mulch and some Vepris lanceolata trees.  “I am blown away by what is happening here. I can see a big future for this project.” he said, “I will be drop by with more whenever I am in the area.”

r mpop garden october barend

Alex March of Nkosi Nursery delivered indigenous trees and shrubs for windbreaks, shade, medicine and wildlife including Ouhout, Celtis, Buddleja, lots of aloes, Artemesia, Rhus lanceolata, Freylinia.  He donated a whole bunch too.

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Fortunately, the rain arrived soon after, so digging holes was not too much of a challenge and planting commenced with gusto.

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The small stream that runs through the site is ideal for watering everything.  The water is clean and fresh. Plans are afoot to plant arums and incema in the waterlogged areas.

r mpop garden october collecting water

Margie Pretorius visited the fledgling garden, was terribly impressed and sponsored a whole lot of fruit trees, herbs, seeds and seedlings.

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Ntombenhle popped into Hopewells to stock up – Peppers, Brinjals, Beetroot and Kale seedlings and seeds of nasturtium, coriander, courgette, beans, sunflowers, carrots, parsley and fennel.

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Every day as the volunteers clear and dig, people stop by to chat about the project. Ntombenhle says “A guy from the municipality stopped by too. He was speechless. They made us wait so long for permission to create this garden. Now they can see for themselves what we can do.”

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Mrs Mncube who owns the Tuck Shop across the road brings over trays of tea and sandwiches to keep them going.

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N3TC have sponsored some inspiring learning for the group – to Enaleni Agro-Ecological Farm to learn to bake bread and make fruit cordials, and to the Khula Shanti Food Garden to discover pea pyramids, chicken tractors and the importance of rocks in the garden.

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Ntombenhle concludes “This piece of land is going to bring lots of fun, unity in the community, new skills and challenges. I can see a bright future if the community roll up their sleeves and learn to make money out of waste and gardening.”

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Come and see for yourself what is happening on the corner of Mhlongo and Stadium Roads in Mpophomeni. Or like them on facebook.com/MpopConserve

Clearing out your garage this holiday?  Ntombenhle will be very grateful for used roofing and poles to create a shelter, pieces of shade cloth, wire, trellis, watering cans, garden tools. They do need as much mulch (hay) and manure as they can get their hands on – so if you are clearing out the stables too…..  She is quite determined not to spend any money on these items and rather make use of/recycle things other people no longer need.  Contact her on 071 916 2550.

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Pea Pyramid, Chicken Tractor, Yellowwood Inspiration

The Mpophomeni Conservation Group arranged a visit for supporters to the Khula Shanti Sanctuary and Food Garden in Boston recently. Thanks to the Global Green Grants Fund and N3TC for sponsoring the inspiring day.

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Carol Segal reports: We were given the most glorious sunshine day to enjoy the splendour of Khula Shanti Sanctuary. A group of 15 beautiful beings arrived at the Pickle Pot Café. We introduced our staff and our dogs.

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We refreshed ourselves with fresh spring water, infused with lavender flowers, mint and orange slices and munched on just baked carrot and banana bread.

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All systems charged, walking shoes on and time to explore the forest. The forest walk was an enlightening success, the feedback at the end of the day revealed that this was a first time experience for many of our visitors.

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We had the opportunity to observe and talk about biodiversity, planting in guilds, forest mulch, eco-systems, habitats and conservation. The abundance of Podacarpus trees in the Khula Shanti Forest sparked discussions on national trees, animals and flowers. The idea of a national tree was new knowledge for some visitors, and many took to spotting all the Podacarpus along the walk.

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Deep in the heart of the forest is a solid, cool rock face – time to touch energy as well as observe example of the use of rocks in nature and how we can integrate them into food garden design. The moss and lichen growing on these rocks provided classic photographic material and also more discussions around habitat and biodiversity. As well as the unanswerable question. “how do trees grow out of rocks?”

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Our precious finds for the day were some fresh samples of duiker droppings, porcupine droppings, as well as a magnificent feather which we are almost certain belonged to an owl.

Ntombenhle shared some valuable insights on bugweed removal and the problems of alien invaders in our natural forests. Carol comments “she bubbles energy and optimism which was contagious for the group.” Tutu loved learning about the importance of rocks in the garden and left inspired to rehabilitate the eMashingeni forest at the top of the Mpophomeni valley.

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We took the walk slowly and allowed individuals to absorb and receive what was required from nature as it was apparent that for many the experience was fresh and new. Moses said “I grew up in Jozi, so today, walking in a forest was a whole new experience for me. I have never done that before. Walk and listen and look at the forest. It was good. This is a new era for me, I am blessed to have met MCG.”

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The forest walk is a fairly steep incline for some, so many were pleased to see the cheerful welcome of the bright and happy floral food forest garden. We spent the first 10 minutes of our time in the garden, walking around silently, observing feeling the Khula Shanti Food Gardens.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 275 - CopyWe then opened discussions around what new knowledge could be taken from the food gardens. The cucumber and pea pyramid, the chicken tractor, rock pathways, circular beds, companion planting, Vermiculture, compost making, comfrey tinctures, mulch and tea trees are only a few of the discussions we shared.

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“It is important to have a place to sit in your garden. To enjoy the work you do, and to watch the work of little things.“ said Ntombenhle

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Skhumbuso dug his hands into the compost heap and filled them with rich moist compost teaming with red wriggler worms. Everyone was pleased to hear that goat and horse manure is fantastic for the compost heap.

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Nqobile was most impressed by the idea of worm wee. “I still don’t believe what I saw. The chicken tractor, the indigenous forest. This is the first time I have seen these things and it is wonderful.” The Khula Shanti Chicken tractors were the source of much curiosity and questioning. “I’m going to try this at home” she said.

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It was encouraging to observe the contagious enthusiasm and tangible inspiration while people were browsing, grazing, sniffing and tasting the sensory explosion of the food garden. Questions around seed saving, seed-plug propagation, succession planting were answered. Gertrude liked the idea of using old cans to grow plants in “Tomorrow I am going to collect all the scrap around my place to use.” she said.

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The day still in full bloom, we sat down and chatted about marketing strategies for food gardens, how and where to sell organic veg. Carol demonstrated her food box scheme and shared ideas, obstacles and visions her experience. Ntombenhle made some notes about Marketing their produce:

  • Tell people what you have to sell
  • They will order what they need
  • Wash the veg and pack nicely in a box
  • Pack different things together
  • Make a name tag for that person, make it pretty
  • Make sure you add R20 so you can make some money
  • Start small
  • Sell to weddings, tuck shops, neighbours, schools

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We divided ourselves into two groups to pack 2 food box orders – went back up to the garden to select, pick, wash and prepare the orders. This was a fun and hands on activity which could be further expanded in the future. For many visitors new learnings were – variety of vegetables and herbs, presentation of vegetables before selling them, pricing and packing, where to sell and who to sell to.

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When discussing the possibilities of starting a food box scheme, Carol shared the obstacles she has faced and also reminded the group of the importance of co-operatives as well as the danger of over-promising and under-delivering. We shared ideas around how to successfully start a business and start small rather than big to ensure a steady supply as well as to be reliable in quality as well as quantity of produce. The food box packing demonstration was well received, everyone participated and much was learnt, including how to pick and eat peas before packing them.

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Finally, time to feast. We shared briefly about nutrition and the importance of eating foods from our gardens and raw food first.

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The idea of salads and salad sandwiches, for lunch was not received with glee by all visitors. Carol did overhear the request “Is there any peanut butter and bread to eat?”

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However, the majority of participants tucked into the lunch with gusto and enjoyed the harvest from the garden. Kwenza commented “That kind of juice food we ate was delicious and healthy. Now we know about organic gardening.” Stembile added “I really enjoyed eating the lunch; my taste-buds are still dancing”

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We closed our day with a feedback session on what new learnings had been received and where people would like to go to from here.

Some comments made in the feedback session were:

“I never thought you could plant flowers in a vegetable garden”

“I am so surprised how clean this place is, I have never been to a place like this, where there is no litter”

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Ntombenhle was delighted ”This workshop helped the group to know and understand what we are trying to do on the community garden site. They now have a good picture of what is going on. I am glad that we are not alone anymore.”