Tuesday, December 21, 2010

green finger tips - nitrogen deficiency

If the leaves of your plant turn yellowish you know you have a Nitrogen deficiency. In the photo above, you can clearly see the bottom leaves of the fennel turning yellow. The plants grow slowly and the bottom leaves will turn yellow first. This is a sure sign that you have to amend the soil. The natural way to fix Nitrogen deficiencies is to add compost, mulch, liquid fertilizer and green manure.

Nitrogen is vital to good plant growth. If your plants show signs of a shortage of Nitrogen, you need to add manures, including cattle, sheep, pig, goat, chicken and rabbit manures. Adding good compost helps a lot, if you cannot get manure. All manure should be well matured as fresh manure will burn your plants.

Using liquid manure can help to cure a Nitrogen deficiency, especially if you use plants like bean, comfrey, clover and nettle to make your liquid fertilizer Nitrogen fixing plants include groundnuts, cowpeas, beans, mustard, alfalfa, peas, soya beans and clover. These nitrogen fixing plants are known as legumes. Legumes are generally pod forming plants. Leguminous plants help to fix Nitrogen in the soil. You can plant legumes in the soil and grow green manure crops

In the long term, you can fix nitrogen deficiency by adding lots of organic materials to the soil. When the soil is healthy and balanced you will find you have excellent growth, with no signs of yellowing.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

green finger tips - green manure

Alfalfa/ Lucerne in this photo.

What is green manure

Green manures are crops that are grown to help the soil to fix nutrients. Food for the soil is vital to good plant growth. When nutrients are missing from the soil, plants will become infected with pests, viruses and bacteria.

Green manure gives the soil health

Keeping the soil healthy is incredibly important for successful companion planting in an organic garden. Green manure crops provide the nutrients the soil needs. You can scatter seeds of plants like clover and alfalfa to fix nitrogen in the soil. Nitrogen is vital to keep plants leaves from yellowing.

How to use green manure

When the plants are starting to go to seed, you can pull out or cut back the green manure plants. Mulch the green manure crops right where you have grown it. It will then feed the soil with the vital ingredients for successful growth.

What plants can I use for green manure

Plants like Alfalfa (Lucerne) pictured above, is a great Nitrogen Fixing plant. It has the added bonus that is regrows after it has been cut back and this can be done several times.

Comfrey and Lupins help to add Phosphorous to the soil. Certain herbs, like Lovage and Golden Rod can be used as green manure crops to improve the soil. Hyssop helps to fight bacterial infections.

Green manure effectively improves soil

Growing green manure crops is a sensible and cost effective way of improving the soil and creating mulch. here is a list of useful plants for fixing soil

Thursday, December 16, 2010

green finger tips - liquid fertilizer

One of the easiest ways to fix the soil is to feed it with liquid fertilizer tea.
Making liquid fertilizer is easy.

You need to suspend a bag of organic materials in water and allow them to steep for 1 - 2 weeks before you can use it. You can use any organic material including soil improving plants, manures and “weeds”.

Preparing to make liquid fertilizer tea.

1. Stand the container in a cool shady spot.
2. Make sure you have a lid that fits the drum of your liquid fertilizer tea
container. The smell can be outrageous.
3. Fill the container with water.
4. Get a good strong stick to lie across the diameter of the drum,
5. Have a Hessian (natural fiber) bag and a piece of string.
6. Fill the bag with a mixture of manure, compost and/or plants.
7. Allow to stand and ferment for a week or two.
8. Use by diluting with fresh water.

Liquid fertilizer is diluted in a ratio of 1:10. One part of liquid fertilizer and 10 parts of water is the ideal mixture. If you use the liquid fertilizer undiluted, it will burn the plants.

Use liquid fertilizer when transplanting or when plants are looking a little off color. Feed plants with liquid fertilizer about once a week.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

green finger tips - stop soil erosion

Soil which is exposed to the elements becomes infertile, dry and blows away in the wind, never to be replaced again. Soil erosion is one of the most common ways that top soil is lost. Top soil that erodes is lost forever.
Preserving the top soil is important. Growing organically means that you want to protect your topsoil and prevent soil erosion.
There are simple steps to follow to protect the soil:
1. Keep the soil covered – cover the soil with organic or inorganic matter. Stones, old leaves and grass clipping are great for keeping the soil covered. Even your daily newspaper can be recycled to feed the soil.
2. Feed the soil – give it piles of compost and mulch. The soil has to be fed constantly to maintain its fertility. Regular additions of compost and mulch maintain the soil in good condition.
3. Grow green cover – always keep the soil covered with plants. Green mulch effectively protects the soil, keeping it covered.
4. Plant windbreaks – stop the wind from removing your precious stop soil by planting barrier plants to divert the wind.
5. Sink water into the soil – catch as much rainwater as possible from the roof and direct it into channels and pits in the ground. Sinking the water into the ground, improves the water table allowing the plants roots to benefit.
It is easy to protect your patch of soil. You start to realise that the earth is a living organism and needs to be fed, cared for and it will yield so much to benefit your health.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

green finger tips - transformation of the soil

You can see that the soil is very poor and rocky into the deal. A quick tip when you build a vegetable garden is to enrich the organic content of the soil to achieve incredible results.
Adding loads of compost, using mulch, green manure plants and liquid manure allows you to rapidly increase the fertility of the soil.
Getting the soil prepared to produce food, especially if the soil is poor and very rocky can be tiring, but the results are rewarding. Once you have the soil in good condition, you simply need to maintain the fertility by adding more compost, mulch and growing green manure plants.
The results as you can see three months down the line...phenomenal.

Monday, November 22, 2010

green finger tips - building a vegetable garden from start to produce

Five months ago, Jackie, the Melojak gardener said:
"this project is a huge learning curve but well worth the time and effort. it is going to be good eating some fresh veggies for a change. fingers crossed xx"

in the end she was so overwhelmed by her produce she had to go out and buy a freezer.

you can build your own vegetable garden with a little knowledge, patience and persistence.

look out for more green finger tips about how to get things going and how to create fresh food abundance in your garden.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

green finger tips – plant transplants and avoiding transplant shock

Transplanting seedlings

When you transplant plants, they can look a like they’re dying. Transplanting seedlings will cause transplant shock in the plant. When your plants are ready to be transplanted, you should keep a few things in mind to help minimise the trauma of plant transplant.

Harden plants for transplanting

When your seedlings are ready to be transplanted, you should leave them in the sun for a day or two to harden off. Hardening off is when plants are left in the sun to toughen them up after being in protected nursery conditions. Step 1 in plant transplant is to toughen the seedlings up.

Time of day is critical when transplanting seedlings

Choose the time of day carefully when transplanting. In the summer it is best to transplant in the late afternoon or evening. This gives the plant the whole night to accustomise itself to its new position and it doesn’t have to deal with the hot sun on its first day in the new environment.

In the winter, in milder climates, do your plant transplanting in the morning and no later than 3pm in the day. The water will freeze in the soil and the frost will kill the seedlings overnight should you plant them later in the day.

Protect the roots when transplanting seedling

Always avoid disturbing the rootball of the plants you are transplanting. Keep the soil protecting the roots of the plant you are transplanting, as much as possible. Having the soil the plant was growing in around the rootball helps to lessen the transplant shock.

Some plants can be trimmed back to reduce the amount of leaves on the plant. Plants, like mint, can be stripped of leaves, but others, like baby swiss chard, need their leaves to grow well.

Give extra nutrients when transplanting seedlings

Have some liquid manure or plant feed ready to help relieve the symptoms of transplant shock. Throw a little compost into the hole you are placing the seedling into. The plant transplant will go smoothly with extra nutritional planning for the plants.

May your green fingers flourish.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

green finger tips - mulch

What is the role of mulch in your organic garden?

Mulch is such a superb word and it plays such a vital role in creating an organic garden. Mulch material is generally easy to come by.

Soil must have organic matter on it to keep it in place, feed it and hold the water in the soil. Mulch helps to control weeds, stabilizes the soil temperature and prevents soil water loss through evaporation.

Mulch saves you the time and energy you would spend making compost. Really mulch material laid directly onto the soil is the simplest way to create fertile soil, quickly. Some mulch materials you can get for free from your garden. Grass clippings, fallen leaves and old plants are examples of free mulch material.

You can use a more permanent form of mulch, like gravel or small stones.
Usually you would have to purchase this type of mulch. The advantage of this kind of mulch is that you don’t have to replace it often.

Mulch goes a long way to improving your organic garden. Look for the best mulch solutions for you and your piece of earth.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Green finger tips - Compost

Compost is a vital ingredient to maintaining soil nutrition and stabilizing the soil. Organic compost can be made in the kitchen, the back yard or bought from your local gardening supply store.

Luckily for us, there are incredible helpers, who volunteer for the job of making the best organic compost to be found. We just have to give them the ingredients and they happily chomp away, creating compost for us to use – free of charge. And who are these little miracle workers, you may ask. It is the earthworms, the royalty of organic compost creators.

Compost smells sweet and rich. It is usually dark brown to black in color. Organic compost helps stabilize the soil, preventing soil erosion.

Making compost is simple, but can be tricky. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:

- You have to get the moisture level right. If it is too moist or too dry, it will not decompose properly.
- If it is too hot, and you inoculate the compost heap with earthworms, you will kill them.
- If you add rancid food, it will make the pile rancid.
- Oranges and potatoes are not good compost materials.

Feeding the soil correctly is the backbone of good healthy organic crops.
Make you organic compost and feed it to the soil.

here is a link to a informative brochure:
gardenafrica compost leaflet

Green finger tips - Natural soil builders

Soil is the most precious vital part of any garden. Most people however think of the soil as dirt. Meeting earthworms drew me to understand that the organic soil is alive…teeming with life unseen to the eye. As earth dwellers we have the choice to use natural soil builders to keep the soil in good shape.

Natural soil builders are like feeding the body with correct nutrition. Optimal nutrition yields optimal harvest and giving the best nutrition to create organic soil will yield untold benefits. Natural soil builders include compost, liquid fertilizers and mulch.

Organic soil is enhanced by earthworms that produce “humus” which is the finest kind of compost available. As a gardener you can boost the earthworms work by adding mulch materials, compost and liquid fertilizers for the earthworms to turn into humus.

Growing Green mulch is useful if you live in an area where organic materials are not freely available. Plants like buckwheat, mustard and clover are fantastic natural soil builders.

Earthworms are a gardener’s best friend. Green mulch is a hugely helpful was to build an organic soil. Stabilize and build your organic soil by using natural soil builders in your organic garden.

Here is a list of natural soil builders:

(Compost Activators / Green Manure Plants / Soil Improvers)

N = Nitrogen P= Phosphorous K=Potassium

Alfalfa / Lucerne (N)
Banana skins (K)
Bean (N)
Caraway – loosens soil
Comfrey (N,P)
Clover (N)
Golden Rod
Hyssop – fights bacterial disease
Lupin (N,P)
Mustard (N)
Nettle (N)
Oak (Acid Mulch)
Pine (Acid Mulch)
Salad Burnet
Soya bean
Valerian (P)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Green finger tips - get rid of bugs!

One thing about companion planting and gardening organically is that you learn a lot about bugs and how to deal with them. Jackie is implementing her organic garden and recently came up against the adult flea beetle. I recommended this recipe to her: Get Rid of Bugs She had fun making and using it and sharing her experience with you. It really works at repelling bugs. Natural insect repellants are the easiest, earth-friendliest, most cost effective way to control bugs in your organic garden. Companion planting helps to combine the right plants together to keep the insects under control. Click this link for more information on Companion Planting

Thursday, June 17, 2010

who hates dandelions?

You know that dandelions are “weeds” and probably hate them. You can, however, use dandelions as a trap crop to draw aphids away from your cabbages. Aphids are generally fond of Brassica (cabbage family) species. Aphids are also partial to dandelions. The idea is to do companion planting with dandelions and Brassica species and you have a solution to your aphid problems. Dandelions are beneficial “weeds”, so grow them to your advantage to have successful cabbage crops. (In fact the young leaves are great in salads and can be cooked as spinach.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010



Observation is the key to beginning a garden. When you start out making a garden for the first time, you do not want to make mistakes like planting a tree so close to the house that the roots disturb the foundations or lay an irrigation system in place, where gravity feed would have worked better.
You need to spend time observing your surroundings to better understand what would be required to make a successful garden. In order to do this you should open your mind and ask questions that will make create a sensational garden.
Bearing this in mind, take a leisurely stroll around the site you are thinking of using for your garden, several times! The more often you do it, the more you will get to know the nuances and the subtle promise of abundance of the land in question.
Take in everything about the place. Look at the slope of the land, look at the kind of ground cover. What plants are there? Do you know them by name? Are the plants useful or merely ornamental? Do you have trees around? Make an itinerary of all the plants you see!
Examine the type of soil you have, how does it smell and taste, what does it look like. Is the soil rich and fertile or have you got a rocky outcrop that needs a ton or two of topsoil? Is it sticky clay or sandy sand? Do you have a source of compost close by?
How about water availability - is there any erosion? What happens to your rainwater, the bath water?? Do you have a tap or an irrigation system in place? Is there a spot to place a small pond?
What about the wind? Does it blow a gale through the yard and whip everything around? Do you have gentle breezes? Does the wind blow harder at any particular time of the year?
What wildlife is around? Do you have a good selection of birds? What animals or insects can you see? Are there frogs, lizards or snakes around? Can you identify the insects in the area?
All these observation you think may be irrelevant, but honestly it is important to take all the factors into account when you are starting a garden from scratch, naturally. Taking all the extenuating factors into account means that you are better able to recognize what is in your garden and how to create an abundant oasis in the middle of your own life. Observation is the key. Once your observation is done thoroughly, it is a key you can turn to create a natural garden that will feed you abundantly.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Kind comments

I got this comment from Robyn:

I have a list of vegetable companion plants on my site as well as four vegetable garden designs which are all companion planted. I have grown all of these gardens myself so do know they work well. Maybe you will allow this link so your visitors can see what I have done http://www.sustainable-gardening-tips.co/index.html>

I do like your site you are offering very good indepth information - more and more people are growing vegetables these days and need help from us.

Kind regards

Hello Robyn

Thanks so much. I appreciate your comment and your link. i have added it to my blog roll. In fact, my cousin in Canada used ideas from your garden design page when she was planning her garden. I was awed to see that it is the same page.

I do agree that people need help with growing organic gardens. It is the best food that one can eat...so healthy, fresh and delicious. Companion planting is really great. Look out in the next few weeks for a book on Companion Planting that i am in the process of publishing.

keep up the good work.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

blog announcement

to all my followers, i have been snowed under with completion of a project or two. keep posted for the latest exciting developments on the blog. i should get into a regular weekly posting to this companion planting blog around the first week of June. take care and keep making organic gardens.
'to forget to dig in the earth and tend to the soil is to forget ourselves' - mahatmah gandhi

Thursday, May 6, 2010

companion planting

Who would think that Companion planting vegetables and herbs would become such a necessary part of creating an organic garden?

Understanding the art of Companion Planting is a journey we will embark on together.
How did Companion Planting come about?

Taking a few steps back to examine the second half of the 20th century, we discover that the modern advances in agriculture are both astounding and destructively frightening. After the second world war and the with the advent of the “Green Revolution” the everyday use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers became common place.

Many people came to accept that the only way to be agriculturally productive was to use the modern methods of food production. These modern methods include the use of heavy machinery, mono-cropping and the use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer in order to produce bumper crops. This certainly did yield amazingly for a while, but the soil soon became eroded and depleted and could no longer sustain the abuse of modern agriculture. (Scarily it still goes on today.)

As more and more people developed cancers, diabetes and food allergies, coupled with the fact that the environment is being degraded, the more earths' people realized the need to eat pure fresh food. Now there is a large movement of humans wanting health giving food.

What can you do about eating more healthily using Organic Gardening and Companion Planting?

Now you can grow food that is organically and naturally grown – in your own space. The way to achieve the best organic garden is to get knowledgeable about Companion Planting. Learning about organic gardening is the first step to creating healthy food on your doorstep.

Well what is Companion Planting actually?

Companion Planting is a way of combining plants, in order to get the optimal yield, using natural means of pest control and soil improvement. It is a kind of soil and garden alchemy. Get to know which plants to grow well together, which are antagonists.

Learn what plants do to the soil. Use plants that keep harmful pests away and create playgrounds for beneficial species. Improve your precious living soil by growing soil improving plants.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Brinjal, Aubergine, Eggplant

Botanical Name of Brinjal

Solanum melongena is better known as Eggplant, Brinjal, or Aubergine. The eggplant is a shiny purplish black fruit that grows on a bush. The bush stands about 50 cm tall and has pretty pink flowers before the fruit forms.

Growing Brinjal

Aubergine grows in full sun. You can cut them back in the autumn and they will fruit again in the following season. After one or two seasons, you will have to plant new ones in.
Eggplant is grown from seed in a seed tray or seedbed. It takes a week or two for the seed to come up.
You can transplant the aubergine seedlings when they are 10 cm high. Being a fruit bearing plant, you need to give aubergines a lot of compost and liquid manure. You will need about a half a dozen bushes to feed an average family.
Eggplant’s have sharp little thorns on the part that joins the fruit to the plant, the calyx, so one must be careful when harvesting not to prick one’s fingers. It is better to use a garden shear to cut the brinjals off the plant.

Brinjal ‘s Companions and Antagonists

Beans, Tarragon, Tansy, Marigolds, Lavender, Nightshade and Thyme all enjoy the company of the Eggplant. Onions, Potatoes and Garlic do not fare well in Brinjal’s company.

Brinjals nutritional value

Eggplant is rich in potassium and contains Vitamin C.

Cooking with Brinjal

It can be prepared in many interesting ways. Many curries and stews have aubergine as an ingredient and Ratatouille is the most well known eggplant dish. Brinjals do not have a long shelf life, so when they are fruiting, you have to find lots of inventive ways to use them, here is one:

Baked Eggplant

3-4 fresh Eggplants
1 cup of Grated cheese
Fresh herbs (Thyme, Basil, Oregano. Parsley)

Slice the eggplants into rings; place them on a greased baking tray or in a casserole dish. Bake at 180°C for 20 minutes, remove from the oven and sprinkle over the Garlic, Herbs and Cheese and bake for another 5 minutes. Serve with rice and salad.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

super comfrey

Healing with Comfrey

Generally comfrey should not be taken internally. Pregnant women should not use Comfrey at all. If the skin is broken it should not be used.
Comfrey is which is known as knitbone or boneset is used for healing bruises, sprains and broken bones.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

bountiful peanuts - glorious groundnuts

Botanical Name of Peanut

Arachis hypogaea is the botanical name of the humble peanut or groundnut.

Growing Peanut

Peanuts are planted in-situ. Plant the groundnuts in the heat of the summer. Look for good seed that is unblemished. Water well when planting and wait till the peanuts appear, then water well again. Do not over water as it can make the seeds mould. It should about 10 days or so for the peanuts to appear.
Use good compost for your peanut crop to be really successful. They thrive on a diet of rich compost. You can also mix a bit of liquid manure into the water when they germinate to give them a boost.
Make sure that you ridge the plants as they grow. This will allow for maximum production. Peanuts are a legume so are a great soil improver.
Allow them to lie in the sun for two weeks after harvesting. This process is called curing. After the two weeks of curing you can remove the peanuts from their shells and store them in containers in a cool dry place. Groundnuts can also be stored in the shells. Peanuts are a legume and can be used as a green manure crop.
The shells and the plant residues make excellent mulch and compost.
Not an inch of your peanut crop will go to waste.

Peanut Companions and Antagonists

Maize, Melon, Sunflower and Walnut all do well around peanuts.

Peanut nutritional value

Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2 and Vitamin E are all found in peanuts. They are rich in protein and natural sugar. Peanuts reduce the risk of heart disease and keep cancer at bay. They are a powerful antioxidant.

Cooking with Peanut

Peanuts can be ground (hence the name groundnut) into a butter, which is rich and nutritious. Peanuts can be eaten raw or roasted with a little salt to flavor them. Chilli can be added to give an extra zing of flavor when roasting.
Eat peanuts as a snack in between meals. When mixed with sunflower seeds and raisins, they make an excellent “weaning from smoking” snack.
Cooking with peanut butter is delicious, add a tablespoon or two to stews. Celery sticks with peanut butter is a yummy snack – this sounds odd, but is so addictive and incredibly refreshing. Actually just about anything with peanut butter is delicious.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Yarrow in the Garden

Botanical Name of Yarrow is Achillea millefolium

Growing Yarrow

Yarrow’s feathery leaves can be propagated by root division. When establishing the plants, give them lots of water, ensuring you don’t drown them of course. This will help the yarrow to thrive. They are not fussy plants and will happily produce new leaves. Keep them well watered but not saturated. The plant can be propagated by seed. Toward the end of summer, the flowers appear. These will be pink or white. Butterflies are attracted to the flowers. Parasitic wasps, ladybird and hoverflies are drawn to yarrow. These insects all have an important function in natural pest control. The plant itself is an insect repellant, keeping plant pests at bay.
Yarrow is an important compost plant. It contains many minerals and contributes to soil health as it is deep rooted. The plant can be used to prevent soil erosion. Add a few yarrow leaves to the compost heap as it is one of the plants that activate compost.

Yarrow Companions and Antagonists

Yarrow is a really good companion to Cucumber, Maize, Raspberry.
It grows well around most plants. Yarrow is an insect repellant as well as a beneficial insect attractant.

Herbal value

Flu and fever is treated using yarrow tea. It can assist to dull the pain of toothache. Yarrow is a styptic, which means it helps to stop bleeding. For this reason is can be used on cuts and wounds. It helps to relieve inflammation and bruising. Yarrow is great for relieving pain for women during the menstrual cycle. Steaming with Yarrow helps with relief from hay fever. Yarrow has a myriad of uses.

Cooking with Yarrow

Young Yarrow leaves have a bittersweet taste. The leaves can be added to soups and stews or used as “spinach”. The leaves can be dried for later use. Generally it is used as a tea for treating various ailments.

Yarrow tea

Boiling water
2 – 3 thumb length yarrow leaves

Allow the water to stand for a few minutes after it has boiled. Break up the yarrow and place it in a cup. Pour the boiling water over the yarrow and cover the cup with a saucer. Allow to stand for 5 minutes. Add honey to taste. Enjoy a cupful of detoxing tea.
Warning: drink this tea occasionally!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Blood Red Beetroot

Botanical Name of Beetroot

Beta vulgaris is the name given to this blood red bulbing vegetable. Beetroot will provide bulging red bulbs and tasty leaves to compliment your diet. Beetroot and Swiss Chard belong to the same family.

Growing Beetroot

The seeds, much like Chard’s, are best planted directly in the place you want them to grow – in situ.
In five to eight days after planting them, you will see the little leaves of the beetroot appear from beneath the soil.
They will shoot upwards and after about two and a half months, you should see the bulb beginning to form.
You can push the soil up around the beetroot bulb, as this will allow it to become larger. This is called ridging.

Beetroot Companions and Antagonists

Beetroot has many companions and these include: Beans, Lettuce, Garlic, Onions, Kohlrabi and Cabbage.
Beetroot is not fond of growing near Mustard.

Beetroot nutritional value

Beetroots are a great anti-oxidant and are rich in fibre and micronutrients.
A high sugar and starch content is found in beetroot.
They contain Vitamin A and C, Iron and Potassium.
Beetroots help keep the body’s elasticity and regulate the blood pressure.
They are brilliant for keeping bowel movements regular.
This winter vegetable helps to detoxify the body, and work to clear the bladder, liver and kidneys, especially when mixed with carrot juice.
Beetroot helps to detoxify the body, but change the colour of the excrement. This can be disconcerting when unexpected.

Cooking with Beetroot

Harvest the beetroot when the root is firm and swollen.
It will usually be sticking out of the ground.
The bulbs can be scrubbed well till all the soil is removed.
Eat young beetroot leaves. A delicious beetroot - spinach can be made using beetroot leaves, young or mature. The leaves must be washed thoroughly and chopped then cooked. The beetroot bulbs can be boiled or used fresh.
Beetroot juice is a very healthy and cleansing drink.
When juicing beetroots, be sure not to overdose.
Start by using half a juiced beetroot per week.
Build up your consumption to one per week.

Beetroot can be pickled, by peeling it, slicing it thin, cooking it till tender. Allow it to cool and then add raw onion, water, vinegar and sugar to clean sterilised bottles.
When the beetroot is cooled after cooking, place it in bottles and add a third of a bottle of vinegar, one to two tablespoons of sugar, and fill to the top with water.
The clean bottles can be sealed and stored.
Always date the bottles, so you know which to use first.

A tasty salad can be made using the following method:

Beetroot Salad

Beetroot (2-3 large ones)
4 large Carrots
1 Pineapple peeled and diced

Grate the beetroot and carrots; add the pineapple and you have a tasty salad.
Simple and nutritious - serve with fresh bread.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cook that Cabbage

Cabbage is known as Brassica oleracea. Brassica are leaf crops, and are known as “heavy feeders”, which means they require a lot of soil nutrients to grow well.

Rearing cabbage

Cabbage seeds are small black and round, which are best sown in trays and transplanted when about 8-10cm tall.
One cabbage needs a lot of space to grow really well. Cutworm tend to chop the seedlings down so it is advisable to plant extra seedlings, which can be thinned out later, when the plants are established.
Most important is preparing the soil right. Cabbage likes a neutral soil, so adding a little agricultural lime to the soil a month before planting is a good practice. Lots of compost, a good mulch and liquid manure will help too. Use Lucerne or clover as a pre-planting crop to build up the nitrogen availability.
You can put an empty toilet paper spool around the base of the cabbage seedling to protect it.

Planting with companions

Plant your onions and leeks beside the edges of the bed, along with herbs and flowers like rosemary, thyme, sage, marigold and peppermint. You will find that these strong smelling plants keep pests away. Cabbage likes to be mixed in the beds with beetroots, lettuce, potato, spinach and cauliflower.
Cabbages thrive in the company of Clover, Celery and Chamomile Dandelion is effective as a trap crop, which means that it will draw the aphids away from your cabbage seedlings.

Cabbage generally does not tolerate the company of the following plants: Carrot, Climbing beans, Garlic, Hyssop, Rue, Strawberry and Tomato

Keeping all these things in mind will lead to successfully grown cabbage.

Health benefits

Cabbage is known as an effective poultice. Warmed cabbage leaves placed over the breasts of newly lactating mothers, help to release the milk.

Cooking cabbage

Try this delicious recipe from Berea Agricultural Group in Lesotho with your freshly grown brassica.

Cabbage Stir-Fry

Chopped Onion
Chopped Cabbage
2 sliced Bananas
Paprika (to taste)
1 clove Garlic
Salt and pepper.
Grated ginger (optional)

Fry the Onion, add the Cabbage, and fry it lightly, stirring it all the time. When it softens slightly, add the Banana and fry some more. Add the Paprika, Garlic, Ginger and Salt and Pepper. Eat and enjoy.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

a host of things to do with bamboo

Bamboo’s botanical name

Phyllostachys aureosulcata is a plant with edible shoots. More commonly called Yellowgroove Bamboo.
Phyllostchys is just one of the various forms of bamboo known to the world.
There are over 1250 species of bamboo.
Bamboo generally grows from fifteen to twenty metres tall, with the largest of the species reaching up to forty metres.
Growth occurs in a three to four month period, but it takes the crop four to five years to mature.

Useful bamboo

Bamboo is a useful hedging plant,
If you decide to grow it in your garden, be sure to use a clumping variety. Bamboo is used for construction, containers and food.
Bamboo stabilizes the soil where it is eroded and acts as a fast growing windbreak.
It is fire resistant and is used to create firebreaks.
Urban wastewater is purified using bamboo.
Phyllostachys is used for fences, bridges, walking sticks, furniture, housing, toys, medicine, musical instruments, paper and scaffolding.
In China one of the uses for bamboo is to make chopsticks.
India and China have the largest bamboo forests in the world.

Culinary and medicinal uses of bamboo

The Chinese first discovered the culinary uses of bamboo shoots in about 202BCE during the Han dynasty.
The young shoots of the culm are edible when harvested just before emerging from the soil.
The shoots are harvested in the morning, in spring or autumn, depending on the species.
A special tool is used to cut off the culms about twenty centimetres below the surface.
The outer sheaths are hard and fibrous just like artichokes.
The shoots must be boiled, sautéed or roasted.
Afterwards the outer casing must be removed to expose the succulent heart of the bamboo shoot.
They can be added to different dishes as a vegetable, or eaten cold in a salad.
Bamboo shoots, called zhu sun in Chinese are used in stirfries.
The shoots can be pickled.
The sap of the young stalks is tapped during the rainy season to make a sweet wine, which is known as ulanzi.
The leaves of some species are used to make a liquor.
Black Bamboo is the type of bamboo used in Chinese medicine.
Bamboo Juice is referred to as bamboo sap. Fresh cut bamboo with outer surface removed is cut) and heated to release the sap from the ends of the pieces. The sap has a light yellow color.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine bamboo is used to treat acute feverish diseases, cough and loss of consciousness.

For more information about this incredible plant, check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bamboo, http://www.nabard.org/roles/ms/fw/bamboo.htm and many more.