Wednesday, November 21, 2012

rainbird in the garden

This morning i was working in my office and i heard a rustling sound. I stood up to look what made the noise. To my astonishment, there was a rainbird sitting on the lawn eating a snail. Half an hour later it began to rain. Amazing.
These birds are usually only seen when it is about to rain. The bird is known as Burchell's coucal - Centropus burchelli. It is incredibly beautiful.

Friday, November 2, 2012

October Winner

Congratulations Sammi! The October winner of the South African Planting and Companion Planting Guide. Hope your small plot of land becomes a cornicopia of abundant organic food.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Spring has Sprung First Winner

Lucky Barbara has won the first book.
Please congratulate her on Sprig Blog and make your comment on the Spring has Sprung link to win next month's copy.
Have a look at The Gardening Blog to see more about her gardening experiences.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Spring has Sprung Competition 2012

Spring has Sprung Competition 2012

The South African Planting and Companion Planting Guide has over 150 vegetable, herb, flower and fruiting species mentioned and over 100 full colour watercolour illustrations. The guide has useful tips on when to plant, what grows well together, and what each plant is used for nutritionally and medicinally.

Make a comment on the sprig blog post to enter and stand a chance to win a free copy of the South African Planting and Companion Planting Guide. For extra points, tell us all about your organic gardening and companion planting experiences. Let us know about the projects, eco-villages and innovations you are working on! (This is not true in fact – winners will be selected by Sprig using the True Random Number Generator but tell us anyway!)

The “Spring has Sprung” competition runs from 12 September till 30 November 2012. A monthly winner will be announced on the last day of each month of the competition. The winners name will be posted here on Sprig, on *earthwormproductions* website and on their Facebook page.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Green finger tips - germinating lettuce

Geminating Lettuce seed

These lettuce seedlings are two days old. Lettuce seed germinates best when exposed to light briefly before planting. The seedlings will germinate in 2 to 3 days.

Lettuce seedling developing

Twelve days later the first true leaves are visible. Once there is more growth, the seedlings will be ready to transplant.

Lettuce seedlings ready to be transplanted

After another 16 days the seedlings are ready to transplant.

Monday, August 6, 2012

green finger tips - flax or linseed

Getting to know Flax

Flax or Linseed is a fantastic plant to grow in the organic garden. It is a versatile plant which improves the soil and provides nutritious seed for human and animal consumption.

The botanical name is Linum usitatissimum

Growing Linseed

Linseed's shiny brown seeds are easy to grow. Broadcast the seed and water well. The seedlings should come up in 3 or 4 days. The flax plants in the first picture are about a month old.

The plants grow up to a meter in height. After the purple-blue flowers blossom, the seeds start to form in papery husks. When the husk are straw-coloured, the seeds have formed inside.

Linseed's uses

Linseed is said to deters potato bug. It helps to makes clay soil friable and is generally used as a green manure plant. Flax's stems are used for making paper and linen. Artists use linseed oil in oil painting and it is widely used as a wood protection. The most facinating thing about linseed is that it is used in the manufacture of linoleum.

Flax's Companion Plants

Flax grows well with potatoes and carrots. It makes a useful stakes for climbing peas.

Linseed's medicinal uses

Linseed is a well known laxative. A poultice of linseed will help draw out boils.
Linseed oil added to the diet in combination with cheese or yoghurt is great for easing creaking joints in the body.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

green finger tips - dragonfly

I was lucky enough to have this dragonfly pose on the aerial of my car.

Dragonflies belong to the Odonata order and there are many species. They eat mosquitoes, wasps, flies and ants. These amazing fast moving creatures can fly in all directions.

Read more about these amazing creatures by clicking this link to the dragonfly site

Friday, July 20, 2012

green finger tips - Paper Wasp

Paper wasps in the organic garden

Paper wasps or Polistes fuscatus are useful predators in the organic garden. They eat a variety of insects with caterpillars being their favourite. They feed on meat and plant juices.

Nesting habits of paper wasps

These amazing creature rasp the bark of trees, mix it with saliva and mould their perfect paper-like enclosures to lay eggs in. The wasp in the photo built its nest on my front door. I just removed it while the wasp was away.

Paper wasps inspire inventor

Fredrich Keller, a German inventor got the idea of crushing wood into fibre to make paper after watching paper wasps work.

Paper wasp stings

I got stung on the lip once by a paper wasp. The sting is a little more painful than a bee sting, but it subsided quickly. If you do have allergic reactions to stings it is best to get it seen to immediately.

Friday, July 13, 2012

green finger tips - chickweed

Introducing Common Chickweed

Stellaria media is known as Common Chickweed or Stichweed. Though it is thought of as a "weed", it is edible and has medicinal uses.

Common Chickweed in the organic garden

Common Chickweed has a myriad of benefits for the organic garden. Chickweed is a great living green mulch plant. It can spread like a pest but your soil's fertility will improve especially if you use it as a green manure. Just pull the plants out and lay them on the soil to decompose.

Chickweed for Chickens

Chickens can be fed on Chickweed and they will flourish. Rabbits are happy to nibble chickweed with their daily fresh greens.

Chickweed for moths and butterflies

These are some of the Lepidoptera species known to feed on chickweed:
 Angle Shades ,Heart and Dart ,Riband Wave and Setaceous Hebrew Character

Medicinal and culinary uses for Chickweed

Common Chickweed is used to assist with bronchitis, athritis and period pain. Chickweed is said to cure mange and other skin diseases.

It can be eaten raw in salads and added to stews.

Friday, July 6, 2012

green finger tips - a mountain out of a molehill

Use your molehills

I love molehills for the free rich topsoil which the moles deposit on the top of the soil. I usually just flatten the heaps. The soil from the mounds can be collected and used in potting mixes.

Description and habits of Moles

Moles are members of the mammal order Insectovora and only eat insects, grubs, worms and not plants. They have small eyes and no visible ears. They have broad front feet for digging and a short tail. Moles are greyish-brown or black and are about ten to fifteen centimetres in length.

They like to live in soft soil and spend all day searching for food. Moles eat up to three times their body weight in worms a day. You know you have fertile soil when you have molehills - great fertility indicator. Moles aerate the ground and rainwater collects in the channels that they dig in the rainy season.

All in all, moles are given bad press but these sweet little creatures are actually useful in the organic garden.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Green Finger Tips - Cape Gooseberry

The Cape Gooseberry or Physalis peruviana is a hardy plant which produces amazing orange berries. The plant is propagated by seed. In this picture the plant is about a month old. It came up between the thyme, a carrot and the rocket plants. I transplanted it into the new section of my garden.

The gooseberry flower develops into a papery pod which protects the tart yellow-orange fruit.

Health benefits of Cape Gooseberry

The Cape Gooseberry is a tonic plant. It helps control diabetes and cleanses the blood. These delicious fruit can help with the treatment of the prostate gland. It is a useful digestive. Vitamins found in the Cape Gooseberry include Vitamin A, Calcium and Phosphorus.

Processing and eating Cape Gooseberries

Cape gooseberries are best eaten fresh off the bush, peeled out of their delicate husks. Fresh gooseberries in garden salad is an interesting taste sensation. A bowl served with a dollop of fresh whipped cream is a delicious dessert. Gooseberries can be preserved in jams and jellies.

Thanks to the guys from Cheap Conservatories for the timeline!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Amazing Moth

This amazing moth appeared on the wall in my home.

I knocked it off by accident and it sat next to me all morning while i drew.

I decided to take the moth outside.

I was rewarded by spotting this hairy caterpillar.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Green Finger Tips - Under the Log

As a gardener, I am always amazed at how much there is to learn.

I was pulling up the grasses that were creeping under the barrier of stones and logs. I turned the log over and Wow!

Under the log I first saw this millipede and a little yellow snail next to it,

and a centidpede.

Then I saw a variety of slugs and a green worm.

To my absolute amazement, I came across these snake-like creatures. In all the years I have been gardening, I had never seen anything quite like these chaps. These amazing creatures are know as Shovel Headed Garden Worms

They are known botanically as Bipalium kewense and they eat earthworms and other insects, which explains the centipede corpses that were on the under surface of the log.

When you start to understand the relationships between insects in your companion planting organic garden, you will see how nature creates a balance between all creatures. Learning to use this balance in your organic garden and using companion planting to assist with natural pest control, you will bring great abundance to your kitchen.

Nature continuously suprises and astounds me and of course keeps me searching for more.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Green Finger Tips - Caterpillars

Caterpillar damage

Caterpillars can be a menace by devouring your plants. They are however the moths and butterflies of the future. So a little tolerance can be great for your organic garden. Mostly if you have a bad infestation of caterpillars, you can hand pick and squish them.

Natural predators of caterpillars

Caterpillars have natural predators that will keep them under control in the companion planted garden. Some wasps sedate caterpillars to use to feed their young. Katydids, stinkbugs and spiders feast on caterpillars. Birds, chameleons, rats and frogs enjoy caterpillars as a treat. Humans find certain species to be a delicacy. Be sure to encourage natural caterpillar predators in your organic garden.

Caterpillar stings

The variety and incredible patterns on caterpillars are a constant source of amazement. Some caterpillars can shoot poisonous stings which can be rather irritating to the skin. So people are affected more than others by these stings. Most varieties of caterpillars are harmless to humans.

Identifying Caterpillars

Can anyone help me identify the caterpillars that have been in my garden over the season. It would be great to know what butterflies they turn into. Butterflies are essential, like bees, for fertilising plants. Be grateful for your caterpillars and know that there are loads of ways to control them naturally.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Green Finger Tips - Snails n Slugs

Snails n Slugs in the garden

Snails n Slugs are regarded by most gardeners as a pest. They belong to the Mollusc family.

Snails n slugs are eaten by frogs, ducks and chickens and a variety of other insects. Encourage frogs and other snail n slug eating creatures, including ground beetles, centipedes and wild birds, to your garden to help control them.

Hand picking Snails

You can collect up the snails and give them to friends who have ducks or chickens. They will be only too happy for the extra nutrition.

Snail n slug destruction

Snails n slugs can be extremely destructive for plants in your organic garden. In the picture above you can see how they have turned the bean leaf into a skeleton. Amazingly though, the beans were undamaged.

Other Snail n Slug remedies

Besides natural predators and domestic ones, a variety of methods can be used to deter snails n slugs. Eggshells are reputed to cut their underbellies. Any sharp mulch like crushed nut husks, coffee grounds, hair and sawdust are meant to repel them. Plants recommended to keep snails n slugs away include basil, beans (haha), corn, chard, fennel, grapes, ginger, parsley, pumpkins, rhubarb and sage. A bowl of beer is also said to attract them and they drown in the beer. Alternatively, pouring salt on them dehydrates them.

Eating Snails

Snails are considered a gastronomical delicacy by some. If you have the stomach for it, you can collect your snails, keep them in a flour for a week till their stomachs are cleansed and cook them and serve with garlic butter.

Making peace with Snails n Slugs

I tend to admire these slow moving creatures, and allow them space in the garden to do their job. Natural predators will abound when snails n slugs are near, keeping the balance in the garden. If they do get out of hand, I handpick them and send them to a better place.

Green Finger Tips - DIY Compost Tumbler

Here is a brilliant idea for composting.
Follow the link
DIY Compost Tumbler
to find details of this DIY composting solution

Saturday, March 17, 2012

green fingers tips - rocket or arugula

Get rocket growing

Rocket or arugula is commonly grown in organic gardens.
Rocket's botanical name is Eruca sativa.
Here the seedlings have just germinated next to thyme and carrot.
They are about 2 days old. Rocket grows quickly and in a matter of days the plants are recognizable.

Eighteen days later the young rocket leaves are showing their true form.
Rocket grows happily in the organic vegetable garden. You can use it in salads and sauces. Arugula has a strong peppery taste. Rocket salad with sun dried tomatoes and halumi or Mozarella cheese with a mild chilli dressing is delicious.

In March the first rocket flowers made their appearance. The plants are still growing strong. Still waiting for them to make their beautiful pods. Rocket was traditionally used as a love potion, a stimulant and for clearing the stomach. Rocket contains Vitamin C and Potassium.

Monday, February 6, 2012

green finger tips - parsley

Curly Leaf Parsley seedlings germinate

These parsley plants are just forming the first tiny true leaves after about two weeks since germination. You can see them just under the pea plant and to the far left of the picture. Parsley have tiny seeds that need to be planted in shallow drills. The parsley seed germinates readily.

First true Curly Leaf Parsley leaves

Eight days later, the plants are showing all their true leaves. Petroselinum crispum is parsley's botanical name. Parsley is full of nutritional goodness. I use it often on sandwiches, in salads and chopped fresh over almost all dishes. Parsley contains Iron and Vitamins A, B and C. It is useful for hair and skin problems. Parsley counteracts "garlic breath."

Flat leaf Parsley

Flat leaf Parsley has a different flavour to curly leaf. It is well worth growing both varieties.

Growing and picking parsley

I find that parsley likes to compete with itself so i sew a few seedlings next to each and they tend to do better than one seedling on its own. When picking parsley, ensure you snap the stem off at the base so it doesn't become moribund. Remove any growth that gets discoloured or old. Pick parsley often.

Parsley Companion Plants

The best companion plants for parsley are roses, chives, tomatoes and carrots.


Monday, January 23, 2012

green finger tips - growing chilli

Chilli lovers can enjoy growing chilli bushes. Chilli belongs to the solanum family, which includes tomatoe and potato. This red hot chilli seedling was planted in September and is about 3 weeks old.

Two months later, the seedling is developing well and getting a lot taller. Chilli is relatively easy to grow, needing little attention and a little water. There are a great variety of chillies which vary in strength and size.

The first flowers appear on the chilli plants in January. This bush is standing about 65cm tall now. It is full of flowers and fruit.

The flowers are opening and the tiny chilli pods are forming.

Now the first handful of green chilli pods are in the hand. The pods emerge green, turn black and then red.

In February black chilli pods are all over the bush.

Finally in March the chilli pods are becoming a deep radiant red

The bush will last for a few seasons. It produces prolifically. The chilli bush dies back in the winter, but happily reestablishes itself in the spring. Chilli is a great insect repellent and is a great companion plant of herbs like basil and tarragon. The red chilli pods can be cut up and added to natural insect sprays.

Harvest your chillies and make chilli salt, chilli sauce and chilli jam. There are delicious chill recipes which will fulfill your desire for chilli dishes.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

green finger tips - nipping basil

The Basil Nip

Basil grows better if you nip the top two leaves from time to time. Start when the plants are about 8 to 10cm tall.

In these two photos you can see the first basil leaves have been nipped off the plants which are about 10cm tall.

The basil branches out and become bushy when you nip out the top two leaves.

In the second set of photos you can see the leaves which i nipped out of the growing basil bush. The basil bush is bushing out nicely because of the all the nipping i did.

Basil is a great culinary and medicinal herbs. It's sweet aroma is insect repellant and is a great companion plant in the organic garden.