This is the story of how we replaced our washing line with a vegetable garden, and how that in turn grew into a book on vegetable gardening for children.
When we moved back to Paarl 5 years ago, fixing up the backyard was first on our list. Almost the whole space was taken up by a big round washing line. A terrace that ran diagonally across the back yard made it even more awkward to use. Firstly the soil had to be moved from the backyard to the front in order to have the whole area on one level. We then built a small retaining wall that doubles up as planting boxes. A pergola was built from wooden slats to form an entertainment area. We then drew out the design for the vegetable beds and pathways in the dust. Our biggest problem was that the soil was hard and unfertile. With the poles that were left over from the pergola, we built the walls of our raised beds. Over time we raised the soil level of the beds by adding homemade compost as well as bags of topsoil. We finished of the design by tiling the rest of the backyard and covering the pathways with decorative stones. Lastly we had a pizza oven installed and our backyard was a lovely food garden and entertainment area. We now pick ingredients straight from the garden and pop them on our pizzas or braai .
Through this process I was reading up on vegetable gardening. My kids and I planted vegetables and herbs and watched the seasons, flowers and bugs at work in our backyard garden. I was looking for a book to show my kids how amazingly all the natural systems worked together to produce tasty food and I couldn’t find a South African book for children on the subject. I started making notes and putting all the information together. As an illustrator I work on projects for children every day, so the illustrations were the easy part. During the different seasons we took photographs of the plants, flowers and bugs. Over two years the project grew into my vegetable gardening book Roots, Shoots and Muddy Boots. That is how we turned our backyard into a thriving vegetable garden and a book for children.
Samantha van Riet, Paarl, Western Cape www.samvanriet.co.za