food garden soil

The first Sprig…

Greetings everyone!

This is my first post here to Sprig! And can I say what a brilliant idea it is! 🙂 I have been serious (well, sort of) about gardening for about a year, but although I am a member of other good sites (such as I found that there is a lack of good South African-specific blogs. It’s excellent to find a site that offers advice and ideas from South Africans, for South Africans about our wonderful local flora.

Now, I know that this is a Durban gardening blog, but I’d like to hear from gardners elsewhere in South Africa about how they are coping (or not) with the odd weather this year! Are the Cape Townians thinking seriously about starting a ‘Swamp Garden’? How about those of us in the Eastern Cape who are desperate for a drop of rain!

I personally have found cow manure to be an excellent mulch and water-holding agent. I am lucky enough to live on a farm where cow manure is not in short supply-and I have dug bags and bags of it into my vegetable garden where it forms a nice moist layer below the surface. My lettuces are doing amazingly well and I have been picking them for salads most nights.

What are your tips and tricks for coping with droughts or very wet weather?

indigenous insects soil succulent tree


I picked up this interesting-looking pot plant last week at the Shongweni Farmers Market (for a cool R100!).  The guy selling it didn’t have much information for me but could tell me it was part of the Ipomoea family.

From Wikipedia, “The genus Ipomoea (Greek Ips, Ipos, worm or bindweed and Homoeos, resembling, referring to the twining habit) is the largest in the family Convolvulaceae, with over 500 species. Most of these are called “morning glories”, but this can refer to related genera also. The genus occurs throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the world, and comprises annual and perennial herbaceous plants, lianas, shrubs and small trees; most of the species are twining climbing plants.”

After a bit of Googling, I think it may be Ipomoea lapathifolia as the leaf structure looks similar … check it out here.

garden soil

The importance of feeding your soil (or why not to rake)

When we first move into our house we inherited a gardener who was very old-school in his methods.  His idea of a job well done was a cleanly-raked garden with all the leaves, twigs and plant matter bagged for the Municipality to collect.  As a consequence of this, the soil was sandy, red in colour and pretty much lifeless (see the before shot).

Over the past few years we have weened him off this way of thinking and replaced it will the mantra that everything that falls off the trees and plants should end up in the soil.  Each time I trim back the shrubs or thin out some plants, the off-cuts also end up on the ground.  Slowly the soil has changed back to a brown, moist, earthy colour and has started to smell, well, like nature (see the after shot).  I have started to notice loads more insects inhabiting the garden and I’m sure, just below the surface, are a million and one worms.

I’m reading Pitta Joffe’s Creative Gardening with Indigenous Plants and she has section where she calls for the protection of our soil. She writes:

“Don’t sweep up and then proceed to throw away fallen leaves, dried and faded flowers, fruits, small twigs, etc.  Apart from the fact that this is a totally misdirected use of energy, it is also the equivalent to throwing away bags of compost … Mulch is nature’s way of feeding plants, conserving moisture and protecting the soil surface and structure.”

The soil before the intervention.
The soil before the intervention.

The leaves we didn't rake up.
The leaves we didn't and won't rake up.