garden sustainability

A post on behalf of soil for life

Hi Sprig blog

Thought you might be interested in posting this good hearted appeal from Soil for Life that I came across.

Yours in getting your hands dirty



Western Cape-based NGO, Soil for Life exists to help alleviate poverty and hunger in the area by teaching people to grow their own food.

We’d like to reward the Best Soil for Life Home Food Gardeners for 2010 by awarding some really useful prizes at our annual prize-giving. If you can assist us with prizes – or know a business that can donate any of the following in good condition (new or used) – we would be very grateful: small kitchen appliances or cooking pots and utensils, bedding, clothing for adults and children, good books, toiletries and dry food stuffs.


Winter soil

Winter is a great time for the soil in your garden.  Plants stop growing and taking nutrients out.  They also shed leaves and or flowers which form a blanket on the ground, slowly rotting and releasing nutrients back into the soil.  So, put away your rake and let nature do its work!

Blanket of leaves and flowers.
Blanket of leaves and flowers.
food garden

Kitchen gardening course

An interesting course being held at the Durban Botanic Gardens, details below.

Why kitchen gardening? Kitchen Gardeners are food lovers and true gastronomes of the highest order. The enjoyment of food is a complete experience extending beyond the plate to the soil, taking in the natural processes and cycles responsible for the source of good food. Kitchen gardeners are in tune with the natural world, local weather, and seasons, working peacefully and harmoniously with, rather than fighting against Nature.

Become a true steward of the land whether your plot is a farm sized suburban garden or a humble window-box. Join experienced permaculturist Bharathi Tugh on a Saturday course that covers:

  • Permaculture & kitchen gardening principles
  • Soil conditioning techniques and ‘green teas’ for feeding
  • Making compost heaps and fertility beds
  • Designing & setting up a kitchen garden
  • Plant selection, companion plants & crop rotation
  • Pest and disease management (organic remedies)
  • Creative container gardening
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.