I get a lot of calls from people who are inspired by our work here at Naledi Farm and want to start their own vegetable gardens. Some send me pictures of seeds, plants and complete gardening kits that they have bought but they are too intimidated to start! Some are so discouraged by their failed gardens that they think that there are completely hopeless at growing anything and never want to touch the soil again!
I don’t have green fingers” – I sometimes wonder if this is an excuse to get ourselves as far away from growing anything as possible. In other words, we love the look of a garden, but have no intention of actually working in the garden. Or, is it that we genuinely believe that some people are born with the natural ability to make plants grow. “I cannot grow anything, everything I touch dies…I even kill fake plants!”
We all know that taking a piano and placing it in front of you, will not turn you into a piano player, let alone a great one. Yes, you may have the passion for it, but passion alone will not turn you into a Bheki Mseleku or Abdullah Ibrahaim. It takes practice and years of dedication. Gardening is exactly the same. As much as gardening is about passion and art, it is also about practice and method. In other words, you must get out there and do the work – practice. But not only that, there are scientific principles that need to be followed, you don’t just do what you like – method.
You first learn that plants need water. No water = dead plants. Then slowly you learn that some plants need more water than others and some need less. It’s very easy if you just observe – you must just learn to ‘read’ the soil.
Then you can move up the learning ladder and start to paying attention to sunlight. Vegetables, especially fruiting vegetables need at least 8 hours of sunlight to thrive. No sun = no growth. It is as simple as that. Planting tomatoes in a shady spot is a wrong method. Those tomatoes will struggle to reach their full potential. Their leaves will become yellow and small, screaming to be kissed by the sun.
If you are patient and stay in the garden – practice, you will soon discover that you cannot grow tomatoes, eggplants and potatoes in winter, they are warm weather plants and cannot tolerate frost and freezing temperatures.
Do you now see what you need to do to become good gardener – to develop ‘green fingers’? You must ask yourself those questions you learned in your grade 4 natural science class. What does the plant want to do? What will help it perform?
Happy Gardening, Manti