The Herb & Kitchen Garden

by Lala

Growing your own herbs, spices and vegetables is so rewarding, educational and zen. After a long day of hitting the books or working hard at the office, I love to take off my shoes and work the soil. When you grow your own produce you will taste vegetables and herbs like they are meant to be. Tomatoes that are sweet and aromatic, celery that is peppery instead of watery and herbs that beg you to crush and sniff them each time you walk by.

I had different plants growing in spring when it was cooler, like beautiful oakleaf and frilly lettuces in shades of green and purple. I’ve let them bolt (go to seed), so that I’ll have lettuces coming up again like weeds, when the weather cools down again in autumn, or once more next spring. I’ve been feeding the plants with aged cow manure, BounceBack pellets and Multifeed granules.

As you can see in the featured image, it is a compact space. I prefer to plant herbs, spices and small veggies using Square Foot gardening methods. My cheesy feet shaped stepping stones are a little homage to that. Visit the Square Foot Gardening South Africa page to learn more about it. I prefer this method because, although I have space to almost farm in some of the garden beds, it is much more manageable and enjoyable for me to work in a smaller space with these sorts of plants. The bigger spaces I use for fruit trees and those giant pumpkins that have taken over my life. Here are just a few of the plants I’m growing in my herb and kitchen garden right now.

Cherry tomatoes, sweet basil with heirloom tomatoes grown from a Woolies exotic tomato punnet just above them and a Cayenne pepper, that is yet to turn red. For some reason this particular plant has the growing straight up, unlike its neighbors. I’ve been picking them green…still great flavour & moderate heat.

Square foot garden

This is a type of oregano that I haven’t grown before. It’s new leaves are a very light, bright greens the lower leaves are the usual, darker silvery green. The flavour was very subtle when this was newly planted, but it was now become full bodied and indispensable in my slow cooker stews, pasta sauces and salads. The 2 sprawling bushes of oregano were actually split from one plant I bought. They were less than a handful of little leaves and stalks when they went into the ground. You can see some of the bolted, purple lettuce in the top left.

Oregano

This is one of the first Bishop’s Crown peppers (capsicum baccatum var pendulum) to grow in my garden. I’m so happy that I’ve managed to get these pretty peppers to grow tall and set fruit. The peppers are going to turn bright red later in the season. I grew mine from seedlings, but my mom-in-law grew hers from seeds we got 2 years ago. Hers are well over 2 metres tall and at least 1.5 metres across. We were visiting the dramatically beautiful Komati Gorge Lodge, and being the plant nerds we are, we gravitated to the kitchen’s greenhouse and spotted these strange looking peppers. The manager let us pick some fresh ones and we enjoyed them in preserves with our breakfast.

Bishops crown pepper

I have three of the plants. I may have to dig them up and plant them further apart if they keep growing at this rate. This is a pic I took of one of the original peppers from the lodge:

Bishops crown peppers

Here we have a small bay leaf plant on the left, and rosemary on the right. They may look a bit battered because I’ve been picking them quite a bit for our meals. In fact I was able to use my own celery and bay leaves with the Christmas gammons.

Bay leaf and rosemary

I had a much larger bay leaf plant that I moved with from one house to another, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to move with any of my plants from our previous place. Both of these plants have just rocketed up with the summer rains. I must say, all the plants in this little garden have grown well, since they became established after about 2 months of punishing, dry weather in spring when I had to water them almost daily.

Some other things growing in this area:
Bright lights spinach (bright yellow & red stalks like beet roots)
Spring onions / scallions (grown from supermarket ones that had roots & were wilting in the fridge)
Parsely
Celery (on its way out)

In another area I’m growing:
Basil mint (perfect for Thai dishes)
Garden mint
Green peppers
More cherry & heirloom tomatoes
Sacred basil
Young pomegranate tree

Young pomegranate

The second location needs a lot more attention, because the soil wasn’t amended very well. It started off as an overflow area for my extra plants and turned into a new food garden of its own.

Happy gardening all.

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