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Month-by-month information on how to grow your vegetable garden in South Africa.

January Vegetable Calendar

Tips

This year, I planted eggplant in winter and, not surprisingly, they got frosted and were miserable and stunted. I left them in the ground, mulched them with compost after the first rains and gave them a tsp. of 2.3.2 at root level. I have just picked early fruit off strong eggplants.

Should you transplant any plants from the veldt or other gardens, do not forget to boost them with fertiliser and keep them moist for the first two weeks or you will lose them.

Should you have a slug or snail problem, lay out rough salt in shallow lids in your vegetable beds and also place a few empty beer cans in the beds at the same time – the smell of beer seems to attract the slimeys! Once they arrive, the salt will do the rest. Remember though, whereas birds cause some damage, they do equal good by getting rid of pests, especially in summer, when even the seed-eaters are feeding their fledglings insects to give them a protein boost.

Basil

How and Where to Grow:

The Basils are attractive annual herbs with a sharp, spicy flavour and a long history of use. There are several species, but the two most commonly used are Sweet Basil and Bush Basil. Sow in semi-shade or a sunny position after the last frost - space 30cm. apart. The soil should be moderately rich in organic matter. Do not fertilise, as quick growth will affect the flavour negatively. Water regularly to keep growth succulent and leaves fresh. Indoor Basil requires sun and should be pinched occasionally to keep growth bushy. Basil grows readily from seed once the weather is warm.

Cooking with Basil

Use the leaves of this plant sparingly to flavour soups (especially tomato) and in tomato and egg based dishes. Basil also adds to salads, omelettes, sausages, cheese, meat, fish, poultry stuffing’s, spaghetti and mincemeat.

Basil Summer Salad

Slice tomato into a vinegar dressing, with salt, sugar and black pepper to taste. Add finely-chopped basil and allow to stand in the fridge for at least an hour. Mix up and add thinly-sliced cheese of your choice, with olive oil and chopped celery optional.

Basil Butter

Combine butter and chopped Basil in a blender and use as accompaniment with foods mentioned in Cooking with Basil section.

Basil Vinegar

Pick leaves before the plant flowers. Wash leaves, dry in a dishtowel, put in a bowl and cover with vinegar of your choice for two weeks. Then strain and bottle. (quantities: 250 g. Basil, 1 L. Vinegar)

Preserving Basil

Freezing: You can chop leaves and add olive oil before freezing. Use frozen leaves directly to cooking food, but defrost for use in cold dishes.
Salting: Rinse in water and allow to dry. Pick the leaves off the stem. Pour a layer of non-iodised salt into a jar, add a layer of leaves, then salt until the jar is full, end with salt. Press down hard, put on lid and store in dark place.
Use the leaves as you would fresh but make sure to rinse thoroughly, unless you need the extra salt in whatever you are cooking.
Drying: Basil does not preserve its flavour well through this method.

Healing Properties of Herbs

Herbs should be gathered in bright sunlight when the dew has dried. This is when their healing properties are at their best. All herbs used in healing must be grown organically. A tea made from the flowers assists digestion and is very good for nervous conditions. It can be taken by children and adults at bedtime and will aid peaceful sleep. It relieves vertigo, colic, coughs, tonsillitis, whooping cough and migraine headaches of nervous origin. Give two cups of a decoction of leaves to breast-feeding mothers to stimulate the production of milk. As a gargle, it relieves oral thrush.

Decoctions: Plants are brought to the boil in water, which is then allowed to boil for several minutes.

Usage in Foot & Hand Baths (never use metal containers)

How to Prepare: Boil 1 litre of water and leave for 5 min. Add two or three handfuls of chopped herbs and cover. Steep for four to five hours. When you are ready for a bath, boil 2 litres water and allow to stand for 5 min. Add to the base preparation and enjoy. This preparation can be kept up to eight days and can be re-heated. Do not re-boil and do not add more herbs.

Foot baths should be taken in the morning on an empty stomach and should not last more than 8 min. They should be as hot as possible, but not boiling.
Hand baths should be taken in the evening before a meal, also as hot as possible and for no more than 8 min.

 

 

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