Build a compost heap

Compost is the secret ingredient to a thriving and healthy garden. Here are some basic steps to get you started on building a successful compost heap:

  • Firstly, you need to fnd a shady and sheltered position in your garden to create your compost heap.
  • Purchase or build a secure container to hold your compost in position and to protect it from rodents and other pests.
  • Using bare soil aerated by a covering of branches or straw creates a good base for the compost heap.

You can then build on the base by piling vegetable matter, garden rubbish and weeds into a heap so that it can rot and turn into compost. Well rotted horse or cow manure is a fantastic addition to any compost heap as manure speeds up the composting process and is vital to producing rich humus for your garden.

Avoid using toxic pesticides

Chemical pesticides tend to kill both ‘good bugs’ and ‘bad bugs’ indiscriminately and also usually end up poisoning local birds which feed on slugs and snails from your garden. Explore gentler organic forms of pest control with your local nursery (for example find out which plants repel specific insects).

Water your plants thoroughly in the cool of the day

Instead of giving your plants a light sprinkling every day, it is far more effective to give them a good soaking less often. This will encourage the roots to penetrate deeper into the soil, accessing the moisture in the ground and enabling them to survive between watering and in times of drought. Remember to water in cool, still conditions as most water will evaporate in the heat of the day or when it is very windy.

Install a rainwater tank

Installing a rainwater tank is both cost-effective and environmentally friendly as it will enable you to harvest rainwater from your gutters. You can use this water for washing your car, flushing toilets and watering your garden. For contact details of service providers, choose a company from those associated with the Topic Rainwater Harvesting in the Enviropaedia.

Plant a water-wise garden

Ask a local garden centre to recommend plants for your garden that require the least watering. These are usually indigenous plants that are adapted to local weather conditions and need little special treatment. Find out about your plants watering needs and group those with the same watering needs together.

Mulch and Compost

Adding a layer of mulch on top and compost within your soil will help retain water and cut down evaporation.

Install a drip irrigation system

Drip irrigation systems use only 50 percent of the water normally used by sprinklers as they deliver water straight onto plant roots.

Plant seasonally

Be strategic about planting by using the seasons as a guide. For winter rainfall areas, plant during autumn and early winter in order for the root systems to be established by the dry season. If you experience summer rainfall in your area, the best time to plant is therefore spring and early summer.

Turn your garden into a bird sanctuary

Set up some bird feeders, baths and birdhouses to draw in our feathered friends. If you have a large tree in your garden, you could look into installing an owl box to encourage owls to nest. Birds can keep the local insect and rodent population in check.

Attend a permaculture course

If you are interested in growing your own food, and developing a more sustainable lifestyle, then attend a permaculture workshop. The philosophy behind Permaculture is one  of working with, rather than against, nature to create agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. For more information, contact Seed or Food and Trees for Africa.