South Africa is celebrating its first Garden Day on Sunday, October 9

2016-10-02 07:30 – Grethe Kemp

PHOTO: Gundula Deutchlander

Did you know South Africa is celebrating its first Garden Day on Sunday, October 9?

This is not a corporate or for-profit event, but meant to be a movement to spread the love of gardening to all South Africans. Why not celebrate Garden Day yourself, and invite family and friends to enjoy your own garden? And, if you don’t have the luxury of your own garden, why not visit some of the beautiful parks and gardens around our cities?

Besides Kirstenbosch, perhaps one of South Africa’s most famous gardens is Babylonstorennear Paarl and Stellenbosch in the Western Cape.

This 1692 historic Cape Dutch farm boasts a breathtaking fruit and vegetable garden, and was modelled on the famous 17th- and 18th-century Company’s Garden in Cape Town and the mythical hanging gardens of Babylon. It’s particularly lovely in that every one of the 300 varieties of plants are edible or have medicinal value.

We caught up with its gardener, Gundula Deutchlander, to find out about starting our own edible garden.

GARDENS OF BABYLON: The breathtaking Babylonstoren fruit and vegetable garden near Paarl and Stellenbosch in the Western Cape. Photo supplied.


Did you always want to become a gardener?

I have always gardened alongside my mother, so it was not something I had to ‘become’. It was inherent, however, that I would be an artist, and I started drawing and painting before returning to the garden to become more grounded.

I enjoy working within such an extended time frame, drawing from history and projecting a future that will be enjoyed decades later.

What tips would you give a rookie who wants to start their own garden?

Think about how you would like to engage with your garden. What is its purpose? Take note of your specific environmental challenges (predominant wind direction, difference between winter and summer sun, soil condition, access to water, marauding animals, nosey neighbours) to access the most practical ways to create your safe haven.

Your soil is your foundation and so worth investing time and effort in.

Show your garden love by keeping an earthworm farm or making your own compost, and your garden will respond in kind. Mulch with any available material to help keep your soil as moisture retentive as possible and also to help stabilise the soil’s temperature and to keep the micro-organisms in it active and alive.

What are the benefits of growing your own vegetables?

They will feed you mentally and physically, as there is the pleasure of picking fresh and flavoursome food.

You can also grow interesting varieties that are usually not found in shops. If you add sufficient compost and organic fertiliser, you can be reassured that you will be receiving proper nutritional value from your own vegetables, which most commercially grown vegetables do not provide.

What is it like working at Babylonstoren?

It’s always interesting. Over and above our daily tasks, we play and experiment in the garden, which is valuable for growth and development. We’ve got a great gardening team to work with and are equally inspired by our visiting gardeners from around the world.

SEE: PICS: A look inside Babylonstoren’s new home for fine wines