Growing your own garden to lower food costs

26 November 2014

The increasing cost of food should be combated by growing vegetables at home, said Senzeni Zokwana, the minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. He went on to say that most households in South Africa are food insecure, due to the fact that they only consume, and do not produce their own food.

Zokwana was talking at the National Assembly debate on the high cost of food, and pointed out that about 13.8 million South African’s go to bed hungry every night.

“One of the reasons why most households are regarded as food insecure in South Africa is due to the fact that people are net consumers of purchased food, rather than producers thereof,” said Zokwana.

Culture of gardening

“One of the hallmarks of a modern or industrialised economy is the rise of the modern food network. These networks are generally characterized by long distances between producers and consumers; the industrialization of agricultural production; increased processing, and supermarkets as the most important way in which consumers access food,” said Zokwana.

However, Zokwana pointed out that about 40% of South Africa’s underprivileged population reside in rural areas and are dependent, either directly or indirectly, on land for their livelihood. Thus, accessing food through supermarkets is difficult for these people, only adding to the problem of food insecurity in the country.

“Our reality is that, despite some progress since the birth of democracy in the country in 1994, one in four people currently suffers of hunger on a regular basis and more than half of the population live in such precarious circumstances that they are at risk of going hungry,” said Zokwana.

Therefore, consumers who create their own gardens have a chance to not only produce extra food for the household, but a way to supplement their incomes too. “We need to inculcate a culture of planting household food gardens,” said Zokwana.

Tips: Make your own garden

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) South Africa said that 40% to 60% of household waste can be turned into compost. “Composting diverts your green waste back into the garden instead of ending up in a landfill, which also helps to reduce the production of damaging greenhouses gases and allows as to reduce our ecological footprint in a small way,” said Country-Farm Lifestyle’s website.

There are various different items which can be used to make compost, such as: fruit and vegetable scraps, peels and rinds, tea bags, eggs shells and even egg cartons (for a full list, click here).

A shady place is the best for a compost heap. In order to get the compost started, line the bottom with either soil or rabbit or horse food, explained WWF. After that, add the household waste products and leave it to decompose. The compost will be ready to use when it is dark brown, and looks like soil. When using it, always take from the bottom of the heap.

A vegetable garden is trickier than a compost heap, as vegetables require a lot more attention. A proper place to grow vegetables will be somewhere with six to eight hours of sunlight a day.

When watering vegetables, the goal is to keep the soil moist but not wet, Sean Freeman, owner of Living Seeds, an online heirloom vegetable seed store. In order to figure out if the plants need water, stick your finger into the soil, up to your first knuckle – If the soil feels dry, add water.

According to Beauty South Africa, the easiest vegetables to grow are Swiss chard, green beans, carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers, peas, radishes, zucchini, onions and beets. A quick and easy way to keep bugs and snails off of your vegetables is to mix eco-friendly dishwashing liquid with some water and simply spray them over the vegetables.

Combating food insecurity is a big task, and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has gone on a national campaign to distribute fruit and vegetable seeds to communities in order to try and help them produce their own food.

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