Garden guru Jane Griffith's recipe for a nutritious fertiliser tea

08 November 2015 - 02:00 By Andrew Unsworth

After looking at the pictures in her latest book 'Jane's Delicious Urban Gardening', one would expect Jane Griffiths's own garden in Johannesburg to be super-planned and neat. But it's a gloriously unplanned cottage garden, the perfect answer to Mirabel Osler's book 'A Gentle Plea For Chaos'. The actual vegetable garden is surprisingly small, about 50m², but Griffiths admits that while it started in one corner it "just grew" with another bed here, another path here, and another tree over there. The lawn ever diminishes. It started with a trip to California where she was inspired by a friend's garden full of chillies of every shape and hue."I was so inspired by this rainbow vision I bought a packet of every variety of chilli seed I could lay my hands on. Back home I removed a section of lawn, dug in some compost, scattered the seeds and sat back to watch my chillies grow."story_article_left1It took her ages to show me around and we spoke about every plant and technique used: for plant-lovers, time is irrelevant. There is a gnarled old plum tree that a previous owner came to see: she remembered it being old in the 1930s. Most people would have dug it up, Griffiths still makes jam from its fruit.There are tomato seedlings settling in to ramble through a rustic green bamboo frame, all of them heirloom varieties. A "My Granny" rose shares an archway with a young peach tree which will be trained over it as well. A fig tree grows against a wall, also ready to be espaliered into a manageable shape. Intriguingly, potatoes sprout in rolled-down fibrous bags set down on paving: as they grow the bags are unrolled up and filled up with soil. When the time comes you just tip the lot out and harvest the freshest spuds ever.With limited room, Griffiths has been quick to explore vertical space, with trellises and frames or simply vines rambling through other shrubs. Everything is organic - dead plants are laid flat and leaves are left to compost their own beds, or they join the compost heap. Plants grow where the seed fell, but there is also deliberate mixing of companion plants - vegetables, culinary and medicinal herbs, and flowers, to ward off pests.Griffiths, who works in TV production, is no full-time gardener and says her books are written with busy urban people in mind. And she believes that gardening is good for them. "I have tasted the benefits of being able to slow down and wait," she says, and although she sounds incredibly active (she is also an artist) any gardener will know what she means: and those who do not should find out. Not for nothing she calls herself a "spiritual gardener".mini_story_image_hright1JANE'S FERTILISER TIPSFertiliser plantsThere are many herbs and plants that accumulate nutrients and can be used as fertiliser-creating plants. Some of these are considered weeds by many gardeners - stinging nettle, yarrow or chickweed. To get the benefits of the nutrients, use the leaves as mulch, add the leaves (or whole plant) to the compost pile, or brew a fertiliser tea.Fertiliser teaThis tea is a nutritious feed for hungry plants. Half fill a bucket with nutrient-accumulating plants. Cover the plants with boiling water and let them rot for about a month, stirring every now and then. Dilute one part tea to 10 parts water, and use as a soil drench or foliar spray. If you use a bucket with a tap, you can top up the brew and pour it off whenever you need it. This tea can be applied every one to two weeks.'Jane's Delicious Urban Gardening' is published by Sunbird (R295)...

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