Covid-19: Hunger

Joburg residents help feed the hungry with pavement vegetable gardens

10 May 2020 - 00:00
Henrietta Holman outside her home in Northcliff, Johannesburg.
Henrietta Holman outside her home in Northcliff, Johannesburg.
Image: Alaister Russell

Food to share. That is the message written on the carefully constructed community vegetable patch on a verge in Northcliff, Johannesburg.

Henrietta and Seymour Holman have worked hard for the past three years to put food on the tables of neighbours and passers-by. But their little vegetable garden in Acacia Road has never been more valuable than now, when food security is threatened in the midst of the lockdown.

"We want to feed the community," Henrietta said. "Our idea was to hopefully cause a ripple effect in the community and have several other pavement gardens."

The couple live opposite Northcliff Primary School and Henrietta said the school has also planted its own garden with a note which reads "Inspired by Mrs Holman".

"The municipality owns the verge and we are obligated to keep it neat. People usually mow the lawn and plant flowers but my husband suggested we use it to help the community. If we could all plant a little garden it would make a huge difference in the world," said Henrietta.

On the menu this month are carrots, onions, spinach, aubergines, cauliflowers, chillies and herbs. "We're busy growing pumpkin - someone raided the whole lot!"

Isaac Morwasehla and David O'Sullivan in Craighall, Johannesburg, where they have turned their pavement into a community vegetable patch.
Isaac Morwasehla and David O'Sullivan in Craighall, Johannesburg, where they have turned their pavement into a community vegetable patch.

A fellow pavement vegetable grower, radio personality David O'Sullivan, is cultivating quite a patch - when he's not running the Kaya FM Breakfast Show.

His garden in Talbragar Avenue, Craighall, attracts a lot of interest from a nearby taxi rank and busy roads. And from an elderly neighbour.

"I started planting after renovating the house," said O'Sullivan. "Rubble on the pavement destroyed the grass and it was actually the builder's idea - he had one on his verge.

"The trick here is that the pavement soil is full of insects and ants but in a box the vegetables are safe. I also planted marigolds, which the nursery said would stop the insects getting into the box. And it works.

"People have raided this lot - and I'm happy that they take. Sometimes when I pull up to the house and people see me they get embarrassed but I always encourage them to carry on - that's what it's there for.

"All I have at the moment is spinach and cabbage. I keep replanting, because if I don't I get a lot of knocks on the door. There is a little old lady down the road who comes regularly with her plastic packet - she usually comes to the door to complain that I'm not growing what she wants. She's been asking for lettuce and onions," he laughed.

Cost of feeding a family a basic nutritious diet per month
Cost of feeding a family a basic nutritious diet per month
Image: Nolo Moima

Yoga instructor Dominique Rowberry was excited when her neighbour planted avocado trees on his pavement as a complement to her roadside vegetable garden on Panners Lane in Riverclub, Johannesburg.

But she has not been able to tend to her garden during lockdown.

"We are so paranoid at getting arrested outside our home due to the lockdown regulations that we haven't been able to tend to our garden. My boyfriend did mow the lawn, but quickly so he wouldn't get a fine. So now we have a neat lawn and an overgrown veggie patch.

"We have a lot of tomatoes and some very small spinaches . even when I plant other vegetables people seem to strip the spinach and leave the rest. I have also had requests for herbs but I haven't planted that yet."

Rowberry started a Facebook page, Pavement Vegetable Gardens of Johannesburg, to connect pavement gardeners.


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