Written by Quintin Coetzee
Relocation Africa’s Rooftop Garden
Our resident maintenance and garden aficionado, Raeez, has spent weeks carefully planning, building, and tending to our new rooftop garden, at our head office in Cape Town.
Going into the South African summer months, we are now all able to see the fruits, or in this case vegetables, of his labor.
Raeez has successfully created a thriving rooftop vegetable garden, on a section of flat roof at our main office building. The garden has been specifically designed to be water-wise and insect-safe, and as a result, we now have access to a wide variety of harvestable vegetables that our staff can enjoy.
We recommend that other businesses, and those at home, try one of the many ways to plant your own vegetable gardens at your premises, as it is a great way to save money, engage with staff members, and help save the environment.
As part of the garden, we also have a custom beehive, wherein a local colony is in the process of making fresh honey for us.
We consulted with a gardening specialist at Stodels Garden Centre in Constantia, Cape Town, and received some helpful tips for vegetable planting.
Some beginner’s tips on planting your own vegetable garden are:
- Start small – plan carefully, and test first. That way you won’t waste money, or end up with more than you need.
- Pick a good location – choosing wisely will allow your plants to thrive under the best conditions.
- Vegetables need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. The more sunlight they receive, the greater the harvest, and the better the taste.
- Plants’ roots penetrate soft soil easily, so loamy soil is best. Enriching the soil with compost provides needed nutrients. Proper drainage will ensure that water neither collects on top, nor drains away too quickly.
- Space your crops properly. For example, corn needs a lot of space and can overshadow shorter vegetables. Plants set too close together compete for sunlight, water, and nutrition, and fail to mature. Pay attention to the spacing guidance on seed packets and plant tabs.
- Buy high-quality seeds. Seed packets are less expensive than individual plants. If seeds don’t germinate, your money and time are wasted. A few extra cents spent in spring for that year’s seeds will pay off in higher yields at harvest time.
- Choose the right plot size – A good-size beginner vegetable garden is about 5 x 3 meters, and features crops that are easy to grow. A plot this size, based on the vegetables suggested below, can feed a family of four for one summer, with a little extra for canning and freezing, or giving away.
- Make the best use of your space – trellising is an efficient way to use space in the garden. Those with small gardens will want to grow as many crops as possible on vertical supports, and gardeners who have a lot of space will still need to lend physical support to some of their vegetables, such as climbing varieties of peas and pole beans, as well as cucumbers and tomatoes. Supports can be constructed out of wood or metal, and should be in place before crops are planted.
- Plant suitable vegetables – The vegetables suggested below are common, productive plants, but you’ll also want to contract your local nursery to determine what plants grow best in your local area. Think about what you like to eat, as well as what’s difficult to find in a grocery store or farmers’ market. If the below is too large for your needs, you can merely plant fewer of each plant, shortening the rows.
- Tomatoes (5 plants, staked)
- Zucchini squash (4 plants)
- Peppers (6 plants)
- Bush beans
- Lettuce, leaf and/or Bibb
- Marigolds (to discourage rabbits)
- Rotate your crops – Crop rotation within the vegetable garden means planting the same crop in the same place only once every three years. This ensures that the same garden vegetables will not deplete the same nutrients year after year. It can also help foil any insect pests or disease pathogens that might be lurking in the soil after the crop is harvested.
- Plant at the right time of year – make use of a planting calendar, such as one of the below, which will tell you the best time to plant each plant, based on your specific region’s climate.
- Keep a record – making sure you track harvest times, when you fertilize, and when you plant, will help for future garden planning.
- Have fun – this is the most important aspect. Enjoy the process, see it as a learning opportunity, and take pride in eating healthily and helping the environment!
For more information on how to plant your own vegetables, other gardening tips, and to choose from a variety of plants and seeds, visit a Stodels Garden Centre. Information is available on their website here: https://www.stodels.com.
For information on how we can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, and Remuneration needs, email email@example.com, or contact us on +27 21 763 4240.