Introducing TheTreeApp, South Africa

 

It’s that time of year when we settle into summer and start taking advantage of some time off. Perfect for going on picnics, meandering hikes and exploring our beautiful country’s vegetation. But how often do we admire a tree – it’s flowers, its unusual leaves or its spectacular size and shape – and not know its name? How awesome would it be to quickly identify it, learn more about it and share the knowledge with your family and friends?

Nowadays we are spoilt for choice in accessing information and the biggest challenge is being able to sort the accurate from the incorrect. That’s where high quality, research-based smartphone and tablet applications (apps) offer the most value. With a couple of taps you can sound like an expert, thanks to the experts who have developed an app that assists in the identification of trees.

A team of ardent pioneers, including Val Thomas, Dr Robbie (Ernest) Robison and Herman Van den Berg, have made South Africa’s vast array of tree species the subject of the award-winning app, TheTreeApp South Africa.

It is beautifully illustrated and constructed allowing for easy navigation. It only requires Wi-Fi once, to download the app. Thereafter it won’t require any more data connection for its usage. An initial thorough going-over of the ‘Help’ section, will make the tree identification experience a lot more engaging. It is highly absorbing so prepare to have to drag yourself out of the garden if you need to get any holiday chores done.

Using the phone’s location setting, the app offers up options that are relevant to any specific area within South Africa, within a range of a 12,5 km radius, to help the user narrow down the possible species. This aspect of the app is most helpful, considering that, in total it features more than 1,100 species including 979 indigenous trees and 135 invasive species.

Identification can be made using leaves, flowers, fruit, growth, form, woody features, thorns or latex. The number of potential options is reduced with every identifier until a positive identification can be made. The structure and terminology are designed to appeal equally to the layman (being available in all 11 official languages) as well to those more familiar with the Latin terms and scientific information.

To find out more about this useful app visit: http://www.thetreeapp.co.za/

15+ Ways to Recycle Your Old Furniture into a Fairytale Garden

By Julija Nėjė

Just because a piece of furniture has outlived its use in your home doesn’t mean it’s no longer useful! With the right attitude and a mind for DIY projects and recycling, old pieces of furniture can find a second life as beautiful garden decorations!

Garden design is tons of fun because it lets you get very creative with materials that you might not be able to use at home, like live plants or rocks. Check out these cool ideas for pebble paths and broken pot fairy gardens, too!

#1 Piano Garden:

Piano Garden

#2 Bed Garden:

BedGarden1

#3 Cello Garden:

Cello Garden

#4 Dresser Garden:

DresserGarden1

#5 Succulent Garden on a Chair:

Succulent Garden on Chair

#6 Bed Garden:

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#7 Magical Bed Garden:

Magical Bed Garden

#8 Typewriter Garden:

Typewriter Garden

#9 Tub Garden:

Tub Garden

#10 Bathtub Garden:

Bathtub Garden

#11 Shopping Cart Garden:

Shopping Cart Garden

#12 Dining Table Garden:

Dining Table Garden

#13 Dresser Garden:

Dresser Garden 2

#14 Bed Garden:

BedGarden3

#15 Sofa Garden:

Sofa Garden

Click here to see the full list of these unique gardens from www.boredpanda.com!

Abundance of Water

In this video, Alosha shares his knowledge of the current water situation in a drought-stricken South Africa. He also provides us with some great water wise tips and practical solutions for our own gardens and homes so that we too can help conserve water and sustain our beautiful environment!

Celebrating Indigenous Trees in Your Garden

In honor of Arbour Month in South Africa, Greenpop’s Matthew Koehorst has provided us with some lovely tips for growing indigenous trees in our very own gardens. Whether big or small, these remarkable plants can make a great addition to your home while helping to sustain healthy, functional ecosystems.

Join the Treevolution!

By Matthew Koehorst- Head of Department of Planting and Sustainability at Greenpop, a Cape Town based Tree Planting and Environmental Education organisation.

September is Arbour Month in South Africa and a great opportunity for us to reflect on the massive diversity of beautiful indigenous trees that our country is lucky enough to have. Southern Africa is home to around 1700 different species of trees, all of which are adapted and suited to their local conditions, and all of which have a valuable role to play in their native ecosystems. Many indigenous trees are also fantastic for landscaping and can add a lot of value to your green spaces at home.

Trees serve as a great addition to gardens and landscapes for a variety of reasons. They provide edible fruits and medicine, fix nitrogen into the soil, attract beneficial pollinators, stabilise soils, provide shade, act as windbreaks and add beautiful form to your landscape.

Planting a tree should be considered a long term investment on your property as they typically take several years before being of substantial size and presence. Most plant nurseries stock indigenous trees. However, specialists in the field are more able to provide good advice for your tree requirements and to recommend the right trees for you needs. It’s a good idea to think through the following factors when considering the purchase of indigenous trees:

  1. Space available- How much space do you have and how big would you like your tree to be? Indigenous trees can range in size from 3-5 meters all the way to 20 meters plus. It’s important to consider the habits of the roots of your tree and whether you are planting near any piping, drains or power lines.
  2. Purpose of planting—Why do you want to plant a tree? Is it for shade, a windbreak, to attract birds, to provide a screen from your neighbours, for its natural beauty or perhaps something else?
  3. Soil type and water availability- What is the soil like where you want to plant and will you be able to meet the water demands of the tree? Some trees prefer sandy soils, other clayey soils, and many are well adapted to a range of soil types. Similarly, some trees require small amounts of water and are relatively able to look after themselves, while others require larger amounts and may need more care and attention in getting established.
  4. Budget- How much money do you have to spend? The prices of indigenous trees can vary from R20 for a young and small tree, all the way to R5000 and above for large, well established landscaping trees. Deciding how much you want to spend on your tree will effect the size, type, and quality of the tree you can purchase.

Types of indigenous trees

There are many species and families of indigenous trees, each with their own characteristics, benefits, and habits. When purchasing a tree, understanding what personality you want your tree to have will go a long way in helping you make a decision. Here is a very short list of some popular trees for landscaping and garden use:

Yellowwoods- Afrocarpus species (previously Podocarpus)

A yellowwood tree stands in all its glory. Picture by: Matthew Koehorst.

A yellowwood tree stands in all its glory. Picture by: Matthew Koehorst.

These beautiful and substantial slow growing trees can grow massive, in nature up to 30m and more and are South Africa’s national tree. They provide great shade, have fruits that attract birds, and are very attractive trees. However, they do take around 10 years before they are of susbstantial size.

Wild Figs- Ficus species

Wild Figs

The Ficus family is massive with over 800 species worldwide. In South Africa there are several species including Ficus sur and Ficus natelensis which are great for larger gardens. These sprawling trees are beautiful and provide fruit for birds and great shade. However, they may have invasive roots so don’t plant them near buildings or sewerage systems. They are fast growing.

Acacias- Vachellia species

Acacia Tree

The Vachellia family (previously Acacias, but renamed recently) consists of tough and hardy nitrogen fixing trees, typically with thorns, that are well adapted to drier conditions like central and northern South Africa, though they grow well in many regions. They attract pollinators, fix nitrogen into the soil, provide shade, and can provide protection and security due to their thorny nature.

There are obviously a huge variety of other indigenous trees that may be suited to your specific region and area, whether you live on the coastline, in the mountains, or on the highlands of our beautiful country. For a very comprehensive list of indigenous trees and their characteristics to help in your decision making, visit www.plantzafrica.com for access to the South African National Biodiversity Institute’s amazing free resource.

We’re lucky enough to be spoilt for choice in the tree department in South Africa, so get out there and plant away.

Happy planting!

Urban agriculture helps city grow

Cape Town’s growing interest in urban agriculture is set to change the city’s attitude towards food security and sustainable food production.

Photo 3

Produces harvested at the Moya! Garden(Harvestofhope.co.za)

Across the world, in spaces where food was often taken for granted, more people are becoming aware of the urgent need to embrace urban agriculture on a citywide scale and work across socio-economic divides.

Rob Small, Co-Director of Abalimi says, “There’s absolutely no reason for food insecurity anywhere, just 100m2 can feed a family of four year-round with all the fresh veggies they could dream of.”

Abalimi’s Harvest of Hope marketing project is a social business that provides a much-needed outlet for excess produce. They sell produce on behalf of the farmers in the form of a weekly organic box scheme.

“We provide a market to small organic farmers who otherwise would not get the true value and recognition for the work they are doing. We provide constant access to market for our farmers along with support, training, and community,” says Rachel McKinney, Marketing Co-ordinator Harvest of Hope.

Photo 2

Produce being transported to collection point in Cape Town ((Harvestofhope.co.za))

“There is a demand that can be fulfilled by our farmers and we are working to build production capacity among the core community garden projects and aim to take on many more community garden projects in future. We have a list of over 300, which we have interacted with and supported since 2008,” adds Small.

Projects like these provide participants with healthy, locally grown food and a platform for individuals from different backgrounds to work together for a common goal – empowering Capetonians to cultivate a culture of people that are more connected to their food source.

Volunteer at Harvest of Hope, where every contribution is appreciated. For a for more information regarding Harvest of Hope’s volunteer program and how to order your own freshly packed and organically grown vegetables, visit www.harvestofhope.co.za

By: Patrick Domberg

Grow your own food in six easy steps

garden-design-plans-landscape-design-plans-2-1181x863It may seem overwhelming to start growing your own food if it’s something you’ve never tried before. It seems like there are so many different things to consider, like soil type, garden placement, what to plant, how to deal with pests and more. In fact, it may seem so complicated and confusing that you never end up trying at all.

But in reality, growing your own vegetables is easier than you think. October and November are a fantastic time to dig in and get your green fingers growing- so don’t hesitate, step outside and get green.

Here are 6 easy tips to getting started:

1) Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

The best way to begin a vegetable patch is to begin with a small space that is easily manageable and won’t be too difficult to maintain. One square meter is more than enough space to keep yourself busy and learning. Once you get the hang of it you can move on to bigger things.

2) Find a sunny spot

One of the main requirements of a vegetable garden that you can’t change at a later stage is access to sun. Look for a sunny place in your garden or on your balcony. You can always reduce the amount of sun that your vegetable patch receives by using shade cloth or other techniques, but you can never really add more sun. Try and choose a place that is still sunny in the middle of winter as the sun moves North.

3) Choose your vegetable bed method

There are many ways to make a space for your vegetables to grow. The main things vegetables want are access to nutrients in the soil, energy from the sun, and water.
With a traditional bed you dig compost about 20 cm into the ground. Make sure to remove grass roots and weeds to prevent excess maintenance later. It may take a bit of hard work in the beginning , but you can lay a good foundation for growing vegetables into the future. Raised beds are created using planks, bricks or logs to border a mix of compost and sand which is raised above the ground. These beds drain well during a rainy season, preventing water logging. They also tend to warm up quickly in winter, so are particularly suitable for cold areas. Container gardening is great for small spaces like balconies, and is also a good option if you are want to garden in an urban area that is covered in concrete. Any container can do, from an ice cream tub to a hand-made planter box. The most important thing here is making sure your containers have drainage holes. Plants don’t like soggy feet.

4) Selecting your vegetables

This is potentially the most intimidating of stages in beginning a vegetable garden. How on earth do you decide what you want to grow? The best technique when getting started is visiting your local garden center and choosing a selection of in-season seedlings. Ask for advice if you need it! Take a look at Green Home Magazine’s handy monthly planting guidelines for more information on seasonal planting. Tomatoes, salad greens, and herbs are always a rewarding place to start. There is nothing more exciting than biting into your first delicious home grown tomato. Spinach and Kale are also great crops as they are easy to grow organically and pack a high nutrient punch. Once you have your confidence up you can start growing from seed, expanding to more exotic vegetables, and getting more creative.

5) Spend a little time, regularly, tending your garden

Once you have your bed made and your seedlings selected, it’s time to plant the seedlings out. Take time and care making sure that you treat the young plants gently. Be sure to give them ample water to settle in, and add mulch (old leafs, straw or other organic materials) to keep the soil cool and moist. When your seedlings are in the ground, make a habit of spending 10 minutes a day tending, watering and weeding your garden. It is a rewarding and therapeutic experience watching your plants grow and flourish.

6) Have fun!

Enjoy the process, read and learn as you go, experiment, and celebrate your harvest!

Planting is for the birds and the bees

By Matthew Koehorst

As the weather in South Africa warms and winter passes into spring, spare a moment for the unsung heros of your garden that make sure you’re beautiful decorative and edible plants are pollinated and reproducing. Birds, butterflies and bees and other pollinators are vital components to any healthy ecosystem and your garden is no exception.

Pollinators aren’t just important for your garden’s health- they also play a vital role in our international food system, and studies have shown that these often overlooked animals are responsible for 1 out of every 3 bites you eat. However, pollinators are under international threat from a variety of angles including suffering from pests and diseases, pollution, loss of habitat and a scarcity of forage resources.

Honeybees are responsible for the pollination of deciduous fruit, vegetables and oilseed crops and often rely on naturally occurring vegetation or landscaped areas to access pollen during times of drought and season change. They require a diverse diet to stay healthy and are increasingly put under pressure by urban spread, loss of natural vegetation and large-scale monoculture agriculture.

Different bee species prefer different plant species. Some bees prefer simple flowers with easily accessible pollen, while others, like bumble bees, tend to prefer larger and more complicated flowers.

Hummingbirds and sugarbirds rely on nectar from flowers for their survival and often have very short ranges, requiring regular access to appropriate flowering plants that can give them enough energy to move onto the next plant. Flowers appropriate for hummingbirds and sugarbirds have evolved long tubular shapes, perfectly suited for pollination by bird’s elongated beak.

Butterflies prefer composite flowers with small tubular flowers surrounded by petals, like a daisy or other similar flowering plant. The petals allow for a safe place for the butterflies to land on while they feed and the small tubular flowers enable the butterfly to reach the pollen with it’s long proboscis.

 

pollination-1399359-1920x1440

Plant a pollinator friendly garden this spring

Planting a pollinator friendly garden is a great way to support local wildlife while adding beauty and diversity to your garden at the same time. Spring is a great time to get started with your pollinator garden, and you can have a beautiful and supportive ‘island’ of pollinator plants, regardless of the space available to you. Even balcony gardens can offer a small but important space for pollinators to feed and rest before continuing with their journey through the urban landscape.

When planning your pollinator friendly garden follow these 10 basic steps:

– Plant a diversity of plants suited for a range of different pollinators. Make sure to plant several of one type of plant in an area to maximize on the number of similar flowers in that space.

– If planting with limited space, plant blue, yellow or purple flowers to attract bees.

– Plant to provide a continuously flowering garden- Plan to have one group of flowers blooming as another group dies off. Plant both perennial and annual flowers to ensure short term and longer term blooms.

– Plant garden herbs, such as basil, rosemary and lavender, which provide good nectar sources for pollinators, but also provide yourself with herbs to use.

– Plant indigenous plants to attract local birds, bees and butterflies. Useful indigenous plants include trees such as Sweet Thorn, Wit Karee, River Bush

 

aloe-plant-1338750-1920x1440Willows, Weeping Wattle and Tree Fuchsia. Colourful indigenous plants include agapanthus, aloes, asparagus fern, Cape violets, clivia, euryops daisy, butterfly bush, Cape honeysuckle and vygies.

– Plant species that have different heights and growth characteristics to increase your gardens diversity.

– Provide bird baths for birds, and shallow dishes of water for bees and beetles.

– Include plants that attract beneficial insects that prey on pests

– Plant night blooming flowers like Jasmine to attract nocturnal pollinators like moths and beetles

– Plant flowering plants in your vegetable garden to attract pollinators and improve your fruit set later in the spring season.

As spring arrives in your garden this year, put a bit of time into providing habitat and food for your local pollinators and you’ll reap the rewards of their presence in your garden.

Growing vegetables in small spaces:

By Matthew Koehorst

If you live in an urban center, chances are you don’t have too much space available for gardening. However, there is still a lot of potential to keep your fingers green and produce a supplementary amount of vegetables to support your fresh vegetable requirements. To garden successfully on a balcony or small space it is important to start with good quality compost and potting soil and to not over-water your plants. Overwatering will wash the nutrients out of the soil, leaving it infertile and ineffective. However, too little water can be very dangerous for your container plants, as their roots are reliant on what water you provide to keep the plant happy.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGood plants for balcony production:

Potatoes, Tomatoes, Spinach, Carrots, beans, lettuces, and a huge variety of herbs can all be fantastic for growing in containers. Make sure to provide enough soil for root vegetables though, and keep tomatoes out of areas that are very windy.

Easy to propagate vegetables from cuttings:

Next time you have some kitchen scraps, think twice before throwing them away- many vegetables can regrow from the discarded ends, saving you time and money and illustrating the beauty of life in the process!

– Romain Lettuce will regrow from the cut stem of the lettuce, just add it to a small container of water with the top exposed to the air and watch it grow

– Basil grows easily from cuttings and is a great way to increase your basil quantities- just cut a stem 4-5cm below the top and add it to water to watch it grow. Remove all but a third of the leaves on the cutting.

– Garlic sprouts can be grown from cloves of garlic by submerging them in water

– Lemongrass and spring onions can regrow from discarded roots by placing them in water.

– Sweet potatoes can sprout and produce vines that will in time produces more potatoes.

Simply place the potato with 1/3rd submerged and wait for the vinelike leaves to emerge before planting.

 

flower-pots-1423707-1919x1275 (1)Finding homes for your urban plants:

Urban farmers who lack access to the soil have come up with many different solutions for containers for their plants. From stacked discarded tyres to toilet bowls, from gutters to beautiful wooden planter boxes, the options are relatively limitless. When looking for containers for your plants make sure to include drainage holes to prevent root rot and generally look for something at least 10cm deep to house your plants.

Creating a green space in your urban environment is easy, rewarding and a great way to spend time in a mini oasis in the concrete jungle and to stretch your green fingers. Enjoy the process!

Know IT: The beginners guide to biodiversity…

Bio what? You may hear words that are used to describe things that you sort of ‘get’ but if asked may perhaps not be able to truly reflect back what it means to you. ‘Biodiversity’ is one such a word you are going to see more and more of but what does it really mean?

“The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the ecology. Not the other way around”. So said Gaylord Nelson – the founder of Earth Day – in 1970. Since then there have been international conferences on climate change and business and world leaders – including the Pope himself – are stating that the natural world is struggling as a result of the extractive, agricultural and fossil fuel industries rampaging their way through the planet’s resources.

Biodiversity is the term used to describe the entire collection of plant and animal species on the planet and to describe specific regional natural complexity. As individuals we are part of the human race which is in itself full of diversity and we all live within the earth’s biosphere; it is an enclosed system and all the water we have on the planet is all the water we have ever had on the planet. All the air is continually recycled through various earth ‘lungs” including wetlands and forests. Trees are our filters and the life lived amongst them our legacy. All the living creatures we could ever imagine are part of this biosphere and the eco systems that connect are the communities that the living world gives to us. This is ‘biodiversity’ on a grand scale.

Perspectives are changing about how the natural world is being affected by humans and there is an increased awareness of the connections linking people to each other and to the natural world that supports them. Those lucky enough to live in a place of beauty – celebrate it. Those that are next to and caught up in environmental degradation feel it in all aspects of their lives, often at great harm.

So if you still think that just because deforestation and species loss is happening somewhere else on the planet ( it’s happening everywhere) and you won’t be affected you may find this opinion will be reformed as more and more information comes to light showing the contrary. The biodiversity loss we are seeing is massive and what is being lost represents a loss of something fundamental to our well-being as part of healthy, balanced eco-system.

In South Africa certain wine and barley farmers have pledged to preserve biodiversity corridors on large scale farms which gives endemic wildlife a better chance of success; bringing the whole ecology closer to balance.

You can be a biodiversity steward in your back yard (or balcony) by planting plants that feed pollinators like bees and birds. Rather than planting lawn, consider a wild flower and succulent garden that is water wise and encourages plants of your region to thrive.

 

cape-white-eye-sunbird-1360335Some facts about Cape Town’s unique biodiversity:

– 70% of the Cape Floral Kingdom’s 9 600 plant species are found nowhere else on earth.

– Cape Town itself is home to about 3 000 indigenous plant species, 190 are endemic (only found in that place), 318 are considered threatened and 13 are extinct or extinct in the wild.

– 83 mammal species remain in Cape Town, 24 Red Data listed and three recently extinct.

– 361 bird species live in Cape Town – ten are endangered, 22 are Red Data listed and at least three species have become extinct in recent years.

– There are numerous invertebrate species in Cape Town, approximately 111 of them are only found in the Cape Peninsula Mountain Chain.

– There are 27 amphibian species in Cape Town of which ten are listed as Red Data species.

– Many globally important horticultural plants originate in Cape Town and the Cape Floral Kingdom in general. These include geraniums, gladioli, freesias, ixias, pincushions and gazanias.

You can experience the beauty of our diverse environmental kingdom by visiting a national park – see here for details: www.sanbi.co.za 

For a useful list of contacts:
http://www.capetowngreenmap.co.za/go-green/biodiversity-contacts

Grown up gardens

Grown up gardens

nutritower 2It is no surprise given the increase in world population over the last few decades that many people are opting to live in apartment blocks or flats, as unless one has a family or requires large open spaces for work the former is undoubtedly a more cost effective option. However, living in flat or apartment does come with certain niggling limitations; such as limited visitor parking, the prohibition of pets and undoubtedly the omitting of a really good gardening space. Luckily there are many great air purifying plants and various bulbs that do not need too much sunlight to grow and that can flourish indoors. There are also some fairly nifty planting systems that have been especially designed for smaller living spaces such as terrariums or hanging gardens that are fairly self sustaining.

Another quite marvellous invention is something that has yet to hit the shelves, as it is currently a pilot project is something called the NutriTower, a soil free innovative structure that uses the principles of hydroponics to sustain plants. The NutriTower is a vertical system that is simple, elegant and efficient. The patent-pending vertical lighting design and the gravity fed nutrient delivery system make this the most effective way of growing plants in your home year round.

Hydroponics is the term used when growing plants in water. It is generally much faster than soil based methods because it delivers nutrients in a form that is easier for a plant to absorb allowing it to spend all its energy on generating biomass. A key advantage to hydroponics is that it uses up to 95% less water than conventional methods.

We are not entirely sure how it works, but the design is beautiful and would make a great gardening alternative in any small home. As mentioned, this green wonder is still in the development phase, and is part of Kickstarter’s network of great projects that are trying to make it to mainstream markets.

To see more on this interesting gardening technique, please visit: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thenutritower/the-nutritower-indoor-gardening-made-easyy