Manti and her husband setting up a client’s garden. (Photograph: Ngcebo Mhlezana of Who Are We)

The new year is here and it is time to get the vegetable garden you have always dreamed of. Make this year a more successful gardening season with these simple, realistic goals.

Start small and grow what you like to eat

List the vegetables you plan to grow so you can research individual crops. Some vegetables do not like growing next to one another, others do not like too much water and others, such as tomatoes, do not like frost. Once you have your list, start small, especially if you are new to the practice.

Resist the temptation to dig up your entire yard and plant every crop there is to grow in your vegetable garden. You will only be setting yourself up for failure. Add one or two new plants at a time, rather than adding many plants you are not familiar with. Gardening is not rocket science, but it does take some learning. So, pace yourself – there is no substitute for experience.

You should ask yourself what you like to cook and eat. There is no reason to grow a lot of pumpkin if you do not like to eat it– trust me, it happens. Grow things that you and your family like.

Think solutions and be curious

Be solution-oriented and do not allow yourself to be overwhelmed by problems. Take a pen and paper and make a list of all the things that may make it difficult for you to achieve your garden goals this year. Next you should brainstorm creative solutions. If, for example, you do not have enough space, consider growing your garden in pots and containers. Perhaps you have no idea where to start, so get a mentor to guide you. This process is very empowering, and you will be surprised by the outcome.

Be curious! Listen to the birds and notice the insects in your garden. Learn their names and find out why they are there. Observe the sun and its patterns; after all, it is the most critical aspect in your garden. Pay attention to your plants. Do they look happy or are they stressed? What can you do to help them? Also make time daily to walk barefoot because this will not only help you connect with everything around you, but you will also learn a great deal about your vegetable garden.

Take care of the soil

The most significant part of your job as a gardener is to build good, healthy soil. People often overlook this important step in the rush to grow their own food, yet it can make a difference between a great garden and a so-so garden.

Do the work and learn a new skill

Sometimes we look for excuses: “I don’t have green fingers. I cannot grow anything, everything I touch dies!” I sometimes wonder if these are excuses to get ourselves as far away from gardening as possible. In other words, we like the look and feel of the garden, but we have no intention of working in our vegetable garden. Your beautiful garden will not grow by wishful thinking. Commit to getting out there and doing the work this season.

Set yourself a goal to improve your knowledge this year. Attend a course, read books and try DIY solutions. Learn how to harvest and save seeds, propagate new plants, make compost, or grow a crop you have never tried before.

Get your family involved

Some of my fondest childhood memories are set in my father’s garden. I remember watching my father grow food for us, all from seed. I remember discovering plant names. I must have been eight years old when I first learned about brightly coloured nasturtiums. This is how I learned to connect the dots between vegetables in the garden and food on our table. Today I love passing my passion and knowledge to my children.

Add that wow factor

Gone are the days where flowers are planted in the front yard and vegetable gardens are tucked away in the backyard with their long and uninteresting rows hidden from the neighbours. Add a wow factor to your vegetable garden by growing flowers. There are so many varieties from which to choose. In addition, planting flowers in your vegetable garden will help support pollination and improve its biodiversity. You can also plant flowers to attract butterflies, bees, birds, or repel pests.

Celebrate milestones

Finally, remember to stop and celebrate milestones, no matter how small. Celebrate when your seeds sprout, celebrate when you harvest your first fruit or make lunch with your own homegrown ingredients. What are you hoping to achieve in your garden this year?

Plant of the month

The plant of the month is rosemary. It is a resilient and easy-going shrub that requires occasional deep watering, some pruning if desired and very little else. Grow it in full sun in well-drained soil. Rosemary will not grow well in waterlogged soil, so allow the soil to dry between watering. This plant is a must-have in the vegetable garden, as it discourages slugs, snails and caterpillars.

vegetable garden
Rosemary is a resilient shrub with aromatic leaves that have many uses.

You can also grow rosemary in containers. Ensure that pots have adequate drainage holes. The aromatic leaves are a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which help to boost the immune system and improve blood circulation.

Add some leaves to your beef and lamb stews or potato roasts. You can also make a refreshing rosemary tea to help clear coughs and improve lung health by simply steeping a few sprigs in hot water. Add ginger, cardamom, cinnamon and honey for the sweet tooth.


  • Indigenous: No.
  • Evergreen: Yes.
  • Frost tolerant: Yes.
  • Great companion plant: Yes.
  • Drought resistant: Yes.
  • Edible: Yes – Manti Maifadi, Naledi Farm

Click here to read previous articles in the series.

For more information on Naledi Farms or for advice on growing vegetables at home, contact Manti on 082 800 2327 or email