This is a topic that we have debated in our home and office, the last thing we want is for you to think we are using scare tactics. Please understand that we really want the best for you and your family. The more people that can feed themselves, the less burden there will be on society.

There are a number of reports about pending food shortages, and the effect that this drought will have on our national food supply. I’m going to include a few links to credible reports below for you to read.

However that said, note the following as you walk into veggie shops and produce section in the stores.

1) The fruit and vegetable selection is nowhere near as large as it used to be.
2) The ‘quality’ seems to be lacking and very often what we would consider sub-standard produce is on the shelves.
3) That ‘sub-standard’ produce is being sold at premium prices.
4) Record high prices for things like potatoes and avo’s
5) The general price of fresh produce has dramatically increased.

This is not going to get better.

We have seen first hand how our neighbors have had to cut herds because there is no summer grazing, they have also not been unable to harvest grass for winter  feed for these same animals. This does not bode well for feeding livestock over the winter months. General market related vegetable production has also gone down drastically.

This is country wide, and I personally have seen crops that have been decimated by the intense heat and lack of rain.
Guys food is going to become more expensive, and not just by a few Rands, it’s going to become really expensive.
You are going to need to take responsibility for as much of your food production as you can.

This planning has to happen now!

A minimum of 50% drop in Maize production this year. It’s estimated that 47% of available crop land was planted, with the drought we are looking at very poor yields.

The Drought in pictures. This is real guys! This really is heart breaking.

Veg Prices up 30%  “The buyers of fresh produce are acutely aware of the looming crisis, and the very high purchase prices that await them.” Note that this is and article about the market floor, and not what is happening at your local veggie store.

GrainSA are even briefing Parliament about Food Riots. We have 12 staff members (working in agriculture) and of the 12 only 1 knew anything about food shortages and 2 about the drought. The message is not being carried!

This is our current reality, and we need to focus on feeding our loved ones.

Winter Garden Planning

So on that note. Lets look at how we can stack the deck in our favour.

We have been banging the winter veggie garden drum for the past few weeks, and it’s for good reason. Many gardeners concentrate on the summer garden, but forget to make adequate preparation for the winter garden. And I personally don’t think we have much of a choice this season.

Speaking to our customers, many people just chuck a few things in and hope for the best, however they don’t actively plan for a great veggie garden. And this is where there go wrong.

More planning needs to go into a winter garden than a summer garden, as the requirements on the soil and plants are more taxing.

A few things to note: Winter is typically our dry season (except for you guys in the Cape) soil life tends to slow down, nutrients also aren’t as easily available for the plants to take up, and it can get pretty cold in certain regions.

As in summer, winter mulching is critical. Mulching increases the soil temperature in winter, making your plants more comfortable and at the same time, allowing for certain micro-organisms to remain active, mulching traps and stores water.

If there is one piece of gardening advice that I repeat… it’s MULCH!

So onto your garden.

The first thing you need to look at, is which plants and crops are not looking happy. If you have diseased or tired plants, take them out, turn them into compost or mulch. Diseased plants should be burnt.
Now is the time to make space for your winter crops.
If you have a crop that is limping along, rather whip it out and make space for a real crop. It’s pointless nursing something that is just not going to make it.

If you plan early (like now!) and plant seedlings out early enough, you can do a very successful follow-up / succession crop every 3-6 weeks. This will ensure that you enter winter and those long cold lean months with more than adequate produce in your garden.

The main trick to a great winter veggie garden is early planting, and prompt follow-ups of succession plantings.

It’s February and we are already running out of month, if you are going to do something, please do it now! Winter will be here before you know it and then it’s a spot late.

Our March and April Veggie guides are a great starting point if you are stuck and do not know what to plant. For a quick win, look at planting a few trays of various winter crops, so that you get a proper jump on the season.

Here is a quick list of what you should be looking at planting now.

Cabbages ,Broad BeansKale, broccoli, peas, carrots, beetroot, winter leaf crops, lettuce, onions, radish, spinach, turnips and swiss chards.

We also have a stunning collection of Asian veggies, most of which enjoy cooler growing climates.

Root crops are great to put in as they will make great growth by winter and will ‘hold’ in the soil over winter, allowing you to pick fresh veggies all the way through winter.

Long season crops (Garlic and Onions) require bed-space for over 9 months. Plant them knowing that you will only have that bed space available again in November or December.

Feeding your plants

Proper fertilization is one of the biggest things you need to do now. Your summer crops will have used up the fertilizers and compost that you added earlier.

Feeding now is critical to your success over the cold winter months, so before you plant out your winter crops, feed your soil.
A healthy dose of Talborne Organics Vita Green for your leaf crops will work wonders, the  Vita Grow will go a long way to feeding your root plants over winter.

If you still have summer crops that are lagging a bit, a quick side dressing ofVita Fruit and Flower is a really great booster for fruiting veggies that need that extra helping hand to make the most out of the last few months. I’m thinking specifically of tomatoes, Brinjals and Peppers/Chillies, as these plants can lag a bit once the first flush or two have been produced. To keep them at peak performance they will really benefit from a side dressing of Vita Fruit and Flower, and it will ensure that you get the most out of your autumn harvest.

Once you have added in your Talborne product of choice, then give a generous topping of thick, mature compost onto the soil surface to act as a mulch and to create a food rich environment for the beneficial goggas in your soil.

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