There has never been a better time to start a kitchen garden, plant an edible hedge along the boundary of your property, dot a few fruit trees around your garden, pot up some containers for your patio with dwarf fruit specimens or herbs and if you’ve only got a balcony, to start your very own edible vertical garden.
It’s important that you check with your local accredited garden centre what is best for your area.
A kitchen garden would not be complete without rocket, basil and parsley, so why not start with them? These cover the basic herbs you need for cooking, salads, sauces and sandwiches while providing a variety of garnish options for the more aspirational chef.
A countrywide winner as an edible hedge that’s available in January is the Natal Plum (Carissa macrocarpa), more often called Noem-Noem. This hardy shrub has edible berries that birds love and will even still be there the morning after the storm in the windiest parts of South Africa.
If you’re based in the Eastern Cape Eureka lemon is a great dwarf tree for your patio or balcony. Just remember, because of the high humidity levels to take extra care when it comes to citrus varieties with regards to pests.
Some fruit trees available in January for the Eastern Cape garden: pears; peaches; mangoes; blueberries and olives.
Some hot and spicy January veggie seedlings available to kick start your kitchen garden: onions; spring onions; green peppers; chillies and leeks.
Of all the provinces, Free State is probably the most extreme, having very cold winters and incredibly hot summers. January is one of those times when the heat is intense and the water table is low. Any plants that have an aggressive root system will do exceptionally well relative to any others, because they will reach and find water. Oom Sarel, the Yellow Peach, is one of those fruit trees every Free State garden should have because it is hardier than the other peaches.
The Fruit Salad Tree is more often grown as a shrub but is also hardy and at a height of 1-7m, can be grown into a small tree.
Edible hedges available in January in the Free State: blackberries; blueberries and Fruit Salad Tree (Feijoa Sellowiana).
Fruit and vegetable seedlings to start your Free State edible garden: lettuce; spinach and strawberries in containers.
In January, the word “parched” comes to mind. It is a very hot and dry time so watering is essential for anything new that you plant, especially vegetable and herb seedlings. Using mulch on your garden beds is a wonderful way to conserve water so pick some up while you’re picking out your produce.
Some fruit trees for the bigger Gauteng garden: peaches; plums; pears; pomegranates and Avocado Fuerte.
Some veggies to start your kitchen garden: tomatoes; spinach; green peppers; chillies and lettuce.
Heat and humidity are a way of life in KwaZulu-Natal, so if you’re planting veggies and herbs remember that watering is very important and make sure their soil does not dry out. Watering is a balancing act at times, so water at about 3pm when it’s slightly cooler.
Insects also love the heat this time of year, so keep an eye out! Planting sweet basil is a natural way to keep them at bay and it makes a wonderful edible hedge. Rosemary can also be grown as an edible hedge and will delight many of the human senses.
Some fruit trees for the bigger KZN garden: oranges; litchis; bananas; naartjies and mangos.
Some veggies to start your kitchen garden: green peppers; chillies; spinach; carrots and tomatoes.
January in the Western Cape, much like the rest of the country, will see some of the hottest days all year come and go, so watering is very important – but equally important is conserving water.
The general idea in January would be to water less, but more frequently. So take a short stroll in the garden twice a day instead of a long walk once a day while you water.
Fruity treats for the Western Cape Garden: avocado; pomegranates and peaches.
Vegetable seedlings to kick start your edible garden: carrots; cabbage; lettuce; chillies and spring onions.