Gardeners World – A Patch in the Garden of Ghana

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Gardeners World – Ghana

“Come to my garden!” my companion was insistent. We were squatting in the dust together outside her makeshift bedroom, eating fatty cow’s hoof, tomato broth and pounded plantain and cassava from the same bowl with our right hands.

I was curious. As the weeks had passed by I had received many pressing invitations from the villagers to visit their tiny ‘farms’, or vegetable gardens and crops. Daily life in the verdant, landlocked region of Brong Ahafo in Ghana is dependent on each family’s patch of land for the daily meal. ‘Farm’ referred to planting, not animals, and the comedic goats and short-haired sheep roamed free through the mud hut and rough hewn wood buildings of the villages.

On their garden farms, families grew cassava vines with their delicate yellow blooms, yams with their decorative five-finger leaves and kokoyam (Pacific Island’s taro) from the lily family. Such tuber cultivation was man’s work; women turned their tireless hands to production of the small, yellow egg-shaped aubergines, tomatoes and red and green pepe (chillis), found in every Ghanaian dish without exception.

On this Saturday morning, I accepted Madam Felicia’s invitation, and we meandered past the school building shelters along the red earth road to the farm. Madame Feli had been given the patch of land by a local benefactor for the students to cultivate.

Ghana garden walk

On the way, Madame Feli recruited a local young woman student from our school named Mercy with a terse command, as I suspect Mercy was the only one of us who fully understood the workings of the garden – over a city girl sent by the government to teach in a need communities for a pittance and a blue-eyed wanderer, off to see the world.
We turned abruptly onto an overgrown track I had not noticed before. Side-stepping writhing piles of brilliant orange caterpillars, and with a niggling awareness of vipers, we threaded our way single thread though lush greenery, grass at shoulder-height, tall cassava saplings seemingly wild in the weeds.

I was yet to understand that no plant was unclaimed, no resource wasted. To the ignorant eye it appeared that we were in an expanse of grassland and wilderness; in fact we were passing through many families’ subsistence crops, with the absence of fences or marked boundaries that I was growing accustomed to in middle and lower-class African life.

I stopped to examine the palm oil palms, a handsome species, with thin, dark muted-green spikes protecting striking black and orange palm nuts in great clusters. Ghanaian women bash this fibrous, unwieldy fruit in hollowed wooden stumps to produce vivid red palm oil and palm nut soup.

There were scattered bushes of small, bitter berries, added to fish broth to ‘give you more blood.’ Ghanaian women and TV health programmes often talk of edible green plants giving one more blood; the dark green, irritant kokoyam leaves, thick Ghanaian spinach and these green berries.

To my western eye, the colour suggested richness in iron, so I was intrigued by the popular local conviction – the end result of enhancing the blood through consumption of dark green veg ultimately the same, even if the medicinal reasoning was different.

Arriving at the destination I valiantly took to weeding, to the endless amusement of my companions, who felt a slight white woman was not equal to such a task. Weeding refers to chopping down the rampant grass and other unwanted foliage with a ‘cutlass’, a straight African scythe.

The chore is used in schools as a punishment and an alternative to lawn mowers. The students don’t mind; they have weeded their family farms since they were old enough to wield the blade.

Digging for Yams in Ghana GardenMercy and I pushed our way into the scratchy interior of the yam vines, in pursuit of a tuber. It was late July and a little to early in the season to harvest. I yelped in pain as an unseen critter sank something sharp into my mud-covered toe. After that I was swiftly relieved of my duty of hacking the yam from the cloying earth; to my regret, as I had been very proud of my efforts.

Making our way back after our cursory garden visit, Mercy elegantly balancing the yam and cutlass on her head, I reflected that over the weeks and months I had come to recognize that almost all of the foliage around me was edible or medicinal.

Ghanaian’s know the names and varieties of the useful plants around them but when questioned on the names of beautiful blooming plants, they said vaguely, “they’re called flowers”. Even the precious frangipani were shrugged away, whilst I stood enthralled beneath the tree, nearly beside myself to be living in a land, where such a treasure – not to mention mangoes –fell unwanted and rotted in the ground.

Maize and papaya grow on every verge in both city and village alike. Sugar cane and plantain abound alongside every road. Ghana is a garden; each woman reliant on her plot for the food in her bowl.

Gardening tips

Domestic food production in any way, shape or form.

The World of Organic Gardening

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The World of Organic Gardening – A Singapore Gardeners viewpoint

Organic gardening isn’t without its controversies. On one hand, some claim that edible produce grown using organic methods are sweeter, healthier and much better for the land the crops are grown on. On the other hand, others say that whether it’s organic or not doesn’t make a difference to the taste of the crops grown or to the soil the plants grow on.

InsecticideI’ve always preferred the idea of using the organic method over chemical, probably because I subscribe to the belief that plants absorb whatever chemicals are used on them, and if those plants happen to be grown as a food source, I don’t want to indirectly consume those chemicals anyway.

Furthermore, organic fertilizer can be easily made by anyone at home. You can easily create a compost bin by using an unused bucket with holes drilled in it, and composting green waste from your kitchen such as vegetable peels and newspaper shreds.

Vermicomposting is another method that is beginning to be used more and more by organic gardeners. Vermicomposting info.Vermicast
Vermicast Green Tea is also produced using worms in the process.

The same kitchen waste can also be recycled and used in the creation of garbage enzyme, (Garbage Enzyme info) which works wonders as an organic pest control. All these can be made in the comfort of your home with minimum spend.


Yet another advantage of organic pest control is the fact that the balance of nature is maintained in your garden. Natural predators will be attracted to your plants if there is a supply of pests and your plants will be kept healthy without the need for chemical warfare in the garden. For me, organic pest control is essential. Biological pest control info.

However, organic gardening is not without its detriments. Organic soil usually contains nutrients which are released much more slowly over time and because there is no artificial boost to the soil’s nutrients, the yield for crops are usually smaller and less robust than those grown using the conventional fertilizing methods. Also, without chemical intervention, some of the organic food grown is usually also eaten by garden visitors who share the same palate as you do. But there are ways to boost natural ground nutrients – Green Manuring is a good example. Green Manure info.

Since you cannot use any of the quick and easy fixes throughout the gardening process, organic gardening is considered to be more labor and time intensive than the conventional method. Compost takes time to break down enough to be usable, crop rotation may be needed if you are growing on a plot of land and not in containers, and manual removal of diseased plants is needed. All of these add to the time and effort spent.

It is not hard to make the change to organic gardening, though. You don’t have to make a complete and radical change. One gardening tip is to adapt organic gardening in accordance to what is best for your household. The easiest way to make the change is simply to purchase organic seeds and organic soil and start your plants from those basic needs. Then, overtime make other organic complementary changes.

Another organic garden idea is to rent an allotment or other garden plot that is suitable and do larger-scale growing. But don’t rush into planting headfirst. Take it in stages, by first clearing any tall plants and weeds. Mulch such as straw, compost or even newspapers can be used to cover the allotment to prevent weeds from growing further as the soil is conditioned. Conditioning of the soil can be done by using mulch made from natural products such as grass clippings, or even burying green waste from the kitchen into the soil and letting it compost over a few months or just manuring in the conventional way with the various forms of farmyard manure. It may take a few months or as long as a few years to truly stabilize the conditioned soil into a fully organic patch.

When all is said and done, organic gardening, although needing slightly more effort, is much more satisfying and rewarding, since it creates a sustainable renewable cycle which helps to preserve the fragile state of our earth by not destroying it further.

Pesticide info
Insecticide info

The World of Organic Gardening – Tweet This

The Chinese Garden

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Gardeners World – China

History of the Chinese Garden

The Chinese Garden

Chinese Gardens were built for royalty and the higher ‘scholar’ classes of China to escape from daily life and contemplate nature as well as providing a spiritual shelter. The gardens were man-made and often featured ponds, pavilions and rockeries. They were designed to show the best parts of nature in an artistic manner. The gardens were designed to provide a sensory experience. For example: through the sound of water and chimes, through the aroma of flowers and through the texture of the pathways under foot.

Studying the Chinese Garden and its presence throughout the many regions of China allow people to gain insight into the culture and history of the country. Records of Chinese Garden History goes back as far as the Shang Dynasty and the designs of this type of garden has evolved through the millennia.

The classical Chinese Garden is considered a work of art and has influenced landscape design and gardening across the world. It is also said that these oriental style gardens have had some influence on Buddhism as well as countries other than China, particularly throughout Asia.

There are certain elements that are considered essential to the design of the classical garden.

Architecture is important within the design of the garden and is usually in the form of a pavilion from which the rest of the garden is best viewed.

Rocks are used for structure and aesthetic purpose.

Water is used often in the form of ponds, streams and fountains and goldfish, carp and ducks were usually installed within the water features.

Plants were used within the gardens in symbolic ways such as:

  • Bamboo was used often as it is symbolic of a strong and resilient nature
  • Lotus symbolises purity
  • Pine trees are a symbol of wisdom
  • Peonies are a sign of power and wealth

Plants were also chosen for the affect they have on the senses.

Banana trees were planted due to the noise they made in the wind.
Plants and trees that bloom in colder months (such as chrysanthemums and plum trees) were considered strong and were favoured as they were a symbol of overcoming adversity.

Gardens in Northern China were built mostly for royalty and some of those that were created between 1368 – 1644 (the Ming Dynasty) and 1616 – 1911 (the Qing Dynasty) still exist today.
These gardens were costly, required lots of labour to complete and were lavishly decorated. They were designed to show off the wealth of the royals.

In Southern China the gardens were built for scholars and merchants and tended to be in cities or towns. People came to be close to nature and so these gardens focused more on natural beauty for the enjoyment of officials and other well-educated people.

Suzhou in the Jiangsu Province is known for its classical gardens and became a centre for supplies of the garden industry and for designers (particularly during the Ming and Qing dynasties). Its proximity to the Grand Canal meant it was easily reached and it became popular with the merchants and scholars who enjoyed the Chinese Garden.

There are many gardens in this region that are currently listed as sites of important national cultural heritage.

Benefits of Having Your Own Vegetable Garden

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Are you looking for Garden Ideas ?

For every person, keeping a healthy body should be of great importance.

If you agree then taking up vegetable gardening might provide an enjoyable and healthy solution.

Look no further – Consider this –  A Vegetable Garden

One way to stay fit and healthy is by having proper nutrition such as by eating more vegetables. The best way to get the freshest vegetables is growing them in your own garden yard. Aside from this benefit, you also get the chance to enjoy an outdoor activity while caring for your garden.
According to some health experts, the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables is at least five servings. Abiding by this standard would be easier if you have your own vegetable garden at home.

vegetable garden

Vegetable Garden by Larry Bacon unitedmmc

Growing and eating your own vegetables will help you increase your vitamin and mineral intake since vegetables are good sources of nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, iron and potassium. In addition, they also contain flavonoids which are antioxidants that help fight diseases and help boost our immune system.

You should also consider eating a lot of vegetables is you want to lose weight. Since vegetables naturally contain low calories, they are good substitutes for other food groups that are higher in calories and fat.

Another advantage of planting your own vegetables is that you can decide which chemicals, such as pesticides and herbicides, you use in your garden. You can even decide to totally do away with artificial substances and grow your garden naturally as in organic growing. This way, you significantly reduce your exposure to these harmful substances.

Aside from all these healthy nutrition benefits, caring for your vegetable garden regularly can also be your source of a regular healthy exercise. You can target the major muscle groups of your body by combining lifting, bending and stretching movements which are inherent to most gardening activities. However, don’t overdo it. Switch from strenuous activities such as digging and raking to less tiring planting or weeding actions. Remember also to maintain balance by switching your left and right sides.

Moreover, you are able to breathe in fresh air while vegetable gardening or any other kind of gardening for that matter. You also get the benefit of enhanced Vitamin D production which is hastened by exposure to sunlight. Your body’s calcium absorption is helped by the presence of Vitamin D. Calcium is vital to building and sustaining strong bones and teeth and also to preventing osteoporosis.

What is a Locavore?

locavore is a person interested in eating food that is locally produced…More here

For a number of individuals, working on the vegetable garden also helps improve their mood. On top of being a physical workout, gardening can be considered as a satisfying and soothing activity which helps relieve stress.

In a nutshell, growing your own vegetables provides you with a lot of remarkable rewards. You get to have a good source of nutritious food which helps you have a healthful diet and also help you lose weight and fight diseases. What’s more, you also have a new way of engaging in a physical activity and promoting a healthier viewpoint on life.

My Container Gardening Tips

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Gardeners World – Singapore

 Here are my Container Garden Ideas

container plants on the balconyMany of us live in flats or in places with little outside space for enjoyment. For a gardener like me who lives in a flat with only three square meters worth of space on the balcony, it is quite a challenge to innovate and come up with ideas to maximize the use of space so that I can grow as many plants as I like.

One of the ways I overcome that challenge is to engage in container gardening including window boxes, where I grow individual plants in fixed and enclosed spaces so as to limit the sizes and spreads they can reach. This way, I am able to grow a variety of plants without worrying too much about space.

Container gardening can be done for any type of plant which does not mind its roots being bound at a certain size. You may be able to grow flowers or even vegetables in pots or window boxes hung conveniently at window sills to receive the most amount of sunlight possible. If you group the plants properly, you can even create a small container flower garden or involve yourself in container vegetable gardening which are both easy to take care of.

Container Gardening PlantsWhat is great about container gardening is its versatility and easy-maintenance. Your plants will be much easier to take care of if they are attacked by pests or diseases, since you won’t have to cover a very large area in your counter-attack. Fertilizing is fuss-free, as you can simply place a few slow-release fertilizer pellets at the peripherals of the pots at a frequency of once every few months. If you’ve over-watered your plant, no problem! Simply pull the plant out of its pot (but gently, please!) and use newspapers to soak up the excess water. You don’t have to worry about plant or crop rotation to fix minerals in the soil, since the soil in each pot can be easily amended, and you will be able to easily move the plants that do not like the positions they are in. You’ll be able to hang your pots or baskets up anywhere you like so that they decorate your house nicely!

Container plantsHowever, container gardening does come with its limitations. You won’t be able to grow many fruiting plants to a state mature enough for fruits to be harvested on a consistent basis. If you’re enamored by the large commercial farms and feel like growing edible plants to be self-sustaining, this may be hard to do so. You will need to water your plants more frequently, as the smaller amount of soil doesn’t retain water well as compared with growing plants in the ground. But, if one uses pots or troughs without adequate drainage holes, that can lead to water stagnation and eventually to root rot in the plants.

Watering, it is a fine balance with your container flower garden, window boxes etc.

I’ve learned that a great garden idea is to create your own soil mix if possible.
A good gauge will be to use 40% potting mix and 60% sand or gravel so that you will be able to control your watering better, without causing too much water retention in the pots. After all, it is much better to water your plants more frequently and have good aeration, than to have your soil hold too much water and go through the hassle of having to soak the excess water up.
Another gardening tip is to fertilize your plant regularly according to the instructions on the fertilizer package. Your container plants won’t have access to a regular source of nutrients, so going too long without feeding them will result in weak plants which won’t be able to withstand pests or diseases easily. My philosophy is that as long as your plants are healthy, the presence of some pests and diseases will not affect the plants in any bad way.

Lastly, remember to give your plants light pruning regularly to keep them compact and tidy so that your growing areas remain neat and airy to prevent fungal attacks.

And don’t forget the Water Garden!water garden

In conclusion, if you live in an area where growing large plants in the ground isn’t possible, don’t despair. Simply select smaller plants which are able to grow in containers, and you will be able to create a container garden which will please you as much as growing larger plants do.