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2017 Livingseeds Vegetable Exhibition.

Calling all veggie growers!!! If you have an awesome veggie garden, your produce is outstanding and everyone loves the food that comes out of your garden, it may be time to put your growing skills to the real test.

The big question is, how well does your produce rank against other veggie growers?

Everyone tells you that your tomatoes are the best, or that they have never eaten cucumbers as delicious as yours.

Everyone likes to think they grow the best produce, but the real question is… “is it really the best? Can your produce win a Vegetable Exhibition?”

This is your chance to find out how green your fingers really are. Come and exhibit your prize veggies at our Inaugural Vegetable Exhibition. This will give you a good idea of how well your garden’s produce ranks, and will also allow you to compare your best produce against the best produce of other growers in the region.

Come and show off your produce at the 2017 Livingseeds Vegetable Exhibition.
Come and show off your produce at the 2017 Livingseeds Vegetable Exhibition.

 

For a number of years now, it has been on my heart to host a real Vegetable Exhibition. The idea is to provide a platform for all veggie gardeners and farmers to bring their produce and show it off for others to see. At the same time they can rank their produce against other growers. Every veggie grower believes that their produce is the best, and this is the true test.

We have such great customers and they often send us pic’s of their produce and gardens. We are excited to have an opportunity to meet you guys in person, see and touch your produce and just have a great day chatting about veggies.

 

Show-Carrots

This is the inaugural Livingseeds Vegetable Exhibition, and looking at the responses so far, the competition is bound to be tough and exciting.

The whole idea is for you to have a great day, with some friendly competition and hopefully at the end of the day, you get to leave with bragging rights for the next year. Networking and chatting with other growers is also the best way to learn new and interesting techniques that can give you the edge for the following year. Who knows, you may even make some interesting new friends and meet some great gardening neighbours.

The Vegetable Exhibition is based on international show standards, and our intention is to develop this into a world class event over the next few years. As it’s our first year, we have relaxed a few of the conditions and requirements.

How to Enter.

This year it is very simple.

Let us know that you are keen to bring some produce, and then arrive within the specified time on the 9th of April to stage your veggies.

Please note that we have put together a show schedule and judging rules that need to be adhered to, so please make sure you download them and read them.

This year, there will be no charge to enter and exhibit, you will however have to pay the standard show entry of R40 per car.

The cool thing is that you can enter as many vegetable classes as you wish at no cost. So if you have a wildly productive garden, then bring your produce, and show it off.

There are categories for almost every vegetable that you can imagine, and even a few fun categories…. just for the fun of it.

The Exhibition will be held on Sunday the 9th of April at the Walkerville Agricultural Show.  The Show organizers have given us the use of the annex to allow us to put this exhibition on.

We will have ribbons, certificates and great prizes for the top winners in each class. As well and an overall Exhibition winner for the exhibitor that accumulates the highest score on the day.

We are looking forward to an exciting day filled with amazing vegetables and awesome grower’s tales! Come along, with or without an exhibit. We’d love to meet you and hear all your Veggie tales!

 

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Succession Planting: Do it correctly.

The two biggest assets that you as a home veggie gardener have in your Spring and Summer garden are Open Pollinated Heirloom vegetable seeds, and Succession planting.

There are many reason why we plant Heirloom seed in our gardens, one of the biggest benefits to the home gardener is that they do not all ripen at the same time.

Industrial hybrid seed needs 100% uniformity. They build machines to plant, maintain and harvest crops, if the crops are not 100% uniform, the machines don’t work properly and the harvest is delayed or messed up. Simply put, commercial farmers need to harvest the entire field on the same day. For that, the plants need to be uniform, and special seed is bred for just that reason.
With Heirloom seed, the trait of uneven ripening is perfect for home gardeners, as nobody wants a glut of any vegetable in the same week. As a home gardener, the last thing you want, is to be required to harvest everything at the same time and either have to give, or if ripens at the wrong time and you can’t process, throw most of your crop away. What you are looking for is staggered and uneven ripening. This will allow you to use and process your crops over an extended period.

You can plan and use the uneven ripening of heirloom seed to your advantage. It’s easy to spread that harvest of a number of weeks or months, and that’s just perfect! It still allows you some extra to be charitable with, and your planting just goes so much further.

Succession planting is the next weapon in the home gardeners arsenal. To be used effectively, you need to understand how it works. It’s no good just planting all your seeds every week or two weeks in order to have a staggered harvest. And unfortunately is how most people understand succession planting. The most common explanation by ‘experts’ is to just plant every X days or weeks. Personally I’m not a fan of this technique as people often miss a ‘pre-set’ day and then give up as they missed their critical day.

Proper succession planting is used with the understanding that certain crops and varieties have a bearing ‘sweet spot’, and it’s making good use of that sweet spot, and then having another variety waiting in the wings to replace it.

Certain crops lend themselves to succession planting and others not. Long season crops like onions and garlic, and perennial crops like asparagus and artichokes are just pointless being succession planted. Plant them once in a dedicated bed and harvest / process when ready.

tomato_seedlings
Tomato seedlings in one of our tunnels. These will produce next seasons seed.

So onto the meat of how to use succession planting.

Check your maturity dates on the varieties that you are looking to plant.

1) Different varieties if planted on the same day will have different maturity dates.

A good example is Tomatoes. (Note that these dates are from transplant.)

Most indeterminate tomatoes will start producing from around 85 – 90 days. And they can produce in well fed soil for 2-3 months. So in effect you only need to replant tomatoes every 2 months or so.

If you add a short season determinate tomato into your planting, you can get sun ripened salad tomatoes in 65 or 75 days, that’s almost a month off your first harvest date!

The nice part about this method is that even though you are harvesting tomatoes continuously, each variety tastes different and lends itself to different styles of cooking, ensuring that you don’t get tired of eating the same crop every week.

2) Look at what type crop you are planting.

Tender Delight Bush beans a real winner in the garden
Tender Delight Bush beans a real winner in the garden

 

Let’s use Bush Beans for this example. It will start bearing from around 55 days and will bear well, for a good 6-8 weeks (yes I know you can push it further).
So it makes sense to replant Bush Beans every 6 weeks to replace your production stock with young vigorous plants.

Adding Runner beans changes this dynamic, as they only start giving beans at 8 or 9 weeks, but will produce very well if picked over properly for a solid 3 months. So only plant a new runner bean crop every 8-10 weeks.

3) Cut once crops like heading lettuce can be put on a stricter schedule.

It’s pretty easy to work out how many your family will need on a weekly basis. And then plant to that schedule every 2-3 weeks. However, here again, using different lettuce varieties can extend your harvest. Loose leaf varieties are generally more heat adapted, and they can tolerate a bit of shade, which will slow down the bolting and extend the harvest.

Mixed lettuce look great in the garden and on your plate.
Mixed lettuce look great in the garden and on your plate.

 

When watching your garden progress over the season, if you see that something is not working. Lift it, don’t try and coax an unhappy plant, rather replace it with seedlings that you have waiting for garden space.

Having a constant seedling supply is important and you will be using crops out of your garden, as these are consumed, they will open up space for a new crop to go in. So either grow your own or order some in.

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Are GMO Potatoes sold in South Africa?

The simple answer is no. For a number of years (almost 12 in fact) the ARC has been trying to get the GMO potato SpuntaG2 approved for production and sale in South Africa. Fortunately, the application was declined twice, for a few good reasons. Concerns over health reasons, as the potato produces an insecticidal protein in its cells. In addition the potato is resistant to Tuber Moth and this is not considered a major pest in South Africa. And finally, no actual benefit could be shown to commercial or small scale farmers in South Africa, therefore the application was turned down.

Carisma_Seed_Potatoes

So, rest in comfort. None of the potatoes that you buy on the shelves in South Africa are Genetically Infected. All you need to worry about is choosing the correct potato for the dish you are preparing.

There is however a huge shortage of locally available seed potatoes in South Africa, a number of harvests have been denied disease-free certification. Unable to be planted for harvest, they are thus sold on the market as table potatoes. This is in addition to the severe drought that we experienced last season, potato prices are never going to be at the R25/per bag that we got so accustomed to buying them at. The new normal is R80 -R100 per pocket.

Do not fear, there is nothing wrong with the table potatoes, they are 100% edible, they just cannot be planed to create a crop. One of the main problems for home gardeners is that they will plant a sprouting store-bought potato. This is false economy and could dramatically affect the harvests of related crops. Most virus and diseases that affect potatoes will also affect Tomatoes, Peppers, Chillies and Brinjals. So the few ‘cheap’ sprouting potatoes has the potential to adversely affect other crops for years to come, as the disease remains in the soil.

One of the best ways to get the best potatoes is to plant your own certified seed potatoes. Livingseeds has a selection of certified seed potatoes that are ready for planting.

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Organic Cutworm control in the garden

Cutworms are the bane of a gardeners life, when planting out seedlings cutworms can make short work of all of your diligent growing out.

There are a number of different ways to protect your plants against cutworms and the most commonly recommended solution is to plant the seedling into a collar (or grow them in a collar) these collars can be cardboard tubes like toilet rolls or even PVC tubes.

This is a great idea, especially if you only have a few seedlings to plant out. However here on Livingseeds Farm we plant out thousands of seedlings and that adds up to a lot of toilet rolls.

I have heard and read about using soil calcium to combat cutworms, and that soils that have a proper calcium availability will have a lower or no cutworm incidence. I’m not sure if it’s soil pH or if it’s the actual calcium availability? However, looking at what we have experienced over the last two years I think its the physical calcium that makes the difference.

So, all very good and wonderful, how do we go about proving it. This is all anecdotal and it’s pretty hard to prove conclusively, however read along and see what we have found.

Typically here on Livingseeds Farm, we never had any specific cutworm program besides going into the tunnels early in the morning and manually catching the cutworms either in the act or just post act. Cutworms typically do their dirty work early in the morning and catching them is simple. As long as it’s done within an hour to two of the decapitation, they can be found by scratching around the severed seedling and collecting all the cutworms. They are typically found in a 2-6 cm zone around the seedling and about 1 or 2 cm deep. These were then fed with glee and much appreciation to our laying hens, who turned them into lovely eggs for us.

Tunnel with about 300 heirllom tomato plants. Sheaves of wheat are drying waiting to be threshed.
Tunnel with about 300 heirloom tomato plants. Sheaves of wheat are drying waiting to be threshed.

We would lose about 10-15% of our seedlings every year and basically accepted the fact that this was part of the deal when growing organically and not wanting to use pesticides.

I had been speaking to a few people about the Calcium – Cutworm theory, and 90% of the people shot the idea down as a waste of time. Always up for a challenge and proving people wrong I though we would give it a bash.

Knowing that all calcium is not created equal I decided to do a few simple tests. The kind that are easy and simple to replicate in the garden or in our case, in the fields.

Just a quick look at the different Calcium’s available to the gardener. (No need to go into cations anions and CEC (Cation Exchange Capacity) of soil and how things are locked up and released. Suffice to say it’s interesting and very important, but not right now.)

Dolomitic Calcium is the cheapest, has the lowest availability, and takes years and years ….. and years to become available. Has a high Magnesium ratio that when it’s release, unfortunately also locks up other elements and tends to harden up your soil.

Calcitic Lime also known as Landbou Kalk, comes in various “kinds or sources and grades” and is the most commonly available. This is what is mostly sold as gardening lime. Nothing wrong with it and it works. (Again depending on the source / quality)

Bone Meal a superb source of highly available calcium and is held beautifully in the soil, it’s readily absorbed and is a much preferred source of calcium.

Gypsum. The most highly available source of calcium, also has a good ration of sulphur. If you are low in calcium this is a great way to fix a shortage very quickly as the plants can use it almost immediately. The Sulpher (anion) is locked onto the calcium (cation) making it freely available for absorption.

OK, onto our cutworm story. Last year we started our trials in two of our tunnels and found the following. (Both tunnels were planted to tomatoes)

All of the other tunnels were treated as normal and we harvested cutworms every morning for our hens.

In one tunnel we added in Calcitic Lime (Landbou Kalk) at around 150-200 gr per running meter and planted into the soil. Our cutworm activity was not noticeably reduced, and we had to control by hand.

In the second tunnel we used the Talborne Organics Vita Bone Phos at a similar rate. There was less cutworm activity, but we still had losses in the tunnel. There was a clear drop in cutworm activity and I felt it was well worth pursuing the reasoning that calcium reduces cutworm activity.

I decided that this year I would do a bit more to test this theory out. We ran the following calcium regimen in all of our tunnels and any open beds where we transplanted seedlings.

First the Vita Bone Phos was added to the soil (at approximately 150- 200 gr per running meter) and lightly worked into the top 5 cm of soil. The seedlings were planted directly into the soil along a drip line and then a tablespoon of the BonePhos around the seedling.

5 week old tomato seedling with NGP Soil Build around the base.
5 week old tomato seedling with BonePhos around the base.

The tunnel where we had the Vita Bone Phos in last year had no seedling losses at all. We have to date lost only 6 seedlings this year, we have planted out thousands, both in tunnels and in open ground.

So do I believe that calcium stops cutworms, oh yes 100%. It just needs to be the right calcium.

Our seedling loss as a percentage this year (based on calcium treated soil) is less than 0.25% !! Going from a 10% loss every year to .25% is a huge drop.

The only place that we did not do the calcium treatment was on the Corn and Bean plantings. It’s noteworthy to see that we lost 15-20 % of our bean and corn plantings. What we also did not do, was the cutworm follow-up every morning in the bean and corn fields, so the damage was higher as we were not concentrating our efforts there. We were more concerned at what was happening (or not happening) with the calcium treated seedlings. Patting ourselves on the back and revelling in getting a grip on the cutworms by using the soil against them. By the time we woke up, the damage was already noticeable in the untreated areas.

Talborne organic Vita Veg and Vita Bone Phos
Talborne organic Vita Veg and Vita Bone Phos

 

My recipe now for cutworms, not just scratch them out manually. Add in 150 – 200 gr of Vita Bone Phos per running meter, and sprinkle just one tablespoon of BonePhos around each seedling. It’s simple, 100% organic, improves your soil quality and most importantly, IT WORKS!

 

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2013 Standard Bank / Livingseeds Giant Pumpkin Competition @ The R59 Shed.

Saturday the 6th of April saw the culmination of a whole season’s worth of work for many of our competitors in the Standard Bank / Livingseeds Giant Pumpkin Competition at the R59 Shed.

 

Wow, what a day it was, the excitement started building from early in the morning when the first competitors started dropping their entries off.

John McChlery MD of Green's Greens,the brainchild of the competition, being interviewed on 90.6 VCR
John McChlery MD of Green's Greens,the brainchild of the competition, being interviewed on 90.6 VCR

First let me go back a few months and give you some background on this competition. John McChlery is the MD of Green’s Greens, a major supplier of farm fresh veggies to all of the supermarket groups. John was the brain behind this competition. He likes to deny it and push others to the forefront, however this competition would never have gotten off the ground without his dedication and effort.

This competition was made possible by the generous support of Standard Bank who put up the main prize money, and arranged for numerous activities and goodies for the kids on the day, as well as all of the eye-catching banners that lined the R59 Highway, and created an air of festivity within the R59 Shed. Without Standard Bank we would never have had such a successful competition. Everyone at The R59 Shed, Green’s Greens, Livingseeds, and Talborne Organics are honored to have Standard Bank as our headline sponsor.

So back to the day under discussion.

The first few entrants, lined up.
The first few entrants, lined up.

Saturday dawned bright with the blue Standard Bank banners very effectively painting our section of the R 59 blue. Everyone that drove past us knew that Standard Bank had something big going on here.
The day started off a bit slowly and by 10:00 we only had about 8 or 9 pumpkins lined up outside at the weigh-in station. This did lead to a bit of concern amongst the organizers. Thankfully we were soon inundated with people dropping their prize-winning hopefuls off, and we had at least two stages where we had a few cars lined up with giant pumpkins ready to be offloaded.

 

Dawie and Ashish from Scale Tronics ready for the day.
Dawie and Ashish from Scale Tronics ready for the day

The Weigh-In Station was managed by the very capable guys from Scale Tronic Services who had a selection of scales there to handle everything up to a 600Kg behemoth, unfortunately that scale was never tested to its full capacity. We are however hoping that in the next year or so we will be doing a bit of limit testing on a few of Scale Tronics’ wares. It was really comforting to note that these guys had SABS approved certificates for their scales available for anyone that queried the veracity of their instrumentation. And naturally one or two people did query the reliability of the two scales used to weigh the pumpkins. Dawie Nortje and Ashish Mahase of Scale Tronic Services oversaw the critical element of weighing all the entries, and did an exceptional job of doing it quickly, accurately and correctly.

Talborne Organics has been a very supportive sponsor from the first day. In September 2012 they supplied organic seed starter packs for all the competitors, and I know that many of the competitors used their products to either feed or protect their precious giants. Talborne Organics also supplied prizes for every prize category in the competition.

At 12:00 we started the official weigh-in process and all entries were carried onto the main platform for weighing. All entries were weighed on the same platform scale to ensure that no discrepancies or challenges were possible. A total of 49 pumpkins were entered into the competition.

This being our inaugural competition, every single entrant was a first time Giant Pumpkin Grower, we are very proud of the effort made by each and every entrant. To all of the entrants, Thank you guys!!! It is your effort over the last few months that made this day a success.
To this end we had a number of smaller prizes that were awarded in various categories to ensure that people were recognized for their efforts.

In total 48 Giant Pumpkins were entered.
In total 49 Giant Pumpkins were entered.

Here are a few interesting facts of the day.

1) The type of Pumpkin was the Atlantic Giant Pumpkin
2) A total of 49 Pumpkins were entered
3) 2142.30 was the total combined weight of all of the pumpkins entered.
4) The average weight was 43.72
5) Over 20 pumpkins were donated to various schools, charities and churches in the area to help feed the underprivileged.

The top 3 Giant Pumpkins were
1) 111.80Kgs Entered by Shirley Olivier.
2) 95.60Kgs  Entered By Dirk Rabie
3) 87.80Kgs entered by Team Vera

The winning Pumpkins from left to right. 1st Shirley Olivier, 2nd Dirk Rabie and 3rd Team Vera
The winning Pumpkins from left to right. 1st Shirley Olivier, 2nd Dirk Rabie and 3rd Team Vera

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Junior competition
1)    68.80Kgs entered by Letsema Home School
2)    66.80Kgs  entered by Janna Pienaar
3)    61.40Kgs entered by Megan McChlery
It  can be seen that the competition was tight and there was very little spread between 1st and 3rd places in both categories.

Smallest Giant Pumpkin went to Letsema Home School with a “little giant” of just 9.2 Kgs.
We sent Gardening Celebrity Jane Griffiths along with Claire Slabber from Talborne Organics to select 2 other pumpkins for us. We asked that they choose pumpkins to fulfill the roles of Prettiest and Ugliest pumpkins for our competition.
So, as ladies are want to do, they came back with three pumpkins and demanded that we add a third category for the Most Unique pumpkin.

These are the three pumpkins that were chosen.

Ugliest Giant Pumpkin: Entered by Peter Payne (53.2 Kgs)
Prettiest Giant Pumpkin: Entered by Letsema Home School (68.8 Kgs)
Most Unique Giant Pumpkin: Entered by Letsema Home School (54.2 Kgs)

Jane Griffiths and the girls from Letsema Home School and their cool prize from Jane Griffiths
Jane Griffiths and the girls from Letsema Home School and their cool prize from Jane Griffiths

We also had a very well support “Guess The Weight” pumpkin. My son Daniel managed the table and solicited ‘guestimates’ from passersby. They had to pay R10.00 for the privilege of potentially winning a R500.00 prize sponsored again by a very generous Standard Bank.
The pumpkin was weighed immediately after a witnessed calibration test, and weighed in at exactly 71.8 Kgs  The closest ‘guestimate’ was 72.00 Kgs and the winner of that prize was a very happy Jane Griffiths. A total of R800.00 was raised for the Sukasambe Children’s Home on that competition alone.

A very happy Jane Griffiths and "THE" guestimate pumpkin.
A very happy Jane Griffiths and "THE" guestimate pumpkin.

As the organizers we would sincerely like to thank every competitor that entered, we know of a number of very worthy entries that split and were ineligible or broke open and thus would have been disqualified.
To the entries that were able to bring a pumpkin in on the day. THANK YOU! Every one of you are very much appreciated, it was you that contributed to the fun and excitement of the day. We trust that we will see you again next year for round two.
I have spoken to a number of the entrants and they are already making plans for the next competition, we have some people already building huge compost heaps now, to ensure that they have enough food to feed their own Giants. Everyone that I spoke to recons that they know how to improve their sizes, and will definitely be fielding a bigger pumpkin next year.
Finally, it must be remembered that this is a community competition. All of the proceeds from the competition are donated to two of our local charities the first being the Sukasambe Children’s Home that assists mentally and Physically disabled children that have been abandoned. The Second Charity is Dolly’s Old Age home in Penvale. Without your support, it would not have been possible to donate over R9000.00 to charity.

Thank you guys!!

If you would like to sign-up for the 2014 Standard Bank / Livingseeds Giant Pumpkin Competition @ the R59 Shed please click here. Note that registration is from September 2013.

Note: The three winning pumpkins will be on display at the R59 Shed until the end of April. Please Pop-in and come see what our winners grew.