Life’s a ‘bargain’ when you grow a garden

Soil for Life facilitator Sandi Lewis shows off a vertical garden. Ms Lewis held a mini-competition among the home gardeners who has been trained by the NGO. Picture: Fouzia van der Fort

Mitchell’s Plain residents could go from unemployed to having an organic garden producing goods for restaurants within months.

Three months after Debbie Gabriels, 58, from Portland, paid R15 to join a Soil for Life home food garden course, she has fed about 30 people in her community with her produce.

Soil for Life is a non-profit organisation (NPO) based in Constantia, which helps and teaches people to grow healthy, organic food using simple, low-cost, environmentally-friendly methods.

During this time Ms Gabriels has transformed her yard, cultivated seeds, transplanted seedlings, incubated, nurtured, medicated and harvested vegetables.

She signed up on March 6 and aims to supply a restaurant with what she grows in her garden. She was one of 15 Soil for Life applicants who completed a 12-week programme, which included step-by-step tuition, home visits and resources to grow their own food, rather than buying it.

“I wanted to grow my own vegetables. I wanted to be sustainable and not have to buy,” she said.

Ms Gabriels, who lives with her two daughters, one of whom is unemployed, said she wanted to be self-sufficient: “I have had spring onions, beetroot, turnips, radishes, celery, parsley and beans from my garden.”

She has been able to cook food for her family and share produce with her neighbours, who could provide for their families.

Soil for Life trainer Sandi Lewis told the Plainsman that she had hosted a mini-competition, which Ms Gabriels won, and once she has expanded her garden, she will be supplying a restaurant.

Ms Lewis said the course was all about reusing, recycling and reducing waste – and growing plants.

Magda Campbell, who founded and co-ordinates Beacon LSEN (Learners With Special Education Needs) Organic Garden on Wespoort Road in Westridge, also completed a home food garden course.

She first supplied a restaurant in Constantia and later local food outlets.

“Everyone should be encouraged to do the course. It is a bargain. Life is so expensive. Many Mitchell’s Plain residents are dependent on social grants and by growing your own produce you can feed yourself, your family and the community,” she said.

Ms Campbell added that Soil for Life also offered follow-up courses, such as healthy eating and cooking.

Applicants can sign up on Tuesday June 19, at 9am, at Yvonne Parfitt Place, in Valencia Way Westridge. The course is open to residents from Westridge, Rocklands and Portland. Call 021 794 4982 or Ms Lewis on 073 159 2128.