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How to grow your own food in the city: An excerpt from Jane's Delicious Urban Gardening

How to grow your own food in the city: An excerpt from Jane’s Delicious Urban Gardening

Jane’s Delicious Urban GardeningJane Griffiths is the author of the bestselling Jane’s Delicious Garden, which led to a vegetable revolution in South Africa.

Jane’s Delicious Kitchen and Jane’s Delicious Herbs followed, but Griffiths’s latest book, released at the end of last year, is Jane’s Delicious Urban Gardening.

In her newest, Griffiths offers inspirational ideas and practical information for those who love living in the city but dream about growing their own wholesome fruit and vegetables.

Read the Introduction:

We live in an old double-storey house covered with green creeper – literally a ‘green house’. When we moved in, there was a classic English-style garden with lawns, roses and a large swimming pool. In the 22 years that we have lived here, much has changed. Most of the lawn has given way to a vegetable garden or beds planted with herbs and water-wise plants. The roses intermingle with fruit trees and the pool is now filtered by a wetland with fish, frogs and water plants. Under the bay tree live Itchy and Scratchy, my two egg- and manure-producing hens. A vertical strawberry garden wraps the rainwater harvesting tank and succulents cover the greywater tank. Outside the back door, containers and pots overflow with edibles and herbs. In every available space are fruit trees, including ones in pots and espaliered against sunny walls. At last count our urban orchard included 24 fruit trees and 10 different types of berries and vines – and we live in the middle of the largest city in South Africa: Johannesburg.

When I wrote my first book, Jane’s Delicious Garden, I knew hardly anyone who grew their own food. That has changed. Growing organic vegetables, once a fringe activity, is now mainstream. When people begin growing their own food, it changes them. Awareness of the environment increases as resources such as water, space and nutrients become important. Once the vegetable gardening bug bites, people begin growing herbs and then fruit. They become avid recyclers and junk collectors. When eating out they want to know the origin of their food and whether it has been farmed ethically. Dinner conversations include heirloom seeds and composting tips. These small changes multiply and make a big difference.

I have been both a participant and a beneficiary of this expansion. I have learned (and continue to learn) so much more about growing food and sustainable living since I wrote my first book seven years ago. I’ve been lucky enough to meet many inspirational, passionate and knowledgeable food gardeners. Urbanites, with no desire to move to a farm or smallholding, are finding innovative and productive ways of growing healthy organic food in limited city spaces. From people in the queue at the supermarket, who proudly show me cell phone photographs of their vegetable gardens, to women in townships who are growing food for Aids orphans, from roof tops to converted bowling greens, public alleyways to pavement gardens, there is a growing green revolution spreading throughout South Africa. With predictions that by 2050, up to 70 per cent of our population will be living in cities, and food production will need to double to feed an increasingly affluent population, urban farming will supply the food of our future.

However much I like the idea of living off the grid, becoming completely self-sufficient while living in the city is a rather daunting idea. Instead, I aim to create an environment that is as eco-friendly as possible. Jane’s Delicious Urban Gardening is about exploring and sharing ways that urbanites can live a more connected and sustainable life in the city. How, even with our demanding schedules, we can become a part of nature instead of living apart from nature. Whether it’s growing vegetables or harvesting rainwater, contributing kitchen waste to a community farm’s compost heap or converting a chemical pool to a natural one, all urban dwellers would benefit if each of us took a few steps towards becoming more environmentally aware urban farmers. As our gardens transform slowly into urban oases, they improve the quality of our lives and reduce our impact on the environment. By creating an interconnected ecosystem we lessen our reliance on increasingly unstable urban supply systems.

In our 21st century of absolute convenience and consumerism, we have become disconnected from nature. We somehow believe that not only can we live separately from nature, but that we can also take as much as we want without giving anything back. And that is not how a successful relationship works. We are a part of nature and if we continue to live as if we are a privileged and separate species, we risk losing everything. The multitude of problems facing us as human beings on this planet can be overwhelming and daunting. But one thing each and every one of us can do is to take personal responsibility to cultivate a better relationship with the piece of planet on which we live.

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Join Mary and Bob Scholes for cocktails and Climate Change conversation at The Orbit, Braamfontein

Wits Press would like to invite you to an exciting event with Mary and Bob Scholes, co-authors of Climate Change: Briefings from Southern Africa.

Climate Change: Briefings from Southern AfricaWhat is the fingerprint of human-caused climate change? Is today’s climate system outside the zone in which advanced human societies developed? Can we blame climate change for the extreme weather in South Africa in 2015/2016? What is the feasible range to which future climate change can be limited? And, most importantly, how does one distinguish science from non-science in the climate space?

Climate change is higher in the public attention than ever before, because of the historic agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reached in Paris in December 2015, as well as the current drought and heatwave affecting large parts of southern Africa. Nonetheless, there are persistent denialist voices in the media, claiming that this is all just natural variability; or that it doesn’t matter; or that it is a plot to thwart development; or that there is nothing we can do about climate change anyway.

Professors Bob and Mary Scholes from Wits, who, together with Professor Mike Lucas of UCT, are co-authors of Climate Change: Briefings from Southern Africa, will present the science that underpins global concerns about climate change, and give guidance on how to distinguish the valid evidence from the deliberate obfuscation.

Afterwards, some of the coldest cocktails on the planet will counterbalance the effects of global warming, while Janus van der Merwe’s Donkey plays grimy (but environmentally friendly) nu jazz.

Entrance to the event costs R20. Doors open at 6:30 PM, no admittance after 8:00 PM. No registration is necessary but guests are strongly encouraged to arrive early. Dinner is served from 6:00 PM. Guests wishing to have dinner before the event should book in advance with The Orbit and arrive by 6:30 PM.

See you there!

Event Details

  • Date: Tuesday, 26 January 2016
  • Time: 6:30 for dinner and drinks, talk starts at 8 PM
  • Venue: The Orbit,
    81 De Korte Street
    Johannesburg | Map
  • Speakers: Bob and Mary Scholes
  • Refreshments will be served
  • Cover charge: R20
  • Book for dinner: The Orbit
  • More info: Science and Cocktails


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Fires keep raging in the Cape Peninsula, task team set up to investigate

Fires once again raged in the Cape Peninsula earlier this week, and right through the festive period, reminding us of the devastation caused when the Deep South burned last March:

Daily Maverick‘s Marelise van der Merwe reports that a special task team has been established to investigate the high number of fires in the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality. According to a report in the Cape Argus yesterday, “the City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Service has responded to 495 fire calls since Thursday”. These range from shack, train and electrical fires to veld and mountain fires.

“Does the formation of a task team represent a turning point in the management of the Cape’s annual fire season? It’s hard to tell. Statistics are not yet available to compare the damage of this summer’s fires to the same period last year,” Van der Merwe writes.

Read the article:

As it was announced that a task team had been set up to investigate the many fires that had ravaged the Cape over the summer, police remained tight-lipped about the process underway. For those affected, the long wait is just beginning.

Visit Eyewitness News to read their comprehensive coverage of the recent fires, including striking photos and video footage:


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Burning Table MountainBurning Table Mountain: An Environmental History of Fire on the Cape Peninsula by Simon Pooley is an in-depth study of the social, environmental and economic impact of fires in the Cape Town region.

Fire is Not Only Bad News: Simon Pooley’s Burning Table Mountain Launched at Kalk Bay Books

“We Need Fire”: Watch Simon Pooley’s Discussion of Burning Table Mountain

Popular Misconceptions About Fire in Cape Town (Excerpt from Burning Table Mountain)


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Image courtesy of Thomas Holder/EWN

DIY this Christmas - 7 Books to Inspire the Perfect Homemade Gift


Hands up if you’re making gifts for your family and friends this Christmas?

In 2015 we saw a return to the trend of doing things ourselves. Why would you buy Christmas crackers from the store if you can make it yourself and add that extra personal touch? Who doesn’t love a sweater or a throw pillow lovingly crocheted by someone close to you? What’s a home without a garden, especially if it grew from your own fingertips?

We’ve compiled a list of seven fabulous DIY books that were published this year. They will either make the perfect gift, or inspire you to create something unique for your loved ones this festive season.

Have a look at the DIY books of 2015:


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1. SuzelleDIY

SuzelleDIYSuzelleDIYSuzelleDIY: The Book gives DIY a humorous twist. Julia Anastasopoulos, aka Suzelle, shows us how to deal with household chores, maintain your car, live green, make braai day a day to remember and how to minimise the hours you spend in the kitchen. Marianne, her friend, joins her and takes a special interest in our furry friends. The DIY diva also shares her DIY and beauty secrets, while also entertaining us with the best recipes from her kitchen. DIY? Because anybody can.


2. Jane’s Delicious Urban Gardening

Jane’s Delicious Urban GardeningDo you love living in the city but dream about growing your own wholesome fruit and vegetables? South Africa’s organic gardening guru, Jane Griffiths, shows you just how easy it is to achieve a flourishing food garden, no matter how small your space.

Jane’s Delicious Urban Gardening is packed with inspirational ideas and practical information on all aspects of urban eco living.


3. Party Time

Party TimeParty Time is the ultimate party-planning book for parents! It contains 12 fun themes and is jam-packed with inspirational ideas. Planning an exciting party has never been easier! A CD with printable templates for signage and décor is also included.

Not only are there themes for boys and girls but unisex themes have also been included. The parties cater for all budgets. Those recipes that are included are easy to follow and can either serve as a starting point or can be adjusted to suit your specific theme by changing, for example, the colour of the cake icing.


4. Braids: Step by Step

BraidsVlegselsMarie Wivel and Laura Arnesen have known each other since kindergarten. In those days braiding was something they did for fun, but today it has become their passion.

In April 2013, during a school strike in their native Denmark, the two friends decided to try out some new braiding techniques to pass the time. They searched the Internet for different braids and documented their progress on their Instagram account. They were surprised by the many girls who shared their interest!


5. Crochet Know How

Crochet Know HowCrochet Know How 2Crochet Know How is a guide to the basic techniques and stitches of crocheting, and also offers additional information on how to care for crocheted products.

This book is not only the ideal starting point for those who would like to learn to crochet, but also discusses interesting stitches and could become a handy resource for experienced crafters.

Also available in Afrikaans as Alles oor hekel and Alles oor hekel 2.

6. 50 Upcycling Projects

50 Upcycling Projects50 Upcycling-projekteUpcycling refers to the process of converting old or discarded materials into something useful and beautiful. This 224-page book shows you just that – how to transform trash into treasures. At the hand of Misi Overturf, well-known creative consultant, no less than 50 exciting projects are undertaken ranging from easy to the more advanced. Clear step-by-step instructions and beautiful pictures ensure that the techniques are mastered. The projects cover the whole home and even include the garden.


7. 150 All-Time Favourite Crochet Blocks

150 All-Time Favourite Crochet Blocks150 All-Time Favourite Crochet Blocks brings together the classic patterns of the blocks that all avid crocheters love.

Each crochet block is categorised by skill level, with a crochet chart and row-by-row instructions. A short description focusing on each block’s special features and characteristics has also been included.


Book details

Even Little Gardens can Make a Big Difference - Jane Griffiths Launches Jane's Delicious Urban Gardening

Jane Griffiths

Jane’s Delicious Urban GardeningJane Griffiths recently launched Jane’s Delicious Urban Gardening in Cape Town with four wonderful events in three whirlwind days.

Griffiths kicked things off with lunch and a talk about the book, her fourth volume about growing your own edible plants. Later that day, she launched the book at Kalk Bay Books. The following day, Griffiths presented a talk on urban gardening at Starke Ayres Garden Centre. She rounded off her tour with a visit to the Oranjezicht City Farm on her final day in the Mother City.

At her lunch talk, Griffiths regaled guests with tales of her gardening adventures far and wide, and why she decided it was important to write Jane’s Delicious Urban Gardening. In many ways, the book is the story of Griffiths’ own garden in Johannesburg, which has been transformed from a English-style garden into a green, water-wise urban oasis over the past 22 years.

Busy Urbanites

Griffiths began with a discussion of South Africa’s current water crisis, saying the shortages experienced in cities throw the importance of natural resources into stark relief. What her book is about, she says, is helping “busy urbanites” understand their dependence on and responsibility towards natural resources on the little piece of earth they inhabit. Her challenge and motivation is: “How can we all do something to help preserve those resources, and help to grow more food within our urban spaces?”

Lawn Gives Way to Edibles

When Griffiths moved in to her home in Auckland Park, it had a “classic, English-style garden – lots of roses, lots of lawns, the big rectangular swimming pool with the chemicals”. Since then, she says, “most of the lawn has given way to edibles”. “Every year I expand a bit more of the garden out into the lawn. I’ve got herbs in every available spot – both medicinal and edible”. She also has two hens with whom she has “a wonderful symbiotic relationship” – they produce eggs and manure, and she feeds them “goggas” and seeds. Griffiths got tired “of needing a science degree to keep a pool clean,” so has ditched the toxic chemicals and figured out how to make hers “a fully functioning wetland-filtered pool”. She also has rainwater tanks that collect water and host vertical gardens.

Another Book

“I didn’t think I had another book in me,” Griffiths said. She wrote her first three books in the space of about four years. Her first began as what she thought was a film script, but later turned out to be a book. The first print-run of Jane’s Delicious Garden sold out two weeks after it was released. She shared some highlights from Jane’s Delicious Kitchen and Jane’s Delicious Herbs, which followed her debut, and the tips she learned about gardening and using her produce well along the way. Griffiths believed she was on a permanent break from writing books, but then she was commissioned to write an article about “urban farming” for a magazine last year. “At the end of writing the article, I suddenly could see an entire book,” she says. She knew the content, pictures and “everything that needed to go into it”.

Getting in Touch with Our Food

In the first two weeks of being on the shelves, more than 3 000 copies of Jane’s Delicious Urban Gardening were sold. The author said that this is very rewarding on a personal level because of all the hard work that goes into crafting a book like this. “My books are my passion,” she says. She started writing because she believed she needed to share the information in her head. “For me it is incredibly, incredibly exciting knowing that their our so many South Africans out there who want to get their hands on this information.” When Griffiths first started, this was a niche interest, but there has been an incredible shift towards “getting in touch with our food” worldwide.

Small Garden, Big Difference

Griffiths’ book is a beautiful, informative and inspiring guide. It contains everything you need (apart from what nature provides, of course) to start growing your own food and make a big difference with the plot of earth you live on, no matter how small it is.

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Erin Devenish (@ErinDevenish811) tweeted from the event using #livebooks:


Griffiths shared his gardening wisdom with an eager audience at Starke Ayres:


She was at the Oranjezicht City Farm Market Day to sign books and meet readers:


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Enjoy Free Access to Kirstenbosch from 8 AM with Your Summer Sunset Series Concert Ticket (Podcast)

“You know summer is finally here when the gates open up at Kirstenbosch on a Sunday evening for you to take in your picnic blanket and enjoy some wonderful music,” says CapeTalk’s Pippa Hudson. And the popular concert series has just begun!

Hudson recently spoke to Sarah Struys, the events manager of the Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts, about this season’s line up. Freshly Ground kicked things off last Sunday, and up next is Zonke Dikana.

Struys told Hudson about some of the forthcoming highlights, including Arno Carstens, Mango Groove, and the Rotary Carols.

Concerts start at 5:30 PM, but concert tickets will grant you access to the gardens, Struys says, from 8 AM – “If you choose to come early, you can enjoy a walk or a picnic in the garden”.

Listen to the podcast:


Read these wonderful books to enrich your Kirstenbosch experience:

KirstenboschKirstenboschAdventure Trails in KirstenboschKirstenbosch JournalKirstenbosch


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