creating paradise in your garden

Submitted by ConsciousBabe on Tue, 2011-11-29 09:23

Jenny Louw talks paradise gardens at Erin Hall as part of the series of Superfoods free talks.

Jenny Louw: horticulturist, garden designer and writerJenny Louw: horticulturist, garden designer and writer

Jenny Louw is the owner of a wonderful farm garden in Constantia that boasts a lush assortment of vegetables, fruits, flowers, birds, bugs and, of all things, weeds. She shares with us her passion for ‘toiling the soil’, emphasising that we too can succeed in creating our own garden paradise.

Picking and eating food straight from our own garden is a sensual experience that cannot be compared to buying food from the supermarket,’ Jenny believes.

A week or so ago she told an audience of around 300 about her dream of beautiful jungle cities, emphasising that bio-diversity is the key to creating a paradise.

Nature is my most truthful teacher,’ she explains. ‘I have learnt to embrace every caterpillar, every aphid as a respected part of my garden.

The following is some of the valuable advice she gave that night:


Jenny insists that the soil is very important, as it is the entry point to life in the garden. Minerals and microscopic bacteria are the foundation of all life and so too are a crucial part of soil preparation. It is also good to add manure to the garden, as it contains probiotics. Jenny boasts her love of rock dust and fungus, but warns gardeners off too much fertiliser as a garden doesn’t need that much nitrogen to flourish.

This garden guru emphasises your soil must be covered at all times to protect it from sun, wind and other harsh elements. She suggests using old plant life, mulch and compost to create a ‘snuggly blanket’ over every inch of soil surface. But mulch must only be added once seeds have sprouted.

‘I like to mirror nature,’ says Jenny. ‘If she is throwing leaves on the earth, I throw leaves also! Nothing needs to leave the garden: all those plant cuttings can be used as mulch.’

Jenny's lovely sketchesJenny's lovely sketches

It is only necessary to prepare the vegetable garden bed every 4 years. After the perfect soil mix has been created, a hole must be dug and the mix filled in to create a raised bed. According to Jenny, the mould shape helps with aeration and drainage.

‘I enjoy feral food beds, but you can be much more orderly than that,’ says Jenny. ‘Make garden plots no wider than a metre so you can reach everything without strain.’

Jenny likes to rotate her crops and let her beds rest every few years.


‘Water is critical for life and encourages those much-needed chemical processes in the soil,’ claims Jenny.

Some believe seawater to be good for the garden, as it is full of minerals. If you want to try this, collect from clean waters and heavily dilute before using on your soil. You can also do the same with water you have soaked either seaweed or chicken manure in.


Weeds are great pioneer plants: their roots reach down to pull up those deep-set minerals and hold the rain water at surface level while their leaves catch the sun making them perfect for mulch.
Insects are great for a self-sustainable garden and if you allow the natural food chain to grow, each species helps keep the others in check. Worms in the garden should be encouraged, as it is a sign that there is micro-life present.

‘Nature knows what she’s doing,’ says Jenny. ‘For instance weeds flourish in spring and autumn, dying and becoming mulch just in time for the harsher seasons.

Jenny loves weeds!Jenny loves weeds!


Once a bed has been prepared and weeds have further mulched the soil, the garden is ready for planting. You can start with leafy vegetables as they are great for the summer and easy to grow.
If you want to plant in pots and trays make sure they have good soil, lots of great compost, micro-organisms, compost tea, rock dust and fertiliser.

‘You can buy seedlings but believe me, seeds are made to grow and are oh-so-easy!,’ assures Jenny.

Push seeds in the ground double as deep as their height and plant on the growing moon for a positive astral influence.


Jenny suggests you use cayenne pepper to deter predators, spray a garlic, chilli and ginger infusion onto your plants or even go so far as to hand pick the buggers out.

‘At the moment the birds are loving the strawberries as much as us and that’s where I draw the line!’ says Jenny, so she uses netting over her garden to help protect from birds and butterflies.

Mostly though, she anticipates few problems, claiming it’s because her garden’s ‘immune system’ is so healthy and robust.

Five years down the line and my garden pretty much cares for itself!’ claims Jenny.


Jenny highly recommends the following websites for heritage seeds:

Her book 'Earth Artist' should be out soon and keep an eye on her website for news of garden open days!