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Random Harvest Newsletter - January 2022

Posted On: Saturday, January 1, 2022

Dear Indigenous Enthusiast,

2021 has come and gone in a flash, and what a weird but exciting year it has been. With your loyal support Random Harvest has gone from strength to strength. Added to this, the wonderful rain we have been having has been a blessing.

Even the Southern Red Bishops have been out in the rain visiting the ‘Christmas Tree for the Birds.

IN THE NURSERY

I am so excited as the Municipality came along to grade and fix the road. This was heaven sent as it is a constant chore trying to maintain it with our tractor.

This time of year, the seedlings are growing thick and fast, and we have to plant them into seedling trays. We have a very busy team at the shade house planting like mad.

I have ordered our coffee bar made with the wood from the huge old oak tree that died so we have had to do some renovations to the tea garden to accommodate it. Hopefully the guy that is making it for us comes through soon as I can’t wait to see it. I am surprised at how much better the veranda is already looking with the changes.

Once again, I have been digging up the farm – if it is not one thing it is another. We are having to separate our grey and black water. What an interesting exercise – there are so many pipes and cable underground so besides installing pipes we were repairing pipes as well. Never a dull moment.

FOOD PARCEL DONATIONS

All I can say is Thank you! Thank you! With your donations we have put together no less than 100 food parcels this month of which each is enough for 4 people for about a month. On top of this we have packed another 1500 meal in a bag to distribute.

Your generosity has helped many, many people over the festive season.

I couldn’t resist buying some toys for the children. Random Harvest paid for these (not from the food donations.)

If you could possibly continue with your generous support, it will be highly appreciated by all of us at Random Harvest and especially the people who receive the food. I have been told that just not having to worry where the next meal comes from has freed people to get out and seek employment or use their ingenuity to earn a living. This alone is huge.

The bank account number for donations is.

Random Harvest Nursery, FNB 51441129818 Cheque account: code 25 07 41, Reference: Food Parcels.

CHILDRENS HOLIDAY ACTIVITY

We are continuing the activity to create fun for children and encourage them to learn about butterflies.

Each child will be given a drawing of the life cycle of the butterfly and a numbered list. They will have to find the plant with the number and collect a sticker of the butterfly that breeds on it. It should be fun and educational for them.

After they have collected their stickers, they will collect a prize from reception.

This activity will take place during the December school holidays until 12 January 2022

CHILDRENS NEWSLETTER

The children who have visited the nursery loved their activity which made me think that it would be a good idea to start a newsletter aimed at teaching them about nature and the interactions of the plants and animals. This will include a nature quiz and some interesting competitions.

If you have children or grandchildren who would like to receive such a newsletter, please send me an email address to add to the mailing list.

COFFEE MORNING – Time 10h30

A reminder that these mornings are free of charge – so please bring a friend to share the joy of all things indigenous garden orientated. No booking necessary.

Date: Wednesday 5th January 2022
Topic: Walk in the grassland
The grassland is magnificent at this time of the year and a walk through it is a special treat. We will have refreshment areas set out where you can relax a while during the walk and for those who are not so active, we will take you along with the golf car.

Date: Wednesday 2nd February 2022
Topic: Natural gardens, Garden observations and questions and answers
I thought it was time for another question and answers session. We can talk about the interesting things that we have observed in our gardens. For those of us with a natural garden we can share our observations.

IN THE SHOP

We have used some of Heather Balcomb’s beautiful paintings of nature, wildlife and indigenous plants to create a beautiful notebook. Each page you turn will remind you of what a beautiful planet we live on. In the pack is a butterfly card and some seeds to sow to start a bird and butterfly garden. Price R150.00

We have planted up some decorative pots using the new range of pots and some interesting succulents. The prices range from R95.00

I was so excited to be able to source some of the beautifully carved wooden birds again. We have a few in stock. These are marvellous works of art. The prices range from R920.00

Grow your own bonsai kits - R128.00

After gardening soothe your hands with Gardener’s hand cream – R94.50

Encourage the children to garden with their own tools a steal at R20.00 each

BOOK OF THE MONTH

There is a new book ’50 Grasses of the Limpopo Valley’. Remember the start of the Limpopo Valley is here in Gauteng. Priced at R250.00

This book is a photographic guide with a few big pictures to help with grass identification, which is not easy. The information on each species is limited as the book focuses on simplifying the identification.

COTTAGES

We offer a great countryside stay with fabulous views across our farm, an abundance of nature, big skies and plenty of fresh air, the perfect destination for a perfect country escape.

Be sure to disconnect from the busy, frantic world and re-connect with nature. Our services include in-room breakfast from the tea garden, fresh raw milk from the dairy and homemade rusks. We can provide cots and highchairs for babies and lots of things to keep the older children busy and engaged.

Family holidays are about fun and spending quality time together. Take your family for a child friendly walk through our different habitat types, do a spot of bird watching and enjoy the views of the farm.

You could also spoil yourself with a treatment at Epikaizo Spa which is on site. They have introduced a loyalty card system which is also a nice little ‘added bonus’

TEA GARDEN

The freshly baked fruit tarts and scones are a perennial favourite with our guests. Luckily my mom looks after the fruit trees to ensure there is always enough to serve.

To keep this up we have been very busy harvesting fruit. (Please ignore the weeds in the picture they grow faster than we can pull them.)

The fruit is being used to make jam and filling for the fruit tarts. The kitchen is a busy, busy place.

All this activity so that you can once again be able to enjoy the fruit tart with fresh filling and scones with new season jam all of which are served with cream, fresh from our small dairy herd.

PLANTS LOOKING GOOD

Bersama lucens - Glossy White-ash A fairly hardy, evergreen, small, compact tree with a well-developed crown and beautiful blotchy, wrinkled, grey bark. The young leaves are a brilliant glossy russet brown, becoming dark-green when mature. The sprays of small greenish-white flowers, in long narrow heads, appear from Sept. to Jun. and are followed by green capsules that split to reveal scarlet seeds that attract birds. It is a beautiful, decorative tree for a shady to semi-shady part of the garden. Protect from frost especially when young.

Diospyros lycioides - Bluebush Very hardy, deciduous to semi-deciduous, drought-resistant, fast-growing shrub or small tree. Bright-green, new leaves soon become a bluish, grey-green when they mature. From Sept. to Dec., it bears sweetly scented, white, bell-shaped flowers that attract bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. The edible berries are large, red and decorative and also attract birds. As with all Diospyros spp. sexes are on separate plants, therefore only female plants bear fruit. Twigs are traditionally used for toothbrushes. Makes a beautiful small tree when pruned as a standard. It grows well in rocky areas. Plant in sun or semi-shade, in well-drained soil.

Seemanaralia gerrardii – Wild Maple This rugged looking tree has the same look as a Cabbage Tree. It has beautiful large ‘Maple shaped’ leaves with pink petioles and attractive corky bark. The cluster of flower buds are red-brown and out of each bud pops an star shaped flower. Use as an attractive, textural form plant in sun or semi shade. It looks particularly striking planted amongst rocks. This plant is endemic to South Africa and occurs in rocky ravines.

Acokanthera oppositifolia - Bushman's Poison Hardy, drought resistant medium to large upright, woody, evergreen shrub with attractive, hard, dark green, purple or red tinged leaves that have a sharply pointed tip. Clusters of white to pink-tinged, sweetly scented flowers are borne from June to Oct., followed by large, plum-coloured berry-like fruits which are relished by birds. All parts of the plant are poisonous with the possible exception of the ripe fruits. This should not put you off as many plants have poisonous parts as environmental protection. Plant this beautiful shrub in compost rich soil in sun, semi-shade or shade, but it does better with some shade. Makes a beautiful container plant.

Pogonarthria squarrosa - Herringbone Grass Very hardy, semi-deciduous, tufted, perennial grass. The short, brown racemes of flowers curve upwards, making a herringbone pattern, hence the common name. The flowers are borne from Nov. to May and attract small seed-eating birds. Plant in groups to get the full effect of the flowers and seed-heads. It makes an attractive addition to a grassland garden, and as it is not a very robust grass it lends itself to being planted in between wildflowers. A beautiful garden plant that should be pruned down to about 5cm above ground level and raked every year in late winter. Plant in sun or semi-shade in well-drained soil.

Euryops x ‘Silver Sunshine’ - ‘Silver Sunshine’ resin bush A hardy, fast-growing hybrid that was discovered in Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. It is very decorative silver leaves that cover the branches densely. Making it a gorgeous foliage plant. Added to this it has masses of bright-yellow daisies held above the leaves which are so profuse that at flowering time one cannot see the foliage. It mainly flowers from Mar. to Sept. with some flowers on and off all year long. Many insects and insectivorous birds are attracted to the garden by this shrub. Plant in full sun in well-drained soil. Prune lightly after the main flush of flowers. The foliage and flowers can be used effectively in flower arrangement. In combinations with Felicia ammeloides which with its sky-blue flowers – it makes a stunning colourful display.

PLANTS ON SPECIAL – Less 15%

Terminalia phanerophlebia - Lebombo Clusterleaf. This tree looks mystical in the dusk, especially in winter when the leaves become a dark Khaki-green colour. It is a hardy, deciduous, small- to medium-sized, upright tree that is fast-growing. The interesting branching patterns give it a pagoda-like shape. An added feature is the shiny purplish branchlets.

The unusual olive-green colour leaves are attractively clustered in spirals at the tips of the branchlets, and have a soft, velvety feel. The upright candle-like spikes of clear white flowers rise in clusters above the spirals of leaves from Oct. to Feb. The two-winged fruits are attractive and turn a pale, brownish-pink when they dry. Plant in sun or semi-shade.

Peltophorum africanum - African Wattle When in flower this small- to medium-sized tree is a sight to behold with its large, golden spikes of beautiful, nectar rich, crinkly flowers that are held well above the leaves and persist on the tree for weeks. It is hardy, deciduous and drought resistant. The lovely fine, feathery leaves resemble those of Acacia species, but the tree is thornless. The leaf and flower buds are brown and hairy, adding to the beauty of this tree. The nectar attracts many insects and birds to the garden. The tree is also the host plant of many butterfly species and cattle and game browse on it. Its rounded shape makes a good shade tree in the smaller garden. It has beautiful architecture when leafless. An excellent garden subject for semi-shade or sunny areas.

Kleinia galpinii This hardy, attractive, evergreen succulent plant has flattened, grey-green leaves that arise from a fleshy stem. These grow from a tuberous rootstock. The clusters of bright-orange or scarlet flowers are carried on a long, flowering stems from Jan. to Aug. The flowers attract insects to the garden. This long-flowering plant will brighten up a rockery or mixed flowerbed. Plant in well-drained soil in full sun or light shade.

Aspilia mossambicensis - Wild Sunflower Hardy, evergreen, shrubby perennial with rather stiff branches. Leaves are roughly hairy above, densely hairy but softer below. Flowers are borne in lax terminal heads and are golden yellow to orange. The plant is reminiscent of a jolly, yellow Cosmos and flowers from spring to autumn. Attracts butterflies and tiny pollinating insects to the garden. Use in a mixed, colourful border or create pretty floriferous containers. Can tolerate light frost and drought. Prune regularly to keep tidy and promote flowering. Plant in compost-rich soil, in full sun or semi-shade.

GARDENING TIP

After the good rains we have had the weeds are rejoicing. I have taken to cut the weeds in the open areas with a brush cutter as we have not had the time to pull them out. This is what inspired me to talk about weeds.

The single most important factor in controlling weeds is to pull them out before they flower and before they form their seeds and drop them. If your weed crop is not huge and they have not formed seeds you can drop the plants you have pulled back onto the soil. This is green mulch, and they will turn brown in a day or two and turn into compost.

If the weed crop is extensive, it is better to put them onto your compost heap to decompose. If your compost heap gets turned and is composting properly, the heat generated will kill any residual seeds from the weeds.

If you allow the weeds to seed year after year you will develop a huge seed bank in the soil and the weeds will germinate year after year. This is why it is imperative that you remove the weeds before they seed.

Weeding should not be a chore; I think it is therapeutic. It gives you the time to spend in the open air in the garden and contemplate the many blessings we have and to be close to nature.

ON THE FARM

Once again, we had the privilege of welcoming the horticultural students from UNISA for a visit. It is great to have a captive audience to convince that they should take care of the environment and plant only indigenous plants.

Someone said that they thought I needed the smell of wet cement around me and that is why we are always building and trying to improve things.

My wet cement project for this month has been to try and build a silt trap as the water rushing into the dam is carrying a huge amount of silt and I don’t want to have to disturb the ecosystem in the dam in a hurry again.

I thought I would build this little dam to slow the water down and catch silt but as you can see if we have a downpour, it definitely doesn’t work. I then read about the fact that grass is a good silt trap, so we made bags out of shade cloth and stuffed them with cut veld grass and put them into the little dam.

All I can say is so far so good it seems to be working well.

After being so afraid I had messed the eco system up at the dam I am beside myself with joy that the Bullfrogs are breeding in the dam again. It was fun watching them testing their strength to see who would be the one to breed and bring up the froglets.

He is wicked looking I am sure to scare off anyone looking to make a meal of his tadpoles.

Ronald took a lovely video of the male looking after his tadpoles.

The birds are also back in numbers, and these are just a few of the sightings we have had.

The Southern Red Bishops are breeding in huge numbers. It is amusing to sit and watch them displaying and protecting their own little patch of Bulrushes.

The Moorhen chick is starting to come out into the open and constantly begging for food.

The Yellow Billed Duck and Red Knobbed coot are visiting regularly.

I was hoping the Coot would breed on the dam, but I think it is a little late in the season for him to find a mate.

The aggressive, cheeky Little Grebe has been on the dam for a few days, but we have not been able to get a picture to share with you yet.

The Cormorant are daily visitors to hunt for a meal. This one caught a huge frog. I am not sure how I feel about him decimating the frogs. The fish at least are quicker, and I have placed lots of twigs and things in the dam to help them escape from this voracious bird.

An exciting new addition to our bird list is this tiny Spotted Flycatcher.

I don’t know how Ronald managed to get such a good picture of such a tiny bird.

The Bee-eaters are back. This European Bee-eater was sitting on the fence watching out for his next meal.

The Cape Longclaw has to be one of Jeffries favourite birds as he takes hundreds of pictures of them. I must admit they are a gorgeous addition to the joy we get out of the grassland.

The Black-headed Heron has been stalking around in the grassland, I am sure it's hoping to make a meal out of the Lapwing Babies. But thankfully the parent birds have been so aggressive and conscientious about protecting their babies that all of them have survived and are thriving.

The grassland is breathtakingly beautiful at the moment. If you visit do make time to take a walk and enjoy being out in nature and being in such a beautiful and interesting ecosystem.

Believe it or not the Hypoxis hemerocallidea (African Potato) are still flowering. They started in Mid-August, so far, they have been in bloom for 5 months. Incredible!

Jeff and I saw this beautiful Hibiscus in the grassland. I think it is Hibiscus microcarpus. I love the surprise around each corner we find in our peaceful space.

Incredibly the Vigna vexillata (Wild Sweet Pea) is also still in bloom. At last we have some for sale in the nursery.

Sylis and Mercy have been diligent about collecting seed in the grassland so we hope to have many more species to offer you soon so that you can create your own little grassland in your garden.

From this years crop we already have seed of the beautiful Vernonia germinating – exciting.

The Erythrina zeyheri (Plough Breaker) in the nursery have been in full bloom so I am hoping to harvest lots of seed from them. Their common name is very appropriate as they have a huge rootstock. You can create wonderful container plants by exposing the root which is in fact an underground stem as this is classified as an underground tree.

The insects have been busy doing their duty of pollinating the flowers while they collect pollen and nectar.

The bees, in particular, have been busy. As you can see from their pictures their Pollen sacs are full. I am amazed at the miracle performed by these insects in their diligence to keep their hives healthy.

This Euphorbia is being pollinated by a species of fly. Which, thanks to Connal has been identified as one of the Tabanidae family.

With all the rain we have been having, the Acacia karroo (Sweet Thorn) seem to have been in constant bloom with the wonderful scent of their flowers wafting around the farm. They will flower on and off throughout summer – each time after we have had 20 to 25mm of rain. They keep the bees happy as well.

They Milettia grandis (Umzimbeet) are also in full flower. What a beautiful sight these spikes of mauve flowers are at this time of the year.

This beautiful Waterlily flower just about to open reminds me how fortunate I am to live and work so close to the miracles and beauty of nature.

I wish you all the very best for the New Year please be safe and happy and may all your plants be indigenous.

Sincerely

Linda

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