Curiosity Campus is an innovative and forward-looking learning community based in Cape Town that offers convenient learning about cutting-edge topics. DECO signed up for some urban gardening tips to grow-our-own in our own back yard.
Curiosity Campus teaches workshops on anything interesting, from urban gardening or 3D printing to game development. Based mostly in and around Cape Town, the courses and workshops are aimed at those who are too busy in the real world to go back to university or sign up for long-term courses, but who are curious to keep learning.
Having wanted to get started with our own kitchen garden since seeing Andrew MacFarlane’s urban farm come to life right here on elledecoration.co.za, DECO raced to sign-up. Instructed through a thoroughly enjoyable morning by Permaculture specialist, Tarryn Rice, at Pinelands’ Oude Molen Eco Village, we soon found ourselves elbow-deep in potting soil.
Fortunately, Tarryn was on-hand throughout the session to share her words of wisdom on Permaculture, container gardening and making the most of small urban spaces.
Here’s what we learnt…
URBAN GARDENING 101
‘The design aspect is crucial; plan properly and you’re well on your way. Map out your own outdoor space… where is the wind coming from? Where does the morning sun land and how do the changing seasons make a difference?’, Tarryn asked us.
The great news is you really don’t need a landscaper to do this for you. Simply look up and track the sun’s movement. Roughly sketch out your outdoor space (be it a balcony, courtyard patio or garden), plot the direction of the sun and note the different patterns of sun and shade in summer and winter.
The resulting placement of your containers – depending on the optimum conditions they need to grow – will make a HUGE difference and the advantage of container gardening is that you can move things around, as Tarryn does on her own impressive Sea Point balcony.
NOTHING IS WASTED
‘You want to create a system where you’re permanently harvesting, not just consuming but giving back too, like composting’, Tarryn explains. Using nature as your teacher, you don’t want to remove anything from the system – pull up weeds but use them for mulch; do the same with fallen leaves.
Everything has a use. When we walked around the Oude Molen gardens after our session we were inspired by the upcyling we saw – even old glass bottles had been saved and used to create contemporary borders to section off the vegetable patches.
PLANT HEALTHY COMPANIONS
Tempting though it might be to plant your veggies by their pantone shade for aesthetic effect, a healthy vegetable patch has more science to it than that. Tarryn urged us, ‘Be conscious of companion planting to promote biodiversity; interplant complementary produce like lettuce with carrots. Plant herbs with flowers that will attract insects to eliminate your pests, and introduce taller plants to protect veggies against harsh wind.’ You soon start to see how the whole process is tied together in one big, very clever ecosystem.
GROW WHAT YOU EAT
Sounds simple, but don’t just plant produce because it looks pretty or the local garden centre has a great promotion on. Unlike flowerbeds just there to look pretty, your healthy plants will produce abundant fruit so you want to make the most of it. Tarryn told us of gardens she’d seen where bunches of tomatoes fell and lay rotting simply because their owners never ate them. Waste not, want not is a good rule of thumb and if you end up with more than you can eat, make sure it goes to a good home.
Really consider what you like to eat and only grow what you know you’ll use.
If you’re looking for a refreshing break from city life, pay a visit to Oude Molen next time you have a free Saturday morning. As well as inspiring community gardens, you’ll discover the little farm shop, where you’ll find freshly brewed coffee, home baked goods, fresh eggs and homemade preserves.
FIND OUT MORE
Each month at Cape Town’s Curiosity Campus, a variety of different course are hosted, covering numerous topics. You’ll find interesting short courses running, including computer coding, the futuristic-sounding Drone Academy and urban gardening. Half-day experiences price at around R900 and multi-session evening classes, like the Drone Academy stretch to R8 500 (but you do get a drone for keeps afterwards).
As co-CEO of Curiosity Campus, Niel Bekker, explains: ‘The courses are structured so that people who practice certain skills every day can share what they know with their clients and students. They don’t require a big commitment in time, but we do point students to great resources should they want to continue their learning independently.’
For getting started in sustainable urban gardening and permaculture, we couldn’t have asked for a better introduction. If you’re intrigued, check out Curiosity Campus’s latest courses here and make sure you follow Tarryn on Facebook right here for more permaculture tips and tricks.
READ MORE FROM TARRYN: LOOK FOR DECO PROFILES IN OUR NEXT PRINT ISSUE
The Green Issue edition of ELLE Decoration South Africa will be on shelves from 28 September. Packed with sustainably stylish interiors, it’s full of all your favourite features and decor tips plus the green spaces of Patrizia Moroso and Pietro Russo. Order your copy – across South Africa wherever magazines are sold – and tell us what you think on Twitter @ELLE_Deco, sharing your #GreenIssue #DECOselfie.