Joy Phala is a landscape artist, garden designer and founder of Organic Kitchen Gardens.
Joy Phala is a landscape artist, garden designer and founder of Organic Kitchen Gardens.

Joy Phala, the green entrepreneur talks about creating edible gardens, being conscious and water conservation

Landscape artist and garden designer, Joy Phala, is the founder of Organic Kitchen Gardens, an onsite edible garden installation and maintenance service for chefs, restaurants and private residents.

I worked as a management consultant for a few years after I obtained a BCom Accounting at Wits and then when I became a first-time mom, cooking became my therapeutic outlet. Inspired by MasterChef and food bloggers at the time. I cooked my way through my first year as a mom. This saw me growing my own ingredients on our little apartment balcony and later on in a few containers in the sunniest parts of our complex. The food that grew in our little garden was the tastiest we’d had in a long time. I then had an idea that perhaps there are chefs and restaurants who would also love to cook with high-quality produce straight from their own gardens.

Organic Kitchen Gardens came about as a result of wanting to create edible gardens that would fit into the urban environment, without the typical farm look associated with fruit-and-vegetable gardens. The work manifests itself in the form of stylized, mixed edible and ornamental gardens that complement the architecture of our clients’ homes and reflect their personal style and aesthetic.

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For people living in urban spaces without out much space to garden, it is important to go for plants that have a long seasonal interest and if edible, will provide multiple harvests during the season. Small evergreen edible trees and small shrubs of lemons, limes and kumquats are especially useful in an urban garden for creating structure. They will also happily grow in partial sun conditions of high-rise buildings with just a little less fruit production. Cut and come-again leafy greens and salads are more tasty when grown at home and will provide multiple cuttings when harvested as single leaves – as opposed to full heads. Small fruits like strawberries, blueberries and gooseberries take up very little space and will provide you with premium produce. Pair these up with your favourite flowers for a splash of colour.

One of the key starting points of going green, which has not only become necessary but urgent, is conserving water. Save the rain water for the garden. With our recent droughts, it is now no longer fashionable, but necessary to install a rainwater tank to water both private and corporate gardens. This will reduce the pressure on our already-strained municipal water resources. Also grow some of your own organic food or buy organic and locally produced food. Research by the University of Twente in the Netherlands on Water Foot Print of commercial crop production indicates that it takes 250L of water to produce 1kg of potatoes. The home gardener and farmer using organic methods of food production will use far less water for the same quantity of produce.

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Words: Kelly Fung & Ntombenhle Shezi. Image: Lebogang Tlhako. This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of Elle Magazine.