A Balcony garden in Johannesburg


While I was growing up the duties of taking care of the garden belonged to the boys. That meant my brother and I were responsible for watering the orchard and maintaining the garden.

To begin with our father would pay us  to do the gardening instilling in us the  the value of work. We had to earn our pocket money. I enjoyed the gardening part, up until 1992 when the country was hit by a severe drought. Hose pipes became illegal so we had to water using buckets! This was no fun at all.

Gone were the days when we could spray each other with water while we were watering the garden. Funny enough our garden was at its best during the drought! We had green beans, carrots and green peas. The orange and naartjie trees also did well. Our father ensured that each one us had a little portion to grow what you wanted to grow. I liked spring onions aka shallots, strawberries, mint and carrots. The main garden consisted of kovo, rape, tsunga, tomatoes, green beans, sweet beans, carrots, and then there was a section for maize, potatoes and sweet potatoes. I remember one year we had soya beans which up until this day I cannot stand.

My spring/shallot onions just after watering

Fast forward a decade and am stuck in Johannesburg staying in a flat. Not able to have a garden but that gardening urge has been itching at the back of my mind. I found it weird when I first came to Johannesburg that there were no gardens in homes Went to Mamelodi in Pretoria, Soweto in Johannesburg and no gardens.

My garden on the balcony

We always used to rejoice when we saw some kovo in the back yard, and knew that ‘apa panogara maZimba’. I noticed that the variety of shallots we had in Zimbabwe, which I loved were not available in central Johannesburg. Then on my last trip to Zimbabwe I finally brought my own seedlings which I had to smuggle across the border as agricultural products have to come with a certificate. Now I have my own little garden of shallots on my balcony which we already started harvesting!. Any ideas of other garden produce I could add to my balcony? With all the indigenisation and farming talk I thought I would get in the mood and start small! I still have a few empty lunch boxes.