Five things to remember about insects in the food garden

Not every insect in your food garden is a pest. Some are beneficial and help your plants to grow better. This is one of the five things I learnt at a recent workshop with Jozi Food Farmer.

Ever since I started my food garden journey in August 2016 I’ve sort of stumbled along with the odd course, some help from a consultant and lots of Google searches.

I’ve struggled to find guidance about container gardening in an urban environment.

Most of our food garden is in containers in the courtyard and boxes on the balcony. We also have two beds in the courtyard so my approach needs to consider advice and methods for different environments.

I’m happy to say that I’ve found some experts in Braamfontein, Johannesburg who have experience establishing rooftop food gardens in the city in mostly using containers like these planter boxes.

The Jozi Food Farmer rooftop food garden at 70 Juta in Braamfontein

Jozi Food Farmer is an urban farming business based in Braamfontein Johannesburg which has been operating for two years. This crew offers training sessions at their rooftop garden at 70 Juta and I attended one on the role of insects in the food garden last Saturday morning.

I arrived shortly before 9am and despite the chilly wind made my way up a ladder to the garden. Ashleigh Machete who led the workshop is a third generation urban food farmer from Protea South in Soweto. He says he learnt everything he knows about growing food from his grandmother.

Ashleigh Machete, Jozi Food Farmer

Ashleigh gave a great presentation with colour photos of the different types of pests and the damage they cause. I was so happy to discover the culprit that destroyed my mint plant in my balcony garden – spider mites. And thanks to Ashleigh and team I now have a solution to fix them.

Here are four more things I learnt on the workshop

  • Draw the predators in. Introduce elements into your food garden to attract the beneficial insects like predators that will eat the pests. Some of the things that you can introduce is water in a glass bottle that will provide food for the insects. Mud and stones around a pot can also attract beneficial insects that will use the mud to build their homes.
  • Blooms attract bees. We only planted marigolds to attract bees but they died off in winter. Calendula is a good autumn and winter bloom that will keep the bees coming to help your plants with pollination.
Calendula, great for attracting bees into a food garden during autumn and winter
  • Some pests are unseen. Ash says that some pests only come out at night, so the best time to observe your garden for damage from insects is first thing in the morning.
  • Manual pest control is best for small-scale urban farmers with plants growing in containers, and it’s also relaxing to spend some time in the garden each morning.
Such a healthy mint plant growing on a rooftop in Braamfontein
KG from Jozi Food Farmer irrigating planter boxes

Thanks for a great workshop guys!

More about Jozi Food Farmer from Ash:

We design, install and maintain food gardens in an urban environment; manufacture and sell custom made grow boxes and offer urban farming workshops. Our target market and customers include individuals, businesses and government.

Currently a company that employs seven, one of our aims has always been to create opportunities for others and ourselves through job creation.

We aspire to make fresh and healthy produce available and accessible to local residents of Johannesburg and aim to turn inner city abandoned buildings and spaces into economically viable plots through urban farms and their supporting activities.

They have also created Abalimi Dolobha, an urban agricultural research project aimed at assisting urban farmers by ensuring access to various farming resources and preserving local farming methods in Gauteng

To get in touch contact:

Ash +27 (81) 7684827

And definitely like the Jozi Food Farmer Facebook page to find out about the next workshop – I’ll definitely be there.

Tarragon, a popular and versatile herb flourishing in a container at the Jozi Food Farmer rooftop garden in Braamfontein


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