Random Harvest Newsletter Archive

Random Harvest Newsletter - March 2017

Posted On: Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Dear Indigenous Enthusiast,

It is really chilly at the moment but wonderfully wet.

I love looking at the droplets of water clinging to the grasses and leaves like tiny jewels adorning the plants.

This rain will definitely up the moisture content of the soil and we should see a burst of growth on our plants when the sun comes out.

Vegetable growing in containers

Heather and the chaps in the nursery have created an inspiration display of how to grow veggies in containers.

This container vegetable garden showcases just how easy it is to have a delicious urban vegetable garden without necessarily having a sprawling expanse of space.

Clever use of small spaces and making the most of containers can yield an abundant harvest of vegetables, and colour. We have introduced a bit of bright colour and a fusion of South African and Mexican style.

These is nothing more satisfying than going out into the garden to pick fresh herbs and veggies when you start cooking. Coming from an Italian family means that for all of my life I have had this privilege.

Coffee mornings

Every first Wednesday of the month – starting 1 March 2017 10h00 – 11h00

So often I have customers pop in to my office with really interesting questions that I wish we could share the answers to with all of you. Our monthly coffee mornings, starting Wednesday 1st March are the result of this wish.

Join me, Linda, and Jeff in a chat over coffee or tea about all issues relating to indigenous gardening. Our theme for the first session will be soil health, preparation and care, as soil is the basis of a healthy garden.

No admission fee is required, just an enquiring mind and an appetite for good company … oh, and a love for the indigenous garden! Look forward to seeing you.

A new addition to our nursery family

Meet Abby a new addition to our family. I didn’t realise how quickly you can become besotted with a black fur ball but, rest assured I am besotted as are most people who have met her.

While on the subject of dogs, a gentle reminder to keep your dogs on a leash when they visit the nursery with you.


Bradleigh Skorpen Art exhibition extended to 31 March 2017

On view until end March 2017

Bradleigh has a number of his pastel artworks on exhibition at the Nursery until the end March. They certainly make the patio area bright, warm and inviting.

With a truly Southern African feel, the scenes he depicts portray his appreciation and deep love of natural beauty. Reasonably priced, these make a great gift for a special person in your life.


Walk and talk at Highveld Garden display


Our Highveld Garden display seems to have met with a lot of interest. If you missed the scheduled walk and talks through the month of January, please feel free to contact us and book a walk and talk in the garden, or read our news item How to Create a Highveld Garden with Locally Indigenous Plants.


The Garden includes a beautiful shady haven to sit in, which is a perfect hideaway for the hot, March days.

(Just as an aside – when the days get hot again after this amazing rain have a re-look at our Forest Garden article to help you create a deliciously cool canopy that will keep you from wilting!)

The local wildlife also knows that the Highveld garden is “their” territory.

Birds, insects and lizards are constantly spotted soaking up all it has to offer.


Lindsay Gray Domestic Gardener’s Course

We will once again be hosting Lindsay’s popular domestic gardeners course here at Random Harvest on Friday 10th March

Contribute to the growth and confidence of your gardener by offering him or her an opportunity for a qualification which is a source of much pride to them.

Tea and lunch are provided - Time: 8h00 to 16h30 - Cost: R680.00

Public holidays we are open from 8h00 to 17h00

We will be open on Human Rights Day on March 21st

On the Easter weekend we are closed on Good Friday 14th April but open on the 15th, 16th and 17th April

We are open on Freedom Day the 27th April and Workers Day 1st May.

Easter Egg Hunt for the Children

As has become a tradition at Random Harvest there will be a fun, environmentally angled Easter Egg Hunt for the children.

Once the children have been taken on their ECO treasure hunt and answered some questions all related to the wildlife and plants around us they will each receive a gift.

A beaded pot with a succulent and of course an Easter egg.


Plants Looking Good


The Diascia hybrids are always a cheerful addition to a sunny spot in the garden planted either in the garden, in containers or hanging baskets.

Make sure they are planted in well-drained soil and do not over water to make the most of them.

When Kniphofia species are flowering in the garden you can see why they are called ‘Red Hot Pokers’.

They do look like red hot spires in the garden.

Not only are they a beautiful feature but the nectar attracts a whole host of wildlife.

Gerbera jamesonii (Barberton Daisy) is probably one of our most used plants worldwide.

It has been hybridised and changed until it is almost unrecognisable.

I love our simple unchanged wild flower which looks spectacular when planted in amongst grasses or Anthericum saundersiae.

Salvia namaensis may not have spectacular flowers but it has really beautiful foliage and does exceptionally well in containers in full sun.

As it is drought resistant and tough it requires minimal care.

If you are looking for a very flat groundcover for planting in full sun in between stepping stones you could consider using Dymondia Margaretae (Vlei Daisy).

It has pretty variegated little leaves and tiny yellow daisy-like flowers.

The Plectranthus species are just coming into their own and are starting to flower.

Plectranthus are wonderful plants for shady areas and need minimal attention.

A good pruning some mulch and an organic fertiliser once a year is about all you have to do.

Both the Plectranthus featured here are low growing. Plectranthus ciliatus - Above (Speckled Spur Flower) with its purple undersides and Plectranthus oertendahlii (Silver Leaved Spurflower) with its silver bloom on the leaves do well in containers and hanging baskets as well as your garden.

P. oertendahlii in particular makes a wonderful indoor plant.


Tea garden


We are offering a few new specials in the tea garden for you to enjoy.

A meal with Scotch Eggs and an open omelette topped with rocket and Feta either of which can be enjoyed for breakfast or lunch.

We are also offering a Buffet style breakfast for special events. These have proved very popular and have had only positive feedback from our guests.

Highveld Bulb Society

On the 25th March at 14h00 Jonathan will give a talk and discussion on propagation of indigenous plants. This will be followed by a tour of our propagation area.

The event is free for paid up members of the society and will cost R50.00 per person which includes tea and cake for other attendees.

The Garden in March

This is a good time to shape and maintain the indigenous garden, and the huge amount of rain that we have received is a good reason to switch off irrigation systems when we don’t need the extra watering.

The expected verdant splendour of the garden in March is taken to a new level with all the amazing rain that we have had.

Gardens that limped through October and November are now veritable jungles, and in sore need of pruning and cutting to maintain shape.

When branchlets have bolted and groundcovers have spilled onto paths, prune them so that they can keep looking good until autumn temperatures slow the growth rate down.

Keep pruning shears and equipment sharp and clean before storing, to prevent damage and disease when pruning.

Garden pests abound at this time of year, so if you cannot possibly live with them, remember our organic, environmentally friendly range of controls that you can use.

Bear in mind though, that destroying caterpillars means fewer butterflies in the garden. Control is always a better route to take than total eradication when it comes to creatures we compete with for the beauty and bounty of our gardens.

Previous Bird Walk

Our Bird walkers saw about 55 of the 158 species at Random Harvest on the 28th of January, including the Spotted.Flycatcher, and a number of species of water birds.

I attribute the high species diversity on the farm to the eight different habitat types on the farm.

In the latest website news item, we’ve given you our bird list and 5 tips for Bird watching at Random Harvest Farm so you’re able to spot as many birds as possible.

More bird related articles will follow, giving some ideas and suggested indigenous plant species to use to create all or some of these habitat types in your own garden.

On The Farm

The birds and butterflies have been very busy on the farm over the previous few months and Jeffrey has been just as busy with his camera. These are just a few of the pictures he has taken, I was really spoiled for choice.

The two I chose to share with you are the Green Banded Swallowtail on an Arctotis arctoides which is a great butterfly plant.


The Brown Veined White are puddling in the mud. This is where they get all their minerals they need for their adult life.

The Groundscraper Thrush have arrived early this year. Normally they only arrive at the end of March. Not only have they arrived early but are also more vocal that I have ever heard them.

Jeff managed to take this lovely picture of a Lesser Striped Swallow.


I see the swallows and swifts are starting to congregate on the telephone wires. From this high perch they hawk insects, fattening themselves up for the long journey on their migration north.

This is a reminder that we are heading into autumn, my favourite time of the year.

There seem to be a lot of Red Faced Mousebirds around at the moment. I haven’t seen them for quite a while.


I was watching the flat topped Acacia abyssinica in the nursery which looked as if they were dying and could not work out what the problem was.

The problem is that the Sacred Ibis are nesting in it and there were babies in the nests.

They nest in colonies and wreak havoc with the trees.

The very difficult choice is the birds or the trees. I decided to let nature take its course.


Really cowardly of me but I do love both of them.


The dam is looking huge and absolutely beautiful after the rains.

When I see the dam like this I am so happy that I spent the time and money on harvesting the rain water from the roofs and the paving and channelling it down to the dam.

(See our article on Rain Water Conservation)

My main boreholes are at the dam so all this water helps to replenish them as well as making the dam just plain beautiful for all of us to enjoy.


It is not only us but the birds appreciate the dam as well.

We normally see the Purple Heron stalking around the edges looking for a meal of a fish or frog and even baby birds if he can get hold of them.

As the dam gets deeper from all the extra water we begin to see different birds making use of it.

The Pied Kingfisher has been in residence ever since the water level rose.

One of the nicest sounds when the dam is full enough is the call of the White Faced Whistling Ducks.

Not only do they sound great but are really beautiful birds.


The male Bullfrog is doing his duty as protector of the young.

He sits patiently close to the swimming tadpoles and protects them ferociously.

A bite from a Bullfrog is not fun and he has the big tooth like protrusion on his gums with which he can do quite a lot of damage.

Aren’t I the lucky one – that I can drive to the dam daily and see such beautiful sights?


The grassland has been looking particularly beautiful as well.

Since these pictures were taken the grasses have grown enormously and you cannot see as many flowers, but there are lots of beautiful grasses in flower and seed.


I remember how excited I was when I saw my first termite mound in the grassland and here it is, well established and surrounded by flowers.

This dainty Polygala hottentotta is just peeping up through the grasses.

I was really excited to see Lantana rugosa (Birds Brandy) which is a new arrival to our grassland.

Not only do the birds relish the seeds but it is a great butterfly host plant as well.

Talking of butterflies one makes mention of the flowers but there are a whole host of butterflies flitting around in the grasses.

This is an African Monarch perched on a grass stem.



There have been really interesting mushrooms around like the tiny black ones clustered in a container around an Aloe.

The beautiful reddish puffballs were photographed in the grasslands. These are just two of the many we have seen.


There are also many interesting insects around. These are really difficult to identify and I am trying to do so but in the meantime I will just share some of the pictures with you.

This cheeky green Praying Mantis was sitting on Jeffrey’s hand and threatening him. You have to be brave to threaten such a big creature.

This carunculated beetle is really interesting with his white stripe and huge mandible. I must say I love looking at them but definitely don’t want them crawling on me.

It is not only plants in the garden that have interesting beasties visit them but this beautiful green grasshopper was in a container plant on our veranda.

It is not necessary to just kill most insects mercilessly but observe them and most of them do a lot more good for the environment than bad.

Really look at them and see their beautiful functional design and live with them as fellow travellers on this beautiful planet we live on.


Our ongoing efforts to save water are starting to bear fruit with this holding dam we built.

We have set up a whole system to use our recycled and cleaned sewage water for irrigation.

I am really proud of what we have done and hopefully in the next week it will be fully operational.

I think we will be able to save up to 30% on the water we use for irrigation.

That will be a feather in our caps.


With the rain there have been so many beautiful plants at Random Harvest. This Gardenia cornuta (Tonga Gardenia) was in full flower for about 3 weeks. White flowers glowing in the overcast weather.


Even the succulents have been enjoying the overcast weather. The Cyphostemma juttae (Namib Grape) are just dripping with beautiful large, red berrylike fruits.

When the rare and unusual Scadoxus pole-evansi (Nyanga Fireball) blooms it always reminds me of my dear friend Charles who gave it to me.


Not only is there a lot for you to enjoy here at Random Harvest but the children have lots to explore and do, which in these days they don’t get much opportunity to experience.

Hope to see the you here soon, and remember to bring the children along for the Easter Egg hunt in April.



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