Author: rich1402

Food to Boost the Immune System During COVID-19 Lockdown

Food to Boost the Immune System During COVID-19 Lockdown

The recent COVID-19 (Corona Virus SARS-CoV-2) has shook the world since 2019. We here in South Africa are new victims of the virus and are currently in lockdown for 3 weeks. During this time there is still much that can be done to promote our immune systems. This maximizes our chances of fighting off infections of any sort that could be worsened with a positive diagnosis of COVID-19. There are particular ways of handling food and its preparation to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus. There are also certain organic foods we as the green community can grow and incorporate more into the food we eat.


GENERAL COVID-19 SAFETY:
Wash your hands before and after touching anything. This is important after going outside, touching your face, coughing, blowing your nose or sneezing. This includes washing with clean water and soap for at least 20 seconds. The only alternative to washing your hands is using hand sanitizer over 60 % alcohol.


PROPER FOOD SAFETY:
Apply this sanitary approach to the kitchen and home in general. Keep all areas clean and disinfected. A special mention for keeping your working surfaces clean as well as washing all fresh produce.
If you have stocked up on ready-to-eat foods for a long period, you may need to remove the meat components from these that may spoil . Refrigerate all your leftovers within 2 hours to keep from contamination and spoiling.


FOODS TO OPTIMIZE THE BODY
VITAMIN D FOODS

Vitamin D is imperative to kill pathogens causing infection but is the most vulnerable vitamin during lockdown. This is due to the fact that a big source of vitamin D is exposure to sunlight. Make sure to spend extra time outside or sitting in the sun if your living arrangements allow it. If not, increase the amount of fortified soy, almond or rice milk; mushrooms; fortified orange juice; fortified tofu and fortified cereals in your food choice during lockdown. Vitamin D deficiency linked to autoimmune issues. This is when your body’s immune system attacks itself. This is a crucial issue in the mechanism of COVID-19 so this is a big one to watch out for.


VITAMIN C FOODS
Vitamin C has always been a big priority around the “flu season” so it is no shock to find it in the list. Vitamin C is linked to white blood cells integrity and formation. These are the soldiers of the immune system. Boost the body’s natural defense force by planting and eating more Citrus fruits (limes, lemons ,oranges, naartjies) as well as berries, kiwi fruits, tomatoes, chillies and peppers and broccoli. Try hit your RDA (recommended daily allowance) as you urinate out excess vitamin C.


VITAMIN E FOODS
Vitamin E works with vitamin C to fight the effects of oxidative stress. This state occurs when the body is fighting infection and runs the risk of furthering inflammation which is a key feature of COVID-19. Boost the number of leafy green vegetables such as spinach and lettuce, nuts and vegetable oils in your food selection and garden during this lockdown.


VITAMIN A
Vitamin A is crucial in the immune system fighting COVID-19 as it protects the cellular structure of the respiratory system and the stomach. These are 2 target areas of the COVID-19 virus. Vitamin A is also crucial in the formation of antibodies to fight off the virus after infection. Leafy green vegetables, carrots, pumpkin, tofu, legumes, nuts and seeds as well as whole grain foods are each an incredible source of Vitamin A. Include these in your food choices during lockdown.

MINERALS
2 minerals in particular are key in the fight against COVID-19 during lockdown. These are iron and zinc. Iron helps to fight infection and is found in legumes, spinach, lentils, tofu, amaranth, fortified cereals and potatoes. Zinc is important in the respiratory airways as well as in helping the immune system after oxidative stress. Ingredients high in zinc to include in your lockdown food choices are chickpeas, seeds including chia and pumpkin seeds, wholemeal bread, quinoa and cashew nuts.

PROMOTING HEALTHY GUT BACTERIA
The microbes in the stomach and the microbiome in large is imperative in a healthy body. This is the environment inside your gut. The more diverse the conditions in a person’s gut, the healthier that person is. They are better armed to beat infections attacking the body during COVID-19 infection. There is research linking the microbes in the gut with the regulation of inflammation and the immune system in general. Eating a diversity of nutrient rich food and controlling your body’s PH will aid with a healthy immune system.
Plants high in fibre such as whole grains, nuts and seeds, berries, fruits and vegetables. Cut out processed junk foods and replace it with healthy fats such as coconut oil and olive oil. Natural yoghurt and yeasty drinks are amazing for supporting your gut microbes.

SUPPLEMENTS
Obviously one cannot manifest a garden full of fresh produce especially during lockdown. Get supplements of the above from your pharmacy which is still available during this lockdown. Keep an eye on your energy levels and other vitamin deficiency-related symptoms. Research them online and boost your intake of the vitamin you are deficient in.

FOODS TO AVOID
Sugar has negative affect on your immune system functioning. So be very careful in this lockdown with the amount of sugar in your daily teas and coffees which are very tempting when confined to the house.
Processed foods and junk foods deplete your body’s health. They compromise the immune system’s ability to respond to infection and stress. Avoid these in your food choices.
Food high in fat as well as red meat are quick to fry up when home all day but are very dangerous for your long-term health. They are bad for your cholesterol and blood system.

Handling the Vervet Monkey

Handling the Vervet Monkey

Vervet monkey, baby Vervet monkey

Our Durban Vervet monkey is a special creature. Cunning and smart yet desperate and running out of living space, they have often been seen as a nuisance by Durban residents. Some feel sorry for them and feed them whilst others see them as a pest and attack them. Both are poor handling techniques. Vervet monkeys, however, are not classified as “vermin” and are, in fact, protected by National and provincial conservation legislation thus making the harming of these creatures a punishable offence.

Such offenses arise as a result of the urbanisation of Durban as it has grown over the years. Houses, offices and other buildings replace the monkey habitats making it harder for them to live and feed. So, they resort to cunning tactics of breaking into homes and ransacking kitchens and gardens to get food, destroying valuable plants in your garden. So what handling techniques and tips do we have to offer?

⦁ Keep food items out of reach of the monkeys, locked in secure cupboards. Out of sight, out of mind applies here too!
⦁ Keep windows and doors closed when you are not home. You can secure mesh to the windows to allow circulation and security.
⦁ Dogs are great monkey repellants but train them to never maul or try harm them severely. You want the dogs to bark and chase them away from afar.
⦁ Leftover dog or cat food must be moved out of reach of the monkeys. Also try change up your routine for feeding the birds so that this does not become a predictable routine.
⦁ If you have small children, ensure they do not eat food outside. Vervets have a habit of trying to snatch food from women and children. Children are less capable of anticipating this danger so teach them to eat indoors and not take leftovers outside.
⦁ Use rubber snakes in accessible and visible areas as monkeys avoid snakes. Water guns and hose pipes can be used to squirt the monkeys but not soak them as they can suffer in the colder nights. Change its location or attach it to a nylon string to not allow the snake to be perceived as dead.
⦁ Sensor sirens work too when they are set off by movement within the proximity. Tins tied by string at intervals performs a similar function.
⦁ Never take on a Vervet head on. They are not aggressive unless threatened or cornered. Stay facing them and wave a towel or stick above your head if they try stand their ground. Do not attack them though. Rather have a man do this as they sometimes challenge women. A small piece of hose pipe with holes being swung above your head makes a noise that scares them too.
⦁ Spray your crops with a chilli, tobacco or curry solution to repel them from your garden plants. Use netting and transparent boxes over your plants to prevent them being torn up.
⦁ Secure lids on your rubbish bins and you can spray Jeyes drain fluid around it to deter the monkeys.
⦁ You can lubricate cables or telephone wires or cover them with a movable piece of PVC to deter monkeys from accessing your house from these locations.
⦁ DO NOT use pellet guns or cattys as these harm monkeys. A broken bone or cut to a monkey can be life or death in their lives. It may only seem like a superficial wound to us, but their lives suffer more than we can anticipate.
⦁ DO NOT feed them or allow them any association with food and your house or living area.

While they may present themselves as a nuisance, it is a result of our civilization that has pushed them to these extents. BeeGreen is working on projects that will keep the monkeys healthy but far away from residents- training them somewhat to leave resident’s homes alone. We aim to optimise monkey handling techniques and tips. There is a balance between drawing firm boundaries with them but treating them humanely.

Winter, the Spring in Disguise

Winter, the Spring in Disguise

I always see people lose their green momentum when Autumn hits and Summer ends. They see the Spring crops wither, giving their last offerings and assume wrongly that the time for growth is over. Do not miss this great opportunity!

 

There are many plants that thrive in the Durban Winter. Most of these are intolerant to the harsh spells of heat, wind and storms that come with Spring and Summer. Now is their time to find comfortable root and flourish. Begin by ensuring the same parameters that you do in preparing for spring: mix beds of dying plants with rich compost and organic matter, fertiliser (especially those for rooting strength such as bonemeal) and turn thoroughly with a pitchfork- bringing bottom layers of soil to the surface.

 

If you have a BeeGreen Worm Farm, add in your worm castings and worm pee to this! Once turned, water thoroughly. Once you have watered, I always recommend immediately mulching the moist ground with dried leaves or other organic material that will not seed (see the blog on mulching for more information).

 

Next, pick your plant varieties carefully- bearing in mind which will need the sunny spots (which will be scarce during winter) and which prefer the shadier spots. Also pay attention to which plants work well together and which should not be planted in close proximity. Most of the root vegetables such as carrots, beetroots, sweet and normal potatoes, radishes and turnips do well in winter. The Asian greens, lettuces and spinaches (the leafy green crops) as well as your Brassicas including kale, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli enjoy the milder climates. Legumes such as peas and beans will also do well if they are prepared with supports or trellises. Finally, winter squashes will do well but should not be too close to more sensitive plants as they have a habit of taking over rapidly- draining the water and stealing sunlight from other plants.

 

Winter also will see many plants such as grape vines and fig trees lose all their foliage- this is heartbreaking to the new gardener, but the BeeGreen community knows better: this is the ideal time to do your pruning on your summer plants and trees while they are not fruiting. Look up the specific plant pruning tips as these vary from species to species.

 

As you can see the gardener should be as busy as they are in the more hotter months. There is a great deal of work to do and when done thoroughly, the gardener will ensure a rich harvest whilst also keeping the soil active and rich for when the Spring returns! Provide a sanctuary for your local wildlife in these harsher months and you will see them reward you with pollination and pest control.

Caring for your Worm Farm

Caring for your Worm Farm

The BeeGreen Worm farms make use of the eisenia fetida worm or commonly called the red wriggler worm or red worm. These worms primarily feast on decaying matter and break it down into worm castings and worm pee.

 

 

The worm castings look like a very loose, moist version of compost that can be used in a similar way to compost: mix it into your soil beds and turn thoroughly for humus-rich soil. This is taken from the bottommost containers of your worm farm when all of the containers are too full to put more organic waste. At this point majority, if not all, of your worms will have migrated to the higher containers in pursuit of more organic matter. The bottom container is purely worm castings. Remove this container and mix with your soil. Keep the other containers in the same order but place the now-empty container on top of the stack as you fill this with organic material. To ensure your worms are out- place the full container on top of another container and vibrate it constantly- the worms will seek to move out the base of the vibrating container to avoid the disruption.

 

The tap at the base of the bin should be drained when you hear swishing at the base upon moving the worm farm. Drain this into a vessel you have at home such as a 2 litre bottle etc. This worm pee is an extremely powerful organic fertiliser that provides a massive boost to the growth of any plant it is brought into contact with. Simply pour a little worm pee above the root system of your plant.

 

The worms pretty much thrive by themselves as long as they are provided with organic material. You can ensure they get a stronger foundation by providing them with bedding. This is achieved by tearing up newspaper (only black and white ink as colour ink is toxic to the worms) or cardboard or eggboxes, soaking them in water and wringing out excess water (to avoid drowning the worms). Sprinkle coarse soil over this as the toothless worms use the soil to grind their food down and finally layer this evenly along the bottom of your container. Place your worms onto this and add your organic waste on top until it is full. Once the container is full, place the next container on top of this and repeat the process. It is not essential to provide bedding but it is recommended.

 

  • The worms cannot be in the sun at all! Keep them in an area that is permanently shaded and out of the heat.
  • Whilst the worms like organic decaying matter, do not put in material that has begun to grow mould, or put too much organic material that the worms cannot digest it all before it becomes mouldy. You need to constantly moderate your input by how much they are going through. If you are smelling bad odours from your worm farm, this is an indication that mouldy material should be removed.
  • The worms do not do well with acid-based waste such as citrusfruits, onions, tomatoes, garlic , meat and dairy products. These can alternatively be put into a compost heap.
  • If there are any other bugs in there, try remove them by hand and cover any holes they may be getting into. If there are too many bugs or flies in there, you may need to bury your worms and compost to get rid of them and restart a new worm farm. The worms will continue living in your garden whilst the flies will die.
  • They take roughly 45-90 days to double their population if the ideal conditions are provided.

This is the best way to transform your organic waste into something that will make your garden thrive and flourish. Contact us on info@beegreen.co.za for more information on purchasing our range of worm farms or any troubleshooting you may need.

Feed Nature and Feed Yourself

Feed Nature and Feed Yourself

Some gardeners put all their efforts into good soil and planting techniques. Whilst this is a crucial foundation point, nature itself is still a very necessary component in your garden’s success. We at BeeGreen have (through our products and assessments) promote the feeding of birds, bees, bats (for the brave), butterflies and other pollinators in the garden. This encourages them to visit your garden frequently through different shelter and feeding opportunities.

 

How does this help your garden? Well, a garden bustling with pollinators is one that seeds easily! Pollinators collect or feed off pollen which sticks to them, thus spreading to female flowers and fertilising them when the same pollinators come into contact with such flowers. This allows even more opportunity for seeding as opposed to just being dependant on the wind to carry the pollen.

 

We also encourage a very healthy soil using our worm farms and compost bins to promote good worms in the soil. This ensures that organic matter is always broken down and your soil remains more loamy and well-drained through the worms loosening your soil up. The more earthworms in your soil, the better the soil conditions.

 

Finally we encourage predators such as birds, praying mantises, ladybugs and others into the garden as they prey on pests such as termites, ants, aphids, slugs, snails etc. By educating oneself of the difference between desirable and undesirable garden life, one can regulate which creatures are removed from the garden and which are left and encouraged to remain in the garden. This information can be found through our articles and insights at the BeeGreen community.

Spring Conditions in Durban

We all wait with baited breath for the Spring to return to our country. Yet, this is also a time as dangerous as it is beneficial for the garden. Durban sees many volatile swings in weather over a short space of time especially over the months spanning September- December.

 

Howling winds, scorching afternoons and heavy showers are a danger for the newly planted garden. The winds dry out the plants and increase water loss. New saplings are especially vulnerable yet placing a coffee jar with the container covering the sapling helps in extremely windy patches. Watering plants that have been exposed to extremely high temperatures and winds also helps to reduce damage to the plant although this should always be done when coolest- in the morning or the evening after a hot windy day.

 

Finally, storms have been getting more intense in Durban as seen by the effects of phenomena like Hurricane Sifiso in 2017. These threaten to flood soil and kill your plants through root rot. Address this by draining flooded pots or placing sensitive plants like new saplings under cover or, merely placing an umbrella over them- just ensure the umbrella can not be blown around and further damage your plants.

 

If there is any other concerns during this time of Spring, get hold of your eco-community leaders on info@beegreen.co.za and we will always help where we can. We even help rehabilitate damaged plants. You can also sign up to our community where you can be notified ahead of time of any extreme weather.

 

Overall,  keep an eye on the weather forecasts, time your watering schedule carefully and look to protect vulnerable plants during the Spring season to see full abundance during this time of growth and new life.

Agapanthus in Spring bloom

The Importance of Mulching in Durban

Durban sees many extremes in temperature with daily fluctuations in rain or extreme heat. This can take its toll on your plants, especially those with sensitive watering needs. If you find your plants drying up too quickly or you cannot keep up with watering often enough, then try mulching.

 

Mulching in gardening refers to layering a thick blanket of dried organic matter such as leaves or sticks over your soil- allowing only your plants to be exposed and none of the soil (ensure that your material does not have any seeds of any weeds that may sprout in your favourite beds). Water does not evaporate as easily underneath this layer which ultimately means that your soil retains water more efficiently. Your soil also traps heat better when mulched well which allows a more optimal soil temperature. Finally, your plant will find it easier to grow through the leaves than shallow rooted weeds which are prevented from obtaining the sunlight they need underneath the layer of mulching. This is a great strategy during hot spells.

 

In rainy spells, however, you must ensure your mulch does not trap so much water that your plants’ roots become waterlogged which often leads to root rot and the plant dying. In rainy spells, monitor your mulching and adjust to allow for evaporation if the soil seems too damp. Remove some of the mulch in areas that are more sensitive to waterlogged soil- thus exposing the soil to the sun and allowing water to evaporate out.

 

Pioneer Sustainability

Did you know?

We at BeeGreen are more than merely a gardening service- we are a growing community that pioneers the growth of our Durban ecosystem. It is only through the coming together of other great gardening minds within our community that our success will be ensured. This space is reserved for all community activities which will eventually include:

– the garden teas in the garden of the month

– wine and beer making events

– rural township volunteering in starting up school vegetable gardens and clubs

– farmer’s markets

If you wish to be some of the first within in this community please stay in the loop by signing up for our quarterly newsletter.