Category Archives: Horticulture


I’m not a fan of that term (“green”), or many of the other similarly sexy marketable words , (“environmental”, “eco-friendly”, “natural”, “organic”, “sustainable”) but I understand the need for them.  There needs to be that attachment or connection to the things we produce, things we buy into, how we use, how we dispose.

I went through a lot of anguish to name this blog, the Bioagogee bit, none of those eco-anything words please.  I’m just fascinated with life in its infinite forms, literally stand amazed when I learn about something new, like glass frogs

Glass Frog


or diablos rojos (or anything from the sea actually)

aka Humboldt Squid


or monkey beetles (or any insects actually)  

Scelophysa trimeni


or when I come across something as off-centre as Synsepalum dulcificum, “Miracle Fruit”, which contains an active glycoprotein molecule called miraculin that binds to taste buds causing bitter and sour foods to taste sweet (the sugar industry in the States did not like this one bit in the ’70’s, much like cotton producers don’t like the hemp industry).

Synsepalum dulcificum


Or when I stand face to face with something, like two mongooses (not “mongeese”) within four hours of each other in two separate areas. 

Galerella pulverulenta


So I may be a hypocrite naming the green roofing company Green Sky Landscapes, but I’ll let that one slide.

Special mention must be made to Mr Terome McNally who sat and listened and reasoned and came up with ideas and shut down ideas and lit up more ideas and then I suppose just carried on doing what he was doing downstairs while Skype was still on upstairs.

Disclaimer:  All photographs were sourced online at the sites linked above.  Wait.  Except for the diablos rojos picture which was sourced at this tabloid article.  Ugh.  ]



Filed under Horticulture, Insecta

Oh my, harvest!

I harvested finally, finally, I think the whole neighbourhood exhaled when that happened.  130 days it took!  One-hundred-and-thirty, normally it takes about 68 to 110 days depending on the conditions (this is for Beta vulgaris ‘Crimson Globe’, a quicker variety) but due to various factors mine took longer.  Oh, much longer.  I could speculate that this is due to it being the height of winter and even though winter was mild we did have very cold nights.  Also the soil depth and the type of substrate must have impacted on the growth rate, and very possibly wind exposure could have stunted them too.  They turned out alright though, considering?  Deeper soil, summertime, no pressures of a research deadline… next time it’ll be in and out!

First Beet

I could have harvested a lot sooner but I needed to line up all the necessary statistical methodology for the research, as well as methodology for sampling and analysing the samples for the lab.

An interesting point about them is that they didn’t really develop a taproot but rather the roots developed adventitiously, I speculate it could be from the loose, humid, nutrient-rich substrate and the fact that the soil was at an average of 75mm depth.

Adventitious Root System

What did happen though was that the roots developed along an axis and not centrally, and one has to think about the whole process of vegetable production:  post-production, cleaning, storage etc.  It would be interesting to see how the root waste of beets such as these compare to conventionally grown beets.  The total waste off this harvest was 572g out of a total yield of 11kg.

Root Development

The point is that it works, growing vegetables in an extensive green roof system has its advantages.  Most definitely Round 2 will see deeper substrate (I was governed by student budget) and not monoculture.

The bulk of the stock went to Lola’s Restaurant on Long Street to be turned into deliciousness such as borscht, juices, salad with award-winning gorgonzola, and the leaves will be utilised too, most likely for crisps (either in the oven or in shallow oil in the pan).

I have the rest of the leaves which I will dice and freeze and will go into caramelised onion, feta and beetroot leaf quiche and quiche and quiche (easy to freeze)!

Et voila!


Filed under Green roof systems, Horticulture, Recipe, Urban agriculture

Good Hope Gardens

Halleria lucida "Tree Fuchsia"

I have been very blessed to join the team at Good Hope Gardens in Cape Point, an indigenous nursery true-to-the-word:  not necessarily Agapanthus, Tecoma, Rhus, Tulbaghias and the usual ‘monoculture’ suspects, but rarer species and many species endemic to the region.  It’s winter now so there is much demand for fynbos like Proteas, Leucodendrons and Leucospermums, some Serrurias, Phylicas and many, many Erica’s, to name a few.

So Good Hope have gone through some changes to the business and are having a Spring Day re-launching, very exciting!  The Tea Garden has the most delicious baked goods (gluten-free) and fynbos treats as well.  Here is their webpage for more information.

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Filed under Horticulture

Beta beets to beat

Beat beets

The beets, the beets!

So, we are in week 13 of Beets-on-a-Green-Roof and they are mostly quite sizeable.  Remember I am working with soil depths of about 5cm to 20cm, this beet sits at about 8cm soil depth but is breaching, most likely as it hits the surface of the roof.

Beta vulgaris in 8cm depth

Still, going to watch and wait, see what happens.  This is not the biggest, just the only one that’s bolted up.  Keep in mind it is winter in the Cape, averaging at around 7°C min temp since they were sown so it’s very slow growing.  If this was solely about leaf production I would be cooking in results!

Beet leaves and mushrooms and mustardseed and garlic

Speaking of leaf production, like I said, beet leaves are much like chard and spinach (since 2003 they have all been classified in the same family Amaranthaceae, although it is still disputed and the subfamily Chenopodioideae is also accepted), high in vitamins and nutrients and they last a long time post-harvest as long as you keep them cool and dry.  Tossed with a little bit of olive oil and garlic they are delicious, and this way they keep their colour.


Filed under Green roof systems, Horticulture, Recipe, Urban agriculture

Need help identifying…

Caterpillar unknown

Possibly Family Sphingidae “Hawk Moth” or “Sphinx Moth” ??

“The very characteristic larvae are smooth and bear a short upright horn at the end of the abdomen.”

[PICKER, M., GRIFFITHS, C. & WEAVING, A. 2004.  Field Guide to Insects of South Africa.  Cape Town:   Struik]

Getting a field guide with photographs of every insect species with egg, larvae and adult insect identification would probably mean carrying around 5kg of information.

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Filed under Horticulture, Insecta

Not too late to thin!

Not too late at all, the beets were divided 7 days ago and they are strong and healthy and growing.  Granted the sun has been out in full force and I removed the limp outer leaves and at the moment there is 100% success!

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Filed under Green roof systems, Horticulture, Research, Urban agriculture

Too late to thin???

I don’t think so.  Although I didn’t give myself a chance to take NO for an answer.  I thinned the beets out when they were perhaps a bit too old.  Ok, definitely, they were definitely too old.

Beetroot seed is known as cluster seed, meaning they contain around 3 seeds per cluster.  This means that all three generally germinate, hence the need for thinning to get that beetroot shape we’ve all become accustomed to.  This is an example of a germinate cluster seed, you can see three roots pushing out.

Germinated Cluster Seed

Leaving them too late means they’ve established themselves and the roots are nicely developed.  So I literally had to cut them out, leave the strongest and space them accordingly.

I have unfortunately not had uniform success before thinning.  There was much die-back but now I have successfully filled the space.  LOTS of beetroot left over:

The Leftovers

That’s literally half a sink-full (2 shopping bags full).  What’s great about beetroot leaves is that they can be used much the same as spinach or as salad greens.  High in Vit A and Vit C, fibre, protein, iron and calcium.  They go down great with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, in the pan or out.

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Filed under Green roof systems, Horticulture, Research, Urban agriculture