Winter Challenge 2018 – it was a challenge indeed!

Winter is a time when things slow down. This season is usually seen as a time of preparation for spring and summer.

Homeschoolers, however, are a different breed. They are used to doing things differently – to think outside the box. As a matter of fact, they will only use the box if it serves a practical purpose and enable them to learn and grow! It is therefore not surprising that they jumped at the chance to take on the Winter Challenge put to them by Durandt’s Heirloom Seeds.

They were asked to grow broccoli, cauliflower, peas and swiss chard. Sounds easy enough hey? But as with everything in life, things are seldom as easy as it seems. They had to facilitate and manage the whole growing process from seed germination to harvesting the veggies for consumption.

The enthusiasm with which the teams took on the challenge was inspiring. We loved the fact that the whole family got involved. Team Badenhorst and Team Du Plessis took their planning very seriously.

One of the criteria used to determine the winner of the challenge, was soil preparation. This turned out to be a challenge in itself. Our teams are from all across South Africa and as such they were faced with different soil conditions. Once again the teams rallied and adapted. Team Bornman were not fazed by the rocky soil on their farm. They used old truck tyres as planters and horse manure to build up the soil.

Earthworms were also used to ensure that the soil stays healthy and aerated. Team Ashwell found some earthworms in their garden refuge and relocated these handy helpers to their veggie boxes. Finding useful resources in unexpected places, is one of the reasons why organic vegetable gardening is so much fun!

Some of the teams had to contend with drought and water shortages. This meant that they had to manage their water usage carefully. Mulching was used as a way to hold in soil moisture and protect their vegetables from drying out quickly. Team Ashwell and Team Maree fashioned their own drip irrigation systems. Team Ashwell made holes in 2-litre plastic bottles and “planted” them in the veggie boxes. Team Maree lined the inside of old tyres with thin plastic pipes, connected to a tap. The holes in the pipes allowed just enough water through to prevent over-watering.

Innovative ideas and solutions were definitely not in short supply.

In an effort to start seed germination whilst using water wisely, Team Koen used a germination jar. You need a glass bottle with a lid that seals properly and an organza bag. Put crushed egg shells in the bag, followed by compost and add lukewarm water from the kettle. Plant the seeds in the bag, put the bag in the bottle and put the lid on. The bag must not touch the water at the bottom of the jar. When the seedling is ready, it can easily be transplanted without disturbing the roots.

In other parts of the country, the rain just wouldn’t not stop! Team Strauss tried their best to get their veggie garden dry enough to start planting. They dug trenches to speed up water drainage and used straw and cardboard boxes to build a veggie patch.

Team Allen also took up the challenge with enthusiasm and even “imported” an expert from Zimbabwe to give them some guidance.

Excitement was high when the teams shared photos of their first seedlings. Every effort were made to keep things organised. The seedling trays were labelled and Skye from Team Ashwell made tags herself and even laminated it.

Team Botha were blessed with a good crop of seedlings, which, I am sure motivated them to keep going.

The planting stage brought with it its own set of challenges like curious farm animals and pesky monkeys!

Team van Schalkwyk had to battle a massive snail infestation and they came up with interesting solutions. First they tried beer traps, complete with a lettuce leaf ramp to lure the unsuspecting snails to their death. The traps were not really successful (seems like the snails are picky drinkers!) so they tried strong coffee! I don’t know if the coffee yielded any results, but Team van Schalkwyk was so determined to win the Great Snail War that they even resorted to biological warfare! They rescued a couple of slug eaters (duberia lutrix) from the dairy and relocated them to the vegetable garden. So glad I am not a snail in Team van Schalkwyk’s veggie garden!

There is no denying it – the Winter Challenge was tough, but through it all the teams were undaunted and remained focused. Some beautiful produce were grown and a lot of valuable lessons learnt.

It wasn’t easy to decide on a winner, because all the teams excelled in some way. The judges from Durandt’s Heirloom Seeds narrowed it down to the three best teams determined by set criteria and then could not reach a consensus on first and second place. In the end we asked two independent judges to settle the matter. They were:

  • Marisa Haasbroek from the United States, she is a homeschool specialist and the owner of http://www.oolfant.com a valuable homeschooling resource.
  • Jane Griffiths, a well-known and respected author in the gardening fraternity.

 

One of Jane’s books, Jane’s Delicious Garden was the main prize up for grabs (sponsored by 10yo Durandt himself). Jane was so kind to sponsor a year’s subscription to Janes Delicious Garden Planner.

Ladies, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to become part of our journey!

Even Marisa and Jane were divided about which team won. In the end, we placed those two names in a hat and drew a winner. The final results were:

  • First Place – Team Bornman
  • Second Place – Team Ashwell
  • Third Place – Team Maree

Dürandt and the rest of the team from Durandt’s Heirloom Seeds, would like to congratulate, not only these three teams, but also all the other teams who took part in the challenge. Your enthusiasm and perseverance will continue to inspire us.

So what’s next?

Our next challenge entry is HATCH-A-PUMPKIN-PATCH and entries close 15 September 2018. We have 3 categories: 1) Homeschoolers/Unschoolers 2) Cottage Schools 3) Organic Gardeners. Category 1 and 2 can go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/homeschoolheirloomgardeners/ for more information, Category 3 can visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/1623929750991066/?fb_dtsg_ag=AdyZ5fTl8cebJp3mIiDY_b1iIqGUMREdPt7_N_82AiNZGQ%3AAdy66DSxtcqzc2uWXZYqCfB0MTG9VbPmUDRWQK1Jc5SI_g

Hope you join us in this exiting challenge!

Keep sowing and growing friends!