Toni B. Walters

Small ToniPortraitToni B Walters is a twelfth-generation South African, frustrated farmer and kindred spirit. A qualified horticulturist and former president of the South African Herb Society, she has lectured in horticulture and soil science and is the author of Cultivating Flavour – Kitchen Gardening for Kindred Spirits, published by Lizard’s Leap Press. Not just another gardening or cook book, Cultivating Flavour focuses on growing food in an environmentally friendly way, with the minimum of time and effort. A no-fuss down-to-earth kitchen gardening manual which focuses on lifestyle and fun.

To read the story of how Toni started her own kitchen garden visit The Garden at Lizards Leap

9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by tonibw on April 9, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Dear Lise,
    I’m so glad you like the book. As to the herbs, I think the most likely problem is that they are suffering from wind burn. They have all been growing in ideal conditions at Doonholm Herb Farm, and need a bit of time to acclimatise to the much harsher climate you have in Stellenbosch. I suggest you try sheltering them from the wind with a row or two of shade sticks (see page 78 of the book) until they’ve had a chance to become a bit more established. You should also check your drainage. Yellowing and withered leaves are often indications that the plant is drowning – and watering them so lovingly every two days could be making the problem worse.
    Hope that helps. Let me know how you get on.
    With best wishes,
    Your kindred spirit


  2. Posted by Gareth Pretorius on September 17, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Hi Toni

    We’re busy doing the initial planning and planting here in Assagay and are finding your book a wonderful source of knowledge and ideas. Two questions though regarding crop rotation groupings. Firstly if carrots like a sandy, low-nitrogen soil, then how can they be companioned with plants such as spinach and chard, for example, which prefer more composted soils. Secondly, how can tomatoes and potatoes be companioned if they are meant to dislike each other?

    Thanks again!!


    • Posted by tonibw on September 18, 2009 at 6:33 am

      Great to hear from you and that you’ve started with your garden.
      Carrots are not heavy feeders and this is one of the reasons why they should follow the cabbages – the other reason being that they are so susceptible to eelworm. They do however need a lot more feeding than most people imagine – especially in our rather poor soils. When carrots become forked, produce knobbled hairy roots, and generally taste awful, the problem is eelworm and not – as is the common belief – too much nitrogen. If you want to plant carrots straight away and don’t want to wait until you’ve grown a cabbage crop first, just loosen the soil slightly, removing any big stones etc, and add well aged compost. Being that it’s new compost in a new bed you’re going to battle with weeds. (This is the other reason why carrots should follow the cabbage crop.) I suggest you wait until your first crop of weeds has germinated and turn these back into the soil before you plant your carrot seed. Carrot seed can be very slow to germinate, so it’s a very good idea to mix in some radish seed and plant radishes at the same time. The radishes will come up quickly and help to protect the carrot seeds, giving them time to germinate.
      Swiss chard, beetroots, and the other plants from Group B are plants from the same, or compatible botanic families, and share the same problems (especially eelworm) as the carrots. Swiss Chard and the leafy spinach plants enjoy some extra feeding – simply give them a top-up with compost (or an organic fertilizer like Bounce – Neutrog) every now and again. You don’t have to fertilize the whole bed and can simply concentrate on the specific plants if you want to. Any carrots growing alongside will also love it – and whilst they may grow lots of healthy leaves you’ll still get nice carrots (usually much bigger.) Remember that southern African soils are usually less than 1% organic matter (nitrogen source) whilst European and North American soils vary between 9 and 12% organic matter. If you’re reading an overseas book that tells you not to feed your carrots, it’s because they’re growing their plants in soils which are totally different to ours.
      Potatoes and Tomatoes are both the same botanic family. I confess, I’ve never tried to grow the two together in the same bed. I usually plant the potatoes separately – in a potato sculpture. Potatoes benefit from having soil mounded on top of them and this would be almost impossible to do in a raised bed where you are growing other vegetables. I think growing them alongside tomatoes – which need staking – would be a nightmare. The other problem with growing these two together would be disease. They both suffer from the same diseases. If you have a look at page 146 you’ll find I talk about plant spacing for this group. It’s not a question of tomatoes and potatoes not liking each other – it’s a management problem.


  3. Posted by Natalie Crossley on August 10, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Hi Toni

    I love your book as it is so practical and easy to understand and follow. Thanks! I think you you may know my Mother in law-Coleen Crossley from Zimbabwe? Anyway I am staring a new veg patch as we have moved and live in Assagay. I can start from the beginning again.-Very exciting!. Please can you comment on Mulching machines. Do I need a machine in order to make my own compost and mulching?. If I do can you recommend a type or specifications ie: do i need a machine that chops up soft and hard stuff and is it neccesary to chop up leaves? What should I chop up for my compost heap versus mulching. In the mean time as I do not have a machine, how small a peices should be placed in the compost heap.


    • Posted by tonibw on August 10, 2010 at 12:39 pm

      Hi Natalie,
      I’m so glad you like the book – and yes I do know Coleen. Please give her lots of love from me when next you see her.
      I’m afraid I’ve never had much luck with mulching machines: I find they’re very noisy, have a tendancy to clog up, and I couldn’t wait to get rid of the last one I had.
      The main reason for chopping up organic rubbish is to make life a little easier for all those wonderful micro-organisms that turn organic matter into compost. The smaller the pieces the quicker the organic matter breaks down. If you want your compost really fast then chop up the pieces as small as you can. I find the easiest way to chop up leaves is to spread them out and then run the lawnmower over them, but if you’re in no great hurry then just leave the micro-organisms to do their thing. The Assagay climate is wonderful for making compost and as long as you follow the instructions in the chapter on micro-organisms and compost making in the book, you’ll be amazed at how quickly it all breaks down.
      As to your question as to what to chop up for mulch and what to chop up for compost. I hate pushing wheelbarrows, so when I have organic material close to the vegetable growing areas, it gets used as mulch. If the material is closer to the compost pile – then that’s where it goes! My advice is really – keep it simple, relax and enjoy. After all, that’s what great gardens are all about.


      • Posted by Pippa on July 9, 2012 at 7:21 am

        Hi Toni – A friend of mine lent me a copy of your wonderful book which I just love and it has greatly inspired me to be a kindred spirit! I would like to purchase my own copy but am from Harare, Zimbabwe and I was wondering if it is possible for the book to be sent up to Harare and what the postal charges would be. I have tried to send 2 emails to the lizardsleap info address but both have failed to deliver hence I am now trying this!! Many thanks for your help. Kind regards Pippa

      • Posted by tonibw on July 13, 2012 at 2:19 pm

        Hi Pippa,
        I will find out what the postal charges are and see if I can send you a book.
        With best wishes,

  4. Posted by Trevor on March 10, 2016 at 12:28 am

    Hi Toni, my name is Trevor. My girlfriend and I have started a 80 metre square organic vegatable garden in Ashley Pinetown. The general garden on the property is over 30 years old with many large trees etc. We are constantly reading your book and as pensioners we have a lot of time available to be in the vegatable garden. When to plant is definately different for areas throughout SA. Our vegatable garden has a lot of partial shade. Obviously there are many pests that need to be controlled. Where are we able to buy organic pestisides in Pinetown/ Durban and can you advise us of what ones we need?


    • Hi Trevor,
      The best way to control pests is to build up a population of predator insects – and let them control the pests for you. The problem with using pesticides (even the organic ones) is that one very often kills off the beneficial insects and in the end the problem just gets worse. It may take time to use this approach, but you will be much better off in the long run. In the meantime, plant lots of aromatic herbs in containers and dot these amongst your plants. This will confuse the pests sense of smell and they won’t be able to find your delicious veggies so easily. Kind regards, Toni


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