Posts written by farmeradmin

5 Essential Flu Fighting Herbs

As the temperatures plummet across the country, after an unusually warm autumn on the highveld, we may be in for a cold winter…and with it the inevitable colds and flu.

We thought we would give you a heads up on some tried and tested natural herbal methods to boost the immune system and fight off the winter chill. Should the flu bug bite, these herbs brewed as soothing teas will help to take the edge off!

thyme_pic Thyme
Thyme has long been known as an expectorant, that is it makes your cough more productive and help to clear the lungs faster. Keep a supply of thyme essential oil or dried thyme on hand for a soothing steam bath. Add a handfull of dried Thyme or a few drops of essential oil to bowl of hot water, cover your head with a tea towel, inhaling the steam to loosen your chest.


Licorice Root
containing a compound called glycyrrhizin that has been found to have pretty potent antiviral effects. A number of studies have found that licorice-root extracts can fight off the flu, including strains of the avian flu virus. In Ayurvedic medicine, licorice root is used as an expectorant.


Garlic boosts the health of your immune system, and a number of studies have found that regular doses of garlic are able to ward off viruses like the flu and various strains of the common cold. For the sake of people who have to talk to you, garlic supplements are probably the kindest way to go. But you can also get the same benefits by chewing on a clove of garlic once a day for prevention, or twice a day to get over a cold or flu. Mince a clove of garlic into some honey if the flavour is too overpowering for you.


According to the Journal of the National Medical Association, there is evidence that echinacea could prevent colds and flus if taken in conjunction with garlic supplements. It is best to take a supplement containing 1000 milligrams three times a day.


Elderberry Extract

Another botanical that helps you cope with cold and flu symptoms is elder, also known as black elder. The extract of elderberries has been tested repeatedly and found to shorten the duration of symptoms by as much as 4 days, and the extract has been found effective at fighting up to 10 strains of flu virus. Nearly all of the scientific studies conducted on elderberry have used a commercial product called Sambucol, which is available as a liquid supplement.

Organic Principles: Companion Planting

Companion planting (Allelopathy) is defined as the planting of different crops in proximity for pest control, pollination, providing habitat for beneficial creatures, maximising use of space, and to otherwise increase crop productivity.

The use of companion planting systems in organic gardens have a number of benefits:

Hedged investment – diversity in the space mitigates the risk of one crop failing.
Increased level interaction – when crops are grown on different levels in the same space, providing ground cover, or once crop acting as the trellis for another, increasing the yield within the space.
Protection & shelter – one crop may serve as a wind break, or provide shade to another.
Pest control – many companion plants help prevent pest insects or pathogenic fungi from damaging the crop, mainly through chemical means.
Predator recruitment/positive hosting – where companion plants produce abundant nectar or pollen that encourage higher populations of beneficial predatory insects that in turn control pests. Many beneficial insects only consume pests in their larval form and nectar/pollen in their adult form.
Trap cropping – some companion plants do their job by attracting pests away from others.
Pattern disruption – in a monoculture system, pests spread easily and rapidly through the crop, while this spread can be disrupted by plants of a different type.

It can however act in the opposite direction, with certain plants becoming detrimental to another plants growth. These varieties have the opposite effect, and should be avoided.

A comprehensive table of companion and detrimental plants is provided below:

Companion & Detrimental Crop Table

Urban Farms Tech: Part 1 the Greenhouse

As an introduction to the Urban Farms concept, in the next couple of posts we will be introducing and exploring the technologies we are investing in on the farm and providing an insight into the environmental benefits of these technologies.

We will start at the top with our greenhouse and the technologies we are adopting.

Greenhouse Drawing

Why chose to grow produce in a greenhouse?

Our greenhouse uses computer controlled roof-vents, reflective solar screen, energy-efficient circulation fans and humidity systems to provide the ultimate naturally ventilated growing space for our herbs and lettuce crop. The computer used inputs from an external weather station as well as sensors inside the growing space to provide optimum conditions for healthy plant growth.

In order to optimize production, the following environmental factors need to be controlled in the greenhouse:
Temperature: optimized by using the roof vents to expel warm air during hot conditions, using the screen to reflect excessive light from the growing area to reduce temperature or to trap warmer air in the growing area during colder conditions.
Humidity: controlled by re-circulating air and controlling humidity using fans and humidifiers in addition to bringing in fresh air via the roof vents.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2): our urban environment actually helps as the higher levels of CO2 in the city provide optimal conditions for photosynthesis.
Light: required for photosynthesis and optimal plant growth, our Highveld light conditions are exceptional for year round production. During the mid-day period on sunny days, our reflective solar screen will reduce the intensity of the light to an optimal level when deployed.

These factors are optimized by controlling / managing the air volume within the growing area. Due to the efficiency of these systems and controls, the greenhouse enables the year round production of sensitive crops. Providing Urban Farms with the ability to drastically reduce the carbon footprint of crops like basil, parsley and rocket that are in demand at our clients restaurants all year round.

What’s Integrated Pest Management?

The controlled environment of the greenhouse in addition provides opportunities for us to implement integrated pest management (IPM) systems to eliminate the use of all pesticides from our production cycle. IPM is simply the release of “good” bugs into the greenhouse to control pests. For example we will use beautiful ladybugs to control aphids within the greenhouse environment. IPM in combination with a sterile farm environment has been proven to be highly effective in eliminating pest problems.

By ensuring an optimal growing environment for our crops and IPM controls; Urban Farms is able to grow the highest quality produce, with no pesticide use, in the city right on our customer’s doorstep.

The benefits of the greenhouse environment for our customers include:
• a greatly reduced carbon footprint (90% less)
• maximum freshness and highest possible nutritional content (delivery on the day of harvest)

In our next article we will cover the systems implemented on our rooftop Urban Farms factors to optimize the final 2 factors for optimal food production:
• Moisture
• Nutrition

2014 Food Trends

Rainbow Chard
Kicking off 2014 with some research into the leading food trends for both the restaurant and retail environment for 2014, it is enlightening to see the rise of local, nutritious and sustainable food as the outright leader.

The food world is changing, driven by the influence of celebrity chefs, food channels and shows like Masterchef, kitchens are becoming the heart of modern homes and more people enjoying cooking and entertaining. Along with this increased interest in food, health trends have cast a bright spotlight on what, when and how we eat.

The greatest trend for 2014 is the rise of local, nutritious and sustainable food.

The US National Restaurant Association’s annual culinary forecast is dominated by sustainability in 2014, with chef’s indicating locally sourced meat and fresh produce are at the top of the list. Not far behind was environmental sustainability, healthy meals for kids and gluten-free foods. Revealing that today’s consumers are more interested than ever before in what they eat and where their food comes from.
Interestingly when chefs were asked to predict the top menu trends for the next decade, environmental sustainability was their top pick. It is extremely heartening to think that this trend is here to stay rather than being a fad, as ultimately consumer demand has the greatest power to change the way things are done in the food industry.

In addition to the restaurant business, local produce supply is also the top forecast trend for the consumer market. With IBM’s annual “5 in 5” prediction report indicating that buying local will beat online retail as the next big market force. We are already witnessing this movement in the “food stories” becoming part of the retailers display, with pictures of farmers beside their happy and healthy produce or livestock, fresh organic greens and sustainable farming methods being heavily marketed.
At Urban Farms these market forces galvanize our efforts to revolutionise the way that South Africans consume and produce food. This fundamental change in food supply is only sustainable if driven by customers demanding to know where and how their food is produced. This focus on the agricultural economy is returning some power to the farmers that have witnessed the decline of their industry over the past few decades. The increased value of traditional farming methods (organic), care and pride in what they produce may wrestle the power from large agri-business or even better get them to rethink their production methods. At Urban Farms we are passionate about bringing consumers closer to the food they eat as well as to where it is produced.

2014 will see the construction of our groundbreaking farm on the rooftop at Access City in the Maboneng Precinct of Johannesburg’s CBD and the start of fulfilling on our mission to; “grow food where people live, and grow it more sustainably”. This means adopting technologies that provide the most water efficient production of nutrient rich fresh greens and herbs, utilizing integrated pest management solutions to eliminate the use of any pesticides, and doing all of this on our customer’s doorstep to remove all refrigeration and the majority of transportation from our produce supply chain. Delivering to local customers on the day of harvest the highest quality, naturally grown produce with the lowest possible carbon footprint.

Here’s to 2014……….and the birth of South Africa’s first commercial rooftop Urban Farm.
Micro Greens