Forget about the price of petrol and sugar by walking more and eating less. Put on your gardening gloves and grow a waterwise garden or some spinach. When we live simple lives, we are happier and healthier – and so is our environment” (Chat e-newsletter, January 2017).

Gardenening enthusiasts will tell you that pretty pots and containers for your garden cost a packet. But veggies don’t mind whether their container is fancy. Convert old items you don’t have any use for any longer into plant containers. Old shoes, tins, glass bottles and plastic soft drink bottles of all shapes and sizes can be painted to serve as containers for smaller plants. These can be attached to a wall to make a vertical or horizontal garden. An old tractor tyre, filled with garden soil and painted in a light colour to prevent it from getting too hot in summer, will be an ideal container for bigger plants. It is therapeutic to create your own food garden – what joy to watch your own seedlings grow! Some useful tips:

Save water – install a water tank in your garden.

Plant lucerne or spinach to combat weeds. It also prevents erosion and protects plants from heat and the sun. Garlic plants will keep insects away from spinach and tomatoes – it does, however, inhibit the growth of beans and peas.

Plant legumes such as peas and beans to increase the nitrogen content of the soil.

Broken egg shells are a good source of calcium and keep snails away – especially useful when sprinkled around cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

Use dry leaves and pieces of bark as mulch around your plants – it keeps the soil moist.

(Abrie Burger, Rapport Beleef, 22 January 2017).

Here are a number of tips to help us all to celebrate a “greener” Christmas.

Sustainable wrapping: Buy fabric shopping bags at your local store or craft market.

Charity: Clean out your cupboards and give to the needy.

Green Christmas tree option: Buy an indigenous tree to decorate, and then plant it outside in January.

Choose handmade and homemade: Create your own gift tags/Christmas cards from last year’s cards or calenders.

Energy-efficient lighting: Replace your light strands with newer LED bulbs and install a timer to save electricity and avoid overheating.

Ornaments: Wood, metal or cloth are natural substances and will last longer than plastic or thin glass.

Shop local: Buy South African products instead of imported products.

Give “battery free” gifts: Discarded batteries are an environmental hazard.

Connect with nature: Get outdoors! Decorate a tree for the birds – place seed bells, suet, pine cones with peanut butter and seed trays on any tree in your garden. (Chat Newsletter, Holiday Edition, 2016-12).

We should all save water – it is our duty! Below are some handy tips for saving water. You may think that you’ve heard about these tips over and over again, but maybe we just need a little reminder.

Monitor your usage. A family of four can easily use less than 25Kl per month.
Repair water leaks. During the drought it is easy to see patches of green grass where water may be leaking underground.
Use a water saving shower head – less than R100 from most hardware stores. Shorten your shower by a minute or two and turn the flow rate down.
If you are replacing household appliances, look for ones that save electricity and water. Before running washing machines and dish washers, fill them up. You can collect the used washing machine/bath/shower water in a bucket and water your garden with it.
Turn the tap off when you aren’t using water while brushing teeth or washing hands. Liquid hand soaps also use less water than bar soaps.
Use a broom instead of a hose pipe for cleaning driveways and paths. Wash your car less often and use a bucket.
Drinking water actually saves water. Most cold drinks and other beverages use many litres of water to produce just one bottle or can. Bottled water is a waste when you are at home. Consider installing a water filtration system, but avoid reverse osmosis systems, as they waste a lot of water.
Keep a bucket at hand in the bathroom and kitchen. While you are running hot water and waiting for it to heat up, collect the water and re-use it. You can also use bath or shower water to flush toilets.
Collecting rain water can be simple and cost effective, using a dustbin and plumbing fittings. Plans are freely available on the Internet, or ask your local hardware store for some advice. (Chat Newsletter, Watersaving Edition, 2016-11-07).

For washing day

Mix 3 table spoons of vinegar, 2 table spoons of washing powder and 4 cups of warm water to make your own stain remover for clothes. Rub the mixture into the stain and wash like normal. Get rid of ink stains by spraying these with hair spray before washing. If you think a new garment will stain other clothing, soak it in a few cups of vinegar for about 10 minutes.

Cooking tip

If you have too little chutney, mix two parts apricot jam with one part Worcester sauce as a (Vrouekeur, 4 April 2014).

Clean your matress

Sprinkle bicarbonate of soda on your matress and leave for about two hours. Then vacuum clean the matress to give it a nice fresh smell (

Do you struggle to open a bottle?

Wrap a rubber band around the lid to get a better grip (Vrouekeur, 11 April 2014).

An indigenous, water wise garden will enhance your envrionment and is environmentally friendly. Six steps to follow, if you wish to establish your own water wise garden:

Rezone your garden: Take plants with similar water needs and plant them together. Plant some indigenous trees with deep root systems to create shade.
Mulching is the answer: It prevents evaporation, keeps weeds out and moisture in. Popular mulching options include biodegradable items, such as grass cuttings, wood shavings, bark, decomposed animal droppigns and garden compost. Non-living options include among others broken stones, small rocks and gravel. You van also do “xeriscaping” – this gardening technique focuses on saving water, by planting drought resistant, slow growing plants that will thrive under your local climate conditions.
Soil quality: Add organic material, such as compost and other decomposed plant material to your soil to keep moisture in. And make sure that some earth worms are living in your garden to improve your soil quality.
Your lawn: Decrease your massive lawn by replacing some sections with ground covers or other interesting water wise landscaping methods. It is better to mow your lawn more often than to mow it irregularly and more severe.
Water correctly: It is possible to “teach” your plants to be water wise, by watering them less often – this will encourage deeper root growth and make your plants more drought resistant. Water before 09:00 in the mornings and after 18:00 in the evenings, and avoid windy days.
Plant indigenous: Remove exotic plants and replace them with indigenous plants. Note, however, that not all indigenous plant species are necessarily water wise. Ask the experts at your local nursery for advice.

A self-made detergent to clean just about anything

Mix 1kg washing powder, 1 bottle of dishwashing liquid and 1 cup of spirits in a 5L can and fill up with water. Dilute a little bit of the mixture with water, and start cleaning. It lasts a long time and cleans beautifully (

Trick with tooth paste

Rub the paste on wood with water marks with a soft cloth. Then wipe with a moist cloth.

Tips with corn flour (Maizena)

Put corn flour on oil stains on material and leave for about 12 hours. Remove and wash as usual. Sprinkle corn flour on your carpet and vacuum after about half an hour. Apply corn flour to soft toys. Leave for half an hour and brush off. Put corn flour on oil stains on leather and leave overnight. Brush off the next day. After having polished your wooden furniture, sprinkle some corn flour and rub it in. This will make the wood shine. If you have too little scrambled eggs, stir in 12,5 ml of corn flour while cooking to make it more (Vrouekeur, 6 June & 29 August 2014).

Tips with salt

If you make a mess in the oven or on the stove, sprinkle salt (while still in liquid form). Wipe when cooled down. Soak a cloth in saline water and use as a dust cloth. Add one table spoon of salt to 3,5 litres of water to clean your floors.

Burned pans?

Pour some saline water in the pan. Bring to the boil. The burnt layer will come off.

Uses for paraffin

Mix one cup of paraffin with 5 litres of water or mix equal amounts of bleach and vinegar to get rid of stubborn marks on windows. Add a little paraffin to the water you use to clean the tiles in your kitchen and bathroom. This will keep insects away (