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‘Chaos is more fun’ – Durban resident shares her gardening journey

With her YouTube channel titled 'Chaotic Gardener', Diedre Riedlinger says you can have fun while learning about plants, vegetables and nature.

WITH the rising cost of food and the uncertainty of the environment and world around us, food could become scarce, too expensive and perhaps even unattainable, said a Durban resident who started gardening to grow her own food.

Diedre Riedlinger said growing your own food definitely has multiple benefits.

Caxton Local Media spoke to Riedlinger about her gardening journey and how you can start a garden.


Rainbow carrots.

Also read: Project launches garden at school in KwaXimba

She said growing your own food means that you know the conditions it was grown in, and therefore, you know that no harmful chemicals were used; the fruits and vegetables just seem to taste better than they do from the grocery store.

As an educator, Riedlinger said she knows the importance of fun while learning.


“I ensure that I have as much fun as possible while learning about plants, vegetables and nature. There is, of course, the added benefit of getting your hands dirty, digging in the earth and healing your heart and your soul,” said the head of the Foundation Phase at St Benedict School.


How it all started?

The mother and wife said she started gardening during Covid-19 when the world seemed to be on pause.

“The fear of not having access to food became a thought that resonated with me. It was a bit dramatic (maybe), but it ignited a new hobby, joy and passion.

How she learnt about gardening:

Wanting to accelerate her learning, she followed a few garden and homesteading channels on YouTube and eventually started her own YouTube channel. “While I am by no means a professional gardener, I find such joy in gardening, and this love permeates all that I do, even the non-gardening moments.”



Chilled-out chaos is more fun than perfection:

Riedlinger said she does not follow all the guidelines, and she tends to be a bit chaotic in her approach, thus the title of her channel, ‘Chaotic Gardener’.

“For example, if I need compost and I have a planter standing free, I will take the compost from there and fill that up again when I can. I fully believe in making a plan based on what you have at your disposal – who has time for perfection? Chaos is far more fun!”

She said growing vegetables could become overwhelming and expensive if you buy into the theory that you have to have everything perfect from the beginning. “I have changed my garden layout and design since I first began, and I always have tons of ideas on how to improve it further.

Fun for the whole family:

“Gardening is definitely fun when you can include your entire family. If you have young children, getting them involved in the process of sowing seeds, caring for them and watching them grow, and finally harvesting the fruits of their labour, is a process that is mindful and therapeutic and provides an environment for constant learning without your children feeling like they are being spoonfed information that doesn’t always make sense. While working in the garden, they are learning through what they are doing.


Snap peas.

“Gardening is just like playing, and just because we are grown up, why should we have to stop playing? If you garden, you get to dig and get dirty, you get to plant and watch something you nurture grow, and then you get to harvest (the most satisfying part) and then prepare a wonderful healthy meal to share with your loved ones; I am not sure what is more fun than that.

“Grow different varieties and colours of vegetables – it is amazing how many different varieties of each vegetable there are. Adding insect hotels and designing fun and interesting rooms within your garden can also be fun. Imagine making a teepee tent with runner beans and having afternoon picnics inside,” she said.

Gardening teaches patience and perseverance:

Gardening takes time, though, and you may not get it right the first time, and Riedlinger’s advice is to never give up. “Don’t be hard on yourself; just try again; each time, you learn a valuable new lesson that can be applied, and eventually, it will work out. I often think gardening is a reflection of life; life is often difficult. We can either choose to give up and walk away or we can keep trying, learn something new about every situation and grow, then apply it to a different situation, and eventually, we will find our way.



She said she’d wished she’d known the three easiest things to grow in the garden. “Pros on the YouTube channels I watch all say tomatoes. I, however, am yet to have success with those. I have found that I have quite a bit of success with beans – green, yellow and purple beans; peas – garden peas and snap peas; butternut, and eggplants – these are probably my most successful crops. I do enjoy growing cauliflower and broccoli, though, but they need a lot of care so they do not get eaten by bugs.”

Don’t overthink it.

Her motto is ‘do not overthink’. “If you want to start a garden, grab a container, make a bed with bricks or rocks lying around and get planting. I started with one seed from a single Sweet Pepper I bought at the vegetable shop, and now, my front garden has nine garden beds made from a variety of materials.

And yes, I am still thinking of ways to make it bigger and better, still failing forward and having fun. Garden, grow and be happy.

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