One of my oldest goals in life was to grow my own food. Looking back now I can’t believe it took me over 40 years to realise when it really is so simple. Food has never tasted so good, the connection to my garden is profound and of course the money you save on organic produce enormous! There are so many benefits that I hadn’t considered either including sharing the produce with your friends and neighbours, preserving and bottling for ‘off-season’ months, and the joy of watching my son sitting inside our veggie patch picking fresh peas and eating them to his heart’s content.
It really is so simple to grow your own food. We fortunately have a decent size block but much can also be grown in pots in a small space. A few key things I have learned about growing food; a minimum of 6 hours of full sun, high-quality soil, regular watering, and mulch. And that’s pretty much it.
Let’s start with the soil. If you don’t make your own compost you’ll have to buy some to boost your garden soil. A bag of organic compost is under $5 for 25L. Mix this in well with your garden soil, I use a garden fork to break it up, making sure first there are no weeds or grass. In a pot, it’s even simpler. Our veggie patch is 16m2 so I ordered my organic compost by the metre and had it delivered from my local nursery. It’s much cheaper this way if you need bulk. Mix the compost in with your soil and rake over so it’s nice and flat. Aim to leave it a couple of weeks before you start planting your seeds to let the bugs settle in.
If you haven’t already decided what to grow visit your local nursery and talk to the staff about what’s in season. Starting out I had no idea what to plant, and what would grow well next to each other (companion planting). Grow what you enjoy eating because you’ll be producing a lot of it! We started with summer veggies and herbs; tomatoes, capsicum, chilies, basil, mint, parsley, dill and zucchini. Each of these besides the zucchini can be easily grown in pots… the zucchini needs ample space as it grows on a vine.
If planting in the ground, follow the recommended spacing on the tags and mulch around the base of the plant leaving a little space as to not touch the plants’ stem. I find sugar cane mulch is best as it breaks down and provides the soil with extra nutrients. It’s also quite cheap and can be spread over a large area.
Then the waiting game beings. The herbs usually grow fast and can be used within weeks of planting. I love that I can go into my garden anytime and pick fresh herbs. My son at age 3 can also identify every herb and vegetable in our garden which I find remarkable so it’s become his job! Growing our own food has taught us many valuable lessons of less waste as we nurture each plant and get excited by the smallest changes. Knowing the origins of our food and the fact that no nasty pesticides are used, living with the seasons, the joy of eating fresh healthy food straight from the garden and the flavour of real food is something difficult to describe. Not to mention the benefits of growing your own food on the environment… Ahhhh. The first summer ripened tomatoes are so sweet and delightful straight off the plant!
I’d encourage everyone to grow some of their own food, start small with a few things you like and before long you’ll be building large veggie beds as we did and growing heirloom seeds and enjoying an amazing bounty wondering why you didn’t start sooner!