Get out your Green Thumbs!
Over the past few weeks Kitchen Gardening, or Vegie Patches as we often refer to them, have gone to a whole new level. The beginning of the pandemic saw a flurry of seeds and seedling purchases, panic set in and people decided to grow their own food for the tough times ahead. There was an urgency that I imagine was much like the war years, when food scarcity was very real.
As a gardener I am really hoping people continue to think this way because if the world’s population explodes as predicted, we will need too. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates the world’s current 7.7 billion people consume more than 1.7 times what the earth can sustainably supply and by 2050, with an estimated 9.8 billion people on the planet we will need to produce 70% more food.
This is great news for the future of agriculture, but what can we do as individuals and families to help ourselves and the health of our planet? The answer: grow our own food and the good news is, it’s really not difficult.
Growing your own food is rewarding, affordable and a much healthier alternative to the store bought stuff that can often be transported from miles away, cold stored for weeks and by the time we eat it has lost 90% of its nutrients. At this time of year, we are planting our winter vegetables. I love all of the greens - beans, English spinach, any of the pea family. Tuscan Kale is great too, it’s part of the Brassica family, which includes broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. These three are a little trickier to grow as they are susceptible to pests, the white cabbage butterfly in particular. But essentially plant whatever you love eating.
Now what type of vegie garden do you want? There are so many options, in ground garden beds, no dig raised beds, container gardens, window box gardens, it’s really up to your own creativity and the time and space you have available. If you are going with the raised bed option, which is by far the most popular, it is really important to find the right spot with a northerly aspect. Vegies need lots of direct sunlight, and they need good quality soil to grow in. You must get this right before you plant, I CANNOT stress this enough. Your soil needs to be a rich brown colour, able to retain water and drain well. The donut test is always a good one to do to see what your soil is like. Get a handful of soil, mix water in and roll it around in your hands, it should bind together, then roll it into a sausage and see if you can make a donut shape without it breaking. If you can you have a good consistency, if it doesn’t roll into a ball and keeps falling apart it has too much sand and silt and if it’s soggy it has too much clay. To fix the problem, just add whatever is missing. Gypsum helps break up clay soils and by adding organic matter to sandy, silty soils you will build the soils structure and its ability to hold water. Doing a PH test of your spoil is also a very good idea. You don’t want it to be too acidic, or too alkaline, somewhere between 6 - 7.5 is ideal.
And if you really get into growing your own food, composting is another terrific thing to do, to reduce waste and feed your garden beds.
I recently put in a few beds and used the ‘Wicking System’, which is a style based on capillary watering, where the plants draw moisture from below. A reservoir of water exists in the base of the lined bed. Water goes into the poly pipe, and is evenly distributed through the ag-pipe.
Another interesting way is the ‘Hugelkultur System’, a German style, where you plant into a mound constructed from decaying wood debris and other compostable biomass plant materials. The idea behind both of these systems is that your plants will never dry out, drawing moisture from below and as they say “there’s no such thing as a bad gardener, just a forgetful waterer!”
But if you don’t have the space for a dedicated vegie patch, just plant a few edibles in your flower beds or in some pots around the house, herbs are always great in pots and a good place to start, but you will need to ensure they are watered regularly.
Another option is to join a community garden group. In Guyra ‘The Hub’ operates a community garden, so contact them if this is something that interests you? A great way to get together with like-minded people.
Micro greens is another terrific option, these are fast growing ‘micro’ plants that are packed full of vitamins and minerals, they are affordable and take up very little space on your window sill or kitchen bench.
So many options, so why not give it a grow………….I mean go!
Until next time,
From the ‘Girl Who Gardens’