Thought I’d write up on several discussions I’ve had the past couple of weeks from friends, family and clients about trying to get something edible planted in their garden.
Most have said that they have no idea where to begin and some are curious about what else they can plant at this time of year!
Well, happy to share some thoughts and tips to keep the spirit of giving going especially in these scary times.
Hope you get inspired and try some of these out! 🙂
Let's tackle the why ...
Personally I believe that everyone needs some greens in their lives.
You see, I have a farming gene embedded deep in my soul and despite living in really urban areas in Malaysia, I grew up with in a family that still “farmed” to a degree. We all had busy lives, mum and dad both went to work 7 days a week, us kids went to school (had NO social life but to study etc LOL) but there was a strong innate bond with the outdoors just get out into the garden and see what’s happening.
The downside was maybe that you’ll get “stuck” outdoors for a while but you know what, you’re
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probably all the better for it. You may have come across a fascinating glittery insect or local bird, a flower you haven’t noticed before, harvested something, had some exercise, some fresh air and cleared your mind!
OK – I digress.
The point I’m trying to make is that there has been a large shift, over the last couple of years, towards being self reliant, food wise, at home AND also reaping the added health benefits as mentioned above.
With what’s been happening lately, I’m sure that you may have had that niggling thought that maybe you should give your vege patch a go or maybe a better try? Maybe even to reconnect with “past family or cultural habits” that seem to have lost their way in our modern lives?
Alternatively, think of it as your little experiment and you’ll enjoy seeing something grow and that you will eventually enjoy it all cooked up?! 🙂
So where and how to begin ...
You may be thinking OK it’s sort of too late isn’t it as it’s already autumn.
The thing is that there’s always something that you can plant at any point of time during the year.
For me personally, I stick with the ones I use in my cooking and that my family loves.
You don’t have to have a huge patch/backyard or tackle this as a huge exercise. Start small and grow as your interests and experience grows.
If you have a large backyard, then great. Plan it such that you can fully utilise that space and make it work for other (non-gardening) activities in the garden. Make sure that you build up lot of organic matter in the soil profile – that is KEY to your growing success.
If you want to build a vegetable patch, source the right materials. It can be an “eco-material” of some form, UV stabilised plastic, metal or wood. But please research them properly as various products have chemicals etc that may leach into the soil profile. There are providers out there with materials that don’t leach and honestly worth every single cent.
Building a vegetable patch needs to consider what you plant in it (to ensure there’s enough growing room) and also how to make sure, over time, that the soil profile remains OK for planting. Research crop rotation especially if you’re planting things like tomatoes and potatoes, for example.
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Also another tip is that you need to ensure that it’s at the right height for you and for your edibles to reach the sunlight.
If you live in a high rise and want a balcony garden, then the KEY thing to remember growing (most) edibles is that you also need plenty of sun.
Pots are a good way to achieve the height you need and you can combine it with a large and stable trellised structure/teepee. Basically, you need to make sure that you’re giving your edibles enough time in the sun for them to grow and to remain healthy (and disease free).
The other key thing to remember for high rises are – sufficient irrigation AND that the pots are light weight.
Self watering pots are ok – as long as the rootball reaches the water level. Many people forget to factor this in 🙂
Pots are also an effective way to increase the growing area in your home garden. You just to make sure that they are the right size and type for what you need. Mint and other strong root herbs need really strong pots (they are known to break them!) and you definitely need a huge pot for dwarf fruit trees!
Trellises can be made of anything – old branches that are tied together, plastic rods, metal, wood etc. Basically anything that will function to let your plants grow up and support them.
So make them strong and use ones that right for the plant you are growing. For example, vines are generally “heavy” so make sure that you have something that will take its eventual weight!
If you have any other surface areas such as unused fences, clothesline etc – why don’t you turn that into a edible garden spot?
My mum turned her clothesline into a massive trellis for growing 2 types of gourds. She lives by herself and she doesn’t need that much room so she just toyed with the idea that was immensely successful for her and the bonus is she’s entertained by butterflies and little birds that love her vine as she looks out her kitchen window!
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So what edibles would bear you something now. What else is worth growing? ...
OK – weather wise, we are losing heat (but there is till enough) and we are headed towards colder times.
So my personal go to plants for this weather period are – nasturtiums, leeks, peas, kale, broad beans, asian greens (buk choy), fennel or spinach to name a few. The spinach I stand by (although yes it’s an acquired taste), is warrigal greens (pictured). It’s got oxalates in it so you need to blanche it in hot water first to get rid of it. It’s a super hardy plant and I’m able to harvest it even in winter!
I have friends who grow other brassica’s (like cauliflower and broccoli) and they do amazing things for them but I’ve had really bad luck with them from an aphid infestation perspective so I tend to steer away even though they are a staple in our diet at home! Give it a try though and it if works for you then hats off to you!! 🙂
Aside from the list above, I love my perennials and grow many flowers in my vege patch as I find lots of beneficial insects getting attracted to them. Some of my perennials have a second flush in autumn so I really love the view of my vege patch in autumn when all other plants seem to be dropping their leaves and slowing down. If you’d like to plant some, you can now but be ready for a small growth spurt and then nothing till spring starts again. Prune off all the older growth and then you’ll have a fresh plant to grow and reward you with prettyness in spring and summer! Something to look forward to also, beyond just these few colder months!
Citrus – I LOVE them and it’s one of the best things to look forward to towards winter. I have heaps of varieties including a unique native lime that has red fruit. Yes, you read that right. A lovely maroon red fruit. Another one I’d recommend is the Indian guava and figs. Figs are ok in large pots too and able to be kept small.
Also, before I forget to mention, Autumn is also when I find that it’s a good time to propagate perennials and also get ready for some bare rooted stock planting in June. So now you’ve got a couple of months to prepare your soil with plenty of organic matter (including compost).
If you’re after a more comprehensive list of what to plant that suits you personally, check out the link further below that has a useful guide.
So please do Explore and Experiment!!! 🙂
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