I have never been able to keep anything green alive until recently. I have killed a cactus before! So it is pretty exciting when I can go into my back garden and bring edible produce inside and to share with my friends!
WHY I WANTED TO GROW MY OWN PRODUCE
- Buying good quality produce and/or organic can be a bit pricey
- I didn't want to buy food from overseas that has been treated with chemicals to last the long distance to the grocery store near me
- I can control exactly what is put on and near my food, total peace of mind for to feed it to my family
- It’s a good activity to do with kids as I believe it's really valuable to teach them where food comes from
Before I set up my veggie patches I did a lot of research online and borrowed some brilliant books from my local library.
RESOURCES THAT HELPED ME MOST
‘Small Space Organics’ by Josh Byrne
'Organic’ by Don Burke
’1 minute gardener’ by Fabian Capomolla and Mat Pember
ABC Gardening Australia App
TIPS TO GROWNG YOUR OWN PRODUCE
SET UP A GOOD WATERING SYSTEM
This is most important as what I have learnt is that veggies and fruit (berries and the like) need a constant water supply or they don’t actually produce. I use both a wicking system (under ground reservoir) and general sprinkler reticulation system I installed myself. It simply has sprays that go on three times a week. If you are growing things in pots they need to be watered every day as pots dry out much quicker than garden beds. Put saucers under pots to collect water that drains out of the bottom and will help keep the soil moist. If you can manage it install a mini sprinkler system to your pots too. You can get ones that just attach to your garden tap if you don’t have access to your main sprinkler system. These look like hoses with either holes or little spray attachments in their sides.
WORK OUT YOUR GARDEN'S SUN POSITION
This is where the books and websites have helped me. Generally speaking though fruit and veggies need full sun to grow and produce. However given our really long hot summers in Perth, I’ve created a little structure as a way to shade my beds for the hottest parts of the year as my poor plants just weren’t surviving! I take the shade cloth down when the sun isn’t so intense again. This is a benefit of pots as you can move them around your courtyard or garden based on weather. You can also get larger pots that are on wheels and little trays with wheels to put pots on so this helps when the pot is heavy from soil and plants!
START WITH GOOD SOIL
This doesn’t have to be as complicated as it sounds, you do however need to buy a good soil to start with so consider going to a garden centre and asking for a fruit and veggie soil mix to start with. Then I added (and continue to add when I turn over the soil between planting seasons) 1) potash 2) pig manure 3) NPK and this makes the soil into super food for your plants! Mix it all up so the roots from your new plants can penetrate and grow nice and deep and water all of the mixes in so the soil is thoroughly reached.
USE A THICK MULCH
Mulch is the layer of stuff that goes on top of the soil once plants are planted to stop water evaporating out of the soil. It also protects the little plants from wind and bugs (to an extent). I use pea hay which you can buy from City Farmers for about $20 for one bag which is more than enough for my big beds! Once you’ve put it on you just water it down so it doesn’t blow away. I’ve found this has been a huge factor for watering success.
PLANT WHAT YOU WOULD BUY
Through a few seasons of trial and error I have worked out that generally what I buy regularly is what is easy to grow at home, with a few exceptions. Write a list of veggies and fruit you buy every week and give them a go! Herbs are a great addition to any garden and these are easily grown in pots to keep by the back door for easy access. They wilt quickly though so I have found these to be the most responsive to regular watering. If they do get watered regularly though you will have them forever and the taste of fresh herbs in cooking or in salads is really wonderful!
Here is what I have found easiest to grow from my shopping list:
Tomatoes (cherries & roma)
Carrots (if you don’t mind them being a bit wonky!)
Lebanese cucumbers (these need a lot of water to produce as cucumbers have a huge water content!)
Bay trees (to dry leaves and use in curries & stock)
Things that take a little longer to get going and a bit more care:
And finally another trick which I have found to be very helpful for regular produce is fertilizing with seaweed concentrate fortnightly. My plants went from fruitless to fruitful almost within a week when I started doing this! My capsicums went absolutely crazy after being just green bushes for months and months!
I buy my veggies in seedling form rather than seeds and I get them from my local markets as I need them as they are cheaper there and seem to be ‘stronger’ however it’s just as easy to buy them from Bunnings or any garden centre near you!