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Urban Gardening – Tips and Tricks to Grow your own Food

There isn’t a food in this world that tastes better than one fresh from the ground. Better still if that plant is yours and that plant is at your place!

Not only is this a better and more delicious way for you to eat, it is better for our environment; your food contains less chemicals and travels less distance to reach your plate; it is also kinder on your bank balance.

Need 1/4 bunch mint for a recipe and forgot to buy it from the produce store on the weekend?

No problem. Pop outside to your backyard, balcony or window-sill and cut off what you need from your own garden.

Do you want to be able to do that?

I know that I did and other than some pathetic attempts at growing herbs over the years, had never succeeded, until now. As a lover of plants, I have lovingly tended to my favourite species, Yucca, for almost 6 years now and it has thrived despite the extreme conditions on our balcony. The fact that it is a desert plant may have a little to do with it..

The gorgeous frangipani that I received as a beautiful gift 4 years ago is also doing very well, flowering for the first time this summer!

In full bloom

In full bloom

For the Christmas just gone, both Tippy and I received plants from our families as gifts (awesome!) and around the same time a friend and follower of this blog had posted photos of her home grown goodies. Cosmic timing….

On New Years Day this year, our balcony became a pseudo-garden and Tippy; Don Burke (for our international followers google this Australian icon). 

Rocket, varieties of lettuce, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, chilli and loads of herbs!

Herbs appeared less on the shopping list and varieties that we often overlook, used more frequently, it was all around awesome.

Because of the aforementioned extreme conditions on our balcony, not all of these survived, however most did and I can tell you that the taste and joy from eating our first strawberry, sprigs of rosemary as well as our first tomatoes, felt incredible.

Even better tasting than they look!

Even better tasting than they look!

I figured if with our tiny space and often hurricane-like conditions, we could grow food then anyone could!

Whether you are an urban gardener or otherwise, here are my Tips and Tricks to Grow your own Food….

Start off with herbs as they are generally speaking hardier plants and require less care and knowledge than vegetables. It is also totally OK to only start with a few types.

Look for semi-grown plants as planting seeds will take more time and more care.

Buy what you use and don’t feel like you “should” have rosemary because someone told you they do. Just like when you go grocery shopping, buy what you like and what you will use. Forget the other types.

Pay attention to their basic requirements and this can be easily done at the nursery that you buy the plants from. Talk to an expert or read the tags that come with the plant and look as to whether your home can provide such conditions. Ideal for potting, needs full sun, keep moist etc…

Group into care level when planting as this will make maintenance a whole lot easier. For example plant all herbs that require full sun together either in separate pots or a larger planter box.

Plant with good quality and appropriate soil as this slightly increased investment is absolutely worth it and again do your research or talk to the professionals when buying your plants. This time around we purchased specific herb and vegetable soil with all kinds of gross-sounding (and fertile) ingredients.

Water your plants once the sun has gone down and try not to drown them. Don’t worry, we all have done this before. Even when a plant calls for moist conditions, this should never be drowned and a traditional watering can with holes in the spout will help you control the water flow

Trim back and gift to other people. Herbs require trimming so if you can’t use your herbs then trim them and pass them on. Mother Nature rewards generosity and will help your plant grow even more afterwards.

Trim them, tie them and give them away.

Trim them, tie them and give them away.

For those of you perhaps with a little more space than my tiny balcony or wanting to grow other types of food, I reached out to my newly green-thumbed friend Mel who was kind enough to share her thoughts on the subject…

  • What spurred on your desire to grow your own produce?

The garden was inspired by lots of reasons – I try to eat most organic, which can be expensive, but I am also passionate about the environment and hate to think about the amount of resources – storage, transportation and the like that goes into our food.

  • What have you planted?

A good mix of herbs and vegetables for winter (when I started out last year).

I re-planted for Spring and I think due to a combination of rain and heat – everything did so well! First was lots of green beans – these are really quick and easy to grow from seed. For a couple of weeks I was picking handfuls for dinner every night. The biggest success has been the mini Roma tomatoes – all through December/January I would pick a handful of them everyday. I also had black Russian tomatoes – really big and juicy, fairytale eggplants (mini, they are cute), rockmelons – which took a long time – and the vine grew massive – not sure I would bother with them again. I also planted cucumbers and radishes, but they never came through. Herbs are all year round – I have plenty of mint, parsley, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme and basil – I actually have too many herbs to eat and have been giving them away.

  • What kind of space do you have?

My backyard is about 5m by 6m – my garden bed is 2m by about 60cm.If you can, it is better to plant in soil, rather than a pot or self contained bed, as the minerals from the dirt will move through.Apparently the soil gets better with time too, and becomes more fertile as more things have grown in it.

  • How did it feel the first time that you grew and ate something?

Everything tastes really fresh – I remember when I ate one of the first green beans, I was thinking this is the best green bean I have ever eaten!

photo

  • Green thumb tips for us?

You learn a lot as you go – which is really fun.

It’s really low maintenance – I water it almost everyday, pull out a few weeds and then on the weekend I might spend 20mins tidying it up. I’ve haven’t used fertilisers much at all, and it’s been fine.

Plant your herbs on the outside edge of the garden bed, because they are not seasonal.

  • Do you still love your garden?

Yes! It’s a lovely experience and my boyfriend Johnny says I have vegetables instead of a dog, I love watching them grow and change so quickly. The natural experience of getting your hands dirty and spending 5 mins with the plants everyday before work is pretty special as well.

Johnny has been inspired to plant a veggie garden as a project with his Year 5 class this year and more school’s are starting to do this which is fantastic. I was completely ignorant to the process of bees having to pollinate a flower for anything to even grow which makes you appreciate more where your food comes from; kids learning this first-hand is pretty cool.

You can check out Mel’s garden and haul here.

Thanks for the insight Mel and how inspired are you to get planting now!!

What do you most want to grow in your own garden?

Nadia xx

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