We have seen an amazing increase in people opting for food gardening in the last few years. There are several good reasons for people making this decision, for example:
- Growing your own food allows you to control what goes into them. This allows you to provide safer, healthier food for your family that you can be certain of.
- With the cost of food, especially fresh produce, increasing year on year, growing your own food allows you to make considerable savings.
- It doesn’t get any fresher than home-grown edibles. This is not only much healthier than produce that has been refrigerated for weeks but you are also guaranteed of tomatoes that taste like tomatoes, and not saline.
- Growing your own food is a great way to maintain a bond with nature, an aspect that is severely lacking from our modern lifestyles.
With so many benefits to growing your own food, make this the year you start feeding yourself and your family with healthy home-grown food. Here are some guidelines for getting your food garden going with a bang:
In the herb garden
- Herbs work great in pots or containers. This makes it easier to harvest or move around.
- Rather plant herbs that go to seed quickly, such coriander and rocket, in semi-shade. This will lengthen the time that you are able to harvest from them.
- There is a world of difference between fresh and dried herbs. After using fresh herbs and spices in your cooking and baking, you will be far less inclined to stockpile commercially bought herbs and spices.
- This leads me to another benefit of growing your own herbs and spices, and pretty much any kind of food. If you are harvesting more than you can use, preserving your own food makes a fun and money saving hobby, and there are few things more satisfying than sharing this with friends and family. This is also an excellent way to teach children useful skills that do not involve an app or computer screen.
- Herbs such as rosemary, thyme and sage are extremely water wise. Come to think of it, most of the herbs that come from the arid Mediterranean region are water wise.
A new way to look at tomatoes
- This year we have a marvellous selection of heirloom tomatoes in different colours and shapes. These tomatoes are the old originals that have been passed on from generation to generation because of superior characteristics such as better taste or rare, striking colours and shapes.
- You will be surprised at the amazing taste of these unusual tomatoes, which will astound dinner guests. If you ever fantasised about playing the star in your own Master Chef show, begin with heirlooms…
- My own experience with growing heirlooms has shattered my preconceived perceptions that hybrid varieties are superior. Heirlooms grow just as well, if not better, in many cases.
Turn up the heat with chillies
- This year we have chillies to suit everyone’s taste, from spicy paprika to scorching habaneros. Chillies also don’t need much water – let the soil dry out between waterings.
- Consider planting your chillies in pots or containers. This will allow you to overwinter them in a protected area. After winter, prune them back to encourage new growth.
- Feed your chillies with a plant food for flowering plants – this will ensure that you get a bumper crop.
Grow your own fruit this summer
- With gardens getting smaller, one would’ve thought that fruit trees would become less popular. Luckily we have found the exact opposite to be true.
- Fruit trees can double up as a lovely shade tree for smaller gardens. As most fruit trees are deciduous they will still allow sunlight through.
- Think of planting them in pots – this will help keep them compact. Some fruit trees such as lemons will fruit better when root-bound.
- Another idea is to grow your fruit tree up against a wall. This method is termed espalier and is a great way to utilise those barren walls we surround ourselves with. Have a look at the video below.
Water-wise your edible garden
- Group your water hungry veggies such as lettuce and spinach together to make watering easier.
- Mulching is the most effective way to prevent moisture from evaporating and getting our plants through the dry weather.
- Water your plants early in the morning – this will keep your plants moist during the day when they need it and prevent any fungal diseases from starting.
There is no better time to get started on your veggie and food garden with the variety and quality of edibles available at the moment. Food gardening is also an excellent opportunity to involve the whole family. Each member can even have their own patch. Remember, the sooner you plant, the sooner you will be able to harvest and share.