Having a garden to grow our own food in can enrich our lives in many ways.
Growing fruit and vegetables increases access and consequently our intake of these food high in fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants giving you all a huge range of health benefits and reducing your risk of many lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
As a great weight bearing activity and being outside soaking up those sun rays for vitamin D you can be sure to keep your bones strong, muscles strong, limbs limber and mind happy too.
Home food gardening also greatly reduces our food miles, carbon footprint, food waste as well as the cost of food. So many pluses!
Becoming a good gardener and having a productive food garden is not something that just happens overnight. It takes many years as there is so much to think about, do and many mistakes to be made to learn from.
Learning about how food grows really helps us know what we are eating, appreciate it and even love cooking. Slow down and experience the full sensations of the garden. From the different textures and moisture of the soil, water, plants and produce to the smells and taste of it all.
For beginners, starting out with a couple of pots is a great idea to learn about plants and get in the habit of looking after plants. I like to recommend pots with water reservoirs built in and to mulch to reduce evaporation of water and nutrients, meaning more productivity and less failures.
When confident to move on, build up pot numbers and move to a bigger veggie patch or 2, start a compost, keep worms, chickens, bees or even install an aquaponics system for fish. The sky is the limit. And if you don’t have enough space joining your local community garden can be an option.
Just like our gut needs a good mix of nutrients and fibres for a good microbiota, the garden needs a good mix plants to avoid any imbalances and avoid any one pest taking over. Just like alcohol and some drugs can wipe out the good and bad guys in our gut so do herbicides and pesticides in the garden. So learning about companion planting, crop rotation, organic gardening, natural pest control and having a range of different plants and flowers helps to keep a good thriving ecosystem and a higher yield. Great flowers to grow include marigolds, nasturtium, lavender and any herbs that flower, most do.
To start with easy to grow herbs are parsley, rosemary, mint, oregano and thyme. Easy to grow vegetables are lettuce, shallot, beans including snow peas, sugar snap peas, beetroot and silverbeet which grow and can be harvested all year round, as well as tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicum, beetroot, potato, sweet potato and carrot.
If you happen to have excess produce you can take it along to your local Produce Swap- Long Jetty, Dooralong, Matcham Holgate, Woy Woy. Meet some new people and learn about what they grow and what a diverse range of foods that can be grown in your local area. Pick up someone else’s surplus harvest, seeds, plants or home-made preserves. If you don’t have anything to offer from your garden you can simply bring along some empty jars, egg cartons, baskets or even some coffee grounds from a local café with some bags or containers to distribute.
I think the best home garden meal is a salad. Salads can include more than just your standard lettuce, tomato and cucumber- try a mix of finely sliced cabbage or fennel, grated carrot and beetroot, green beans, snow peas or sugar snap peas, capsicum, corn, shallot, herbs and even edible flowers like violets and peppery nasturtiums. Add some roasted sweet potato or steamed corn on the cob, home laid chicken eggs or nuts and you have yourself the freshest, tastiest and nutritious meal you can get in town.