Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Starting a Vegetable Garden

I've set myself a goal this year to set up a vegetable / fruit garden. For us to grow our own food organically.

It's always been important for me to move away from mainstream products that use chemicals and for us as a family to try and consume less, and over the years I've switched my skin care and cleaning products, and I've been making some of my own food items such as: lemon butter, lemon cordial, lemon verbena tea, lemon sorbet, pickled olives, chilli sauce, Italian herb mix, marmalade (we call larmalade because we make it with lemons), dolma, parsley pesto... but I want to be more self sufficient.

It would be nice to be able to trust that the food we're purchasing from large supermarket chains is not sprayed with synthetic pesticides and fertilizers (synthesized from oil to replace the soils natural recycling process), or that companies tell the truth when they claim these chemicals aren't bad for us and aren't killing off the bees. Yet, with debacles like tobacco, asbestos, copper IUD, the first female contraceptive pill etc. it is easy to mistrust companies that tell us these things are 'safe'.
The good news is Australia have the highest amount of organically grown produce in the world, so yay us!

when to plant and harvest
The first step has been to determine the types of foods we want to grown and eat so I sat down with my children and asked them to list some foods they think we should grow. They were even suggesting foods they don't like, because I like them.

The second step has been to determine when to plant and when to harvest, and what plants need in terms of nutrients, because up til now I've not know the first thing about any of this. I purchased the book The Australian Fruit & Vegetable Garden which has been a great reference for when to plant for my climate and how long produce takes to ripen and when it should be harvested. Also how to prune and grow the plants.

The third step will be building and creating spaces to put the fruit and vegetables. My garden is not huge, we live on a small block of land (the new Australian norm) and most of my garden is already taken up with natives. So space will be a challenge. The good news is most of the boundary along the east wall (that gets the most sun) is bare.

The list we've come up with so far is:

broccoli    brussells    garlic    onion*    potato*    spring onion*    cabbage    carrot    cauliflower    lettuce    corn    cucumber    sunflour    tomato    zucchini    capsicum    chilli*    rockmelon    watermelon    basil    chives    coriander     pumpkin*    beans    apples    apricots     figs    almonds    blueberry    peppermint (for tea)    passion fruit    sage (mine died)    prickly pear*    herbs* [rosemary, oregano, lavender, curry, bay, thyme, fennel, parsley, spearmint, Thai mint (laska leaves), lemon grass]   lemons*    olives*    grapes*    capers    coffee beans*    cherries*    lemon verbena*    avocado

*already growing (though not necessarily successfully)

Plus a handful of flowers that attract bees and other insects that protect fruit and vegetables from insects that eat the plants such as: marigold and Queen Anne's lace, chamomile, daisies, poppies*...

It won't happen over night, I'll have to purchase plants, soil and pots in dribs and drabs because it won't be cheap or simple setting all this up. The plan of action is to purchase a handful of seeds and fruit trees that are ready to plant now, that I have the space for already, and grow the garden from there, adding plants as I go.

Hopefully by this time next year I will have a successful vegetable garden and of course I'll keep you posted on the progress.

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