Over the last few months we have talked a lot about fitness and nutrition. I have given you workouts, nutrition tips and more than a few blunt truths. So how about we change pace this month and talk about a way that you can connect with nature, have a healthy hobby and one that gives you a few nutritional perks as well.
I am talking about growing your own garden. This way you grow what you want and are more inclined to eat more organically – without all the chemicals, herbicides and pesticides sprayed on your food ordinarily. And ask anyone, a tomato you grew in your own back yard tastes a hundred times better than a green harvested, shelf ripened one you purchased from a supermarket.
So what if you had never gardened before? I hadn’t either. But my Nanna’s rose garden had started to look really sad and I wanted to get it back to its glory for her. I also remember when we were looking for houses to buy, my mother always liked the houses with an established garden. It seemed like a skill worth learning.
And it is. It’s a fun way to get exercise, fresh air and sunshine. I really do work up a sweat quite quickly when I am out in the garden. What really inspired me with the gardening was growing something from seed. I put some dirt, a seed and some water in an old toilet roll and within a week I had a beautiful little sprout that became spinach that I could use in salads or on homemade pizza’s, gourmet sandwiches and other things. What a buzz! The taste is so extreme. It takes you on a holiday in your mouth!
It’s healthy, it’s a great way to exercise and the results are potentially edible and very nutritious. There are several benefits here. If you can’t be bothered watering, you can set up your grey water with just a cheap hose to go out to your garden. This way every time you do the washing your garden gets watered! All you need to do is make sure that your laundry detergent is grey water friendly.
So here is the beginners guide:
Start off slow and don’t expect the world. It takes time for your edibles to grow. Gardening can be expensive but we can also look after your pocket by using a green friendly compost bin. You can have your own compost to put in the garden which saves you a lot of money. I just picked up some horse poo off the neighbour which is great for the plants and helps grow some nice tasty food believe it or not. Just don’t think too much about the fact that horse poo has gone into this!
Plants like humans need to be fed. I realise that this can be quite expensive if you have to buy plant food and such. This is where the horse poo comes in. It is a great natural fertiliser and compost also feeds the plants over time. Both compost and horse manure attract worms which in turn oxygenate the soil and break down the compost further which promotes growth. Who would have thought something so good could come out of food scraps from your kitchen and the excrement from your neighbour’s horse.
Once you have organised your plant food, you need to set up your garden bed. First you need to find the patch that is going to be your garden, remove all the grass and turn the soil. Make sure your patch has a fair bit of sun too. While you are turning the soil, add the bad smelling stuff: the compost and the manure. Then all you have to do is plant the goods.
A good one to try and grow is radishes. You can plant them all year around and the time from seed to harvest is about three to six weeks. You can eat the bulb of the radish as well as the leaves. Bonus! Herbs are great to grow in your own yard. You can use them in your cooking and save a whole lot of money. Think about it: It costs you three to five dollars every time you buy a bunch of herbs from the supermarket and think about how much you waste. If you grow your own, you pick what you want and leave the rest to make your garden fragrant and pretty.
If you want to grow garlic you literally get a garlic bulb, break it up into its cloves and wedge them deep in the ground. In about December you will be able to harvest your own garlic. Strawberries are another thing that grows all year around. One issue that I have always had with strawberries growing on the ground is that they have to have a huge amount of straw around them to prevent them from going rotten. The way I have gotten around this, that also keeps my ground space free for other things is this: I filled a sandbag with soil and some compost and covered it in chicken wire, cut some holes to allow sun and planted my strawberries in it. I then hung it on the fence. This gives them the drainage that they like, keeps them from going rotten and keeps the slugs off.
If you start with a few things like these growing in your garden, chances are that you will get inspired and learn to grow what you love. Then you will have the perfect paddock to plate thing going on in your own back yard! No chemicals, no additives, just the tasty food that you love.
You can pick up a free seed planting guide from your local nursery which will help you out with information on what months to plant which vegetables so that they grow best. Such guides will also tell you how much sun each plant needs. This way you can get the most out of what you plant.
The big key is to give it a go! What a fantastic way to get exercise, lessen your grocery bill, get yourself a healthy hobby and eat the products of it! (AH)