Tuesday, 8 April 2014

A-Z Simple Living: G = Gardening

Those of you who have followed my blog from the very beginning know that I was not an avid gardener. I used to be when I first moved here....I loved spending my weekends out in the gardens with the kids. I did grow a few vegetables but nothing really of note. I didn't fertilise or prepare the soil, we just planted some seedlings every now and then and hoped for the best. I stopped gardening after our third year of floods. It just seemed so useless if everything was going to get ruined by being underwater for a few days at a time. That's not to say that the floods wreck everything...some plants thrive in it but it just made it difficult to plan when and where to plant to avoid the risk. Plus, I was angry at my home, and lost the motivation to look after it.

I am so glad that I changed my focus and mindset about my property because my appreciation for it is renewed by what it is giving back to me. This post is inspired by the readers who have asked me where and how to start. This is a summary of the steps I first took..and I am certainly no expert :)

1. Start Small 

If you have a habit of neglecting pot plants (I am famous for it...and burning pots) then don't rush into producing a market garden overnight. Start off with something small, like some herb pots. My husband gave me these one day...and I have always kept them full of fresh herbs for cooking. They sit on my verandah just outside the kitchen. Tomatoes also grow well in pots, you just need to water them more as the moisture evaporates easily.

When you are ready to step up to a garden bed, make it a small one that is accessible to water, and concentrate on just this one for your first growing season. This is a before photo of my water tank garden which is right next to my house...and easy to maintain and weed.

2. Prepare Your Soil

Every gardener will always tell you this is the most important thing to do. I bought a soil test kit so that I could see whether my soil was alkaline or acid, and fortunately it is neutral which makes it good for growing most things. Look online to determine what you need to do to get your soil right first. Then, fertilise before planting with cow manure or blood and bone, or compost, mixed into the soil. Your vegetables will have a better chance if this is done right to start off with.

3. Compost

I am not a diligent composter but I did manage to get a couple of barrow loads to mix in with my soil for this season. I add grass clippings, food scraps, paper shredding, soot from our camp fire and leaves on a regular basis and just turn it over every so often. Here is the link to a great youtube video that explains it all :) How to make Compost.

3. Mulch

This is very important for keeping out weeds, and keeping the moisture in the soil. Layer it thickly and water it in before planting.

4. Research

Not everything will grow well in your area, or in any given season. I assumed that if the hardware store sold a particular seedling then it was suited for the season but that's not the case. Gardening Australia have planting guides for all areas of Australia and I am now sticking with those.

5. Start with Seedlings

My Spring garden consisted mainly of seedlings purchased from the markets. The Zucchini plant above was grown by seed. I am planting only seeds and my own seedlings at the moment, but it has been a bit hit and miss with the heavy rains so, to make an easy start....just plant seedlings.

6. Water

It's not rocket science that plants need water, some more than others. Beans for example don't like too much watering....they thrive on neglect. How you water is also important as how often. In the hot summer months I watered every morning before work to keep my garden going. With the rain we have been having lately I am only watering every few days. Plants with large leaves like the Zucchini need to be watered from underneath, not on the top of the leaves...I found out the hard way when my plants were not producing. It is trial and error but there is a ton of information online.

6. Pest Control

There will always be bugs and some of them, I have found out, are beneficial...like some beetles who prey on aphids and scale. I am only learning about this now, but I did find that my silverbeet was very prone to bugs, so I just sprayed it with a watered down chili and garlic mixture...and they left them alone. You don't have to use chemicals to treat your pests.

7. Top up fertlise

Once your plants are on their way, fertilise regularly with a liquid fertiliser. I buy a milk carton full of worm liquid from the markets for $3 and dilute it with water to fertilise with, and it works really well on everything.

So, these are only basic tips and you can find out so much more from the experts. The main thing is to give it a go, and as you have more success you may find the bug gets you...it is a rather addictive hobby :)

Do you grow your own produce? What tips would you add to the above list?

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