Growing your own food, no matter how small your little urban “farm” may be is a great way to connect yourself with the food chain. It’s certainly got me up off the couch and into the great outdoors…of my balcony!
1. The first thing to do is understand how much sun your plant growing spot is going to get each day. I’m lucky that my balcony faces due-North and we get hours of directly sunlight everyday. This is the ideal situation for plants and I can grow pretty much anything (except for mushrooms as they LOVE dark). People with shady growing areas will still be able to grow things – you’ll just be a bit limited. Mr Google can help you out here – but as an example parsley and mint are quite partial to a bit of shade.
2. I know this sounds kind of obvious but grow things that you like to eat and cook with. Somehow I’ve ended up with an ENORMOUS thyme bush on my balcony...and a rather large rosemary bush too. They look wonderful and smellsamazing but I really don’t have any idea of what to do with all that thyme/rosemary other than offload it onto my neighbour who loves cooking with it.
3. You need to be aware that most herbs and veggies are seasonal - they won’t grow all year round as they either like it hot or cool or somewhere in between. After shopping in ColesWorth for most of my adult life I never really understood this properly until I started to garden. In these big supermarkets I can lay my hot little hands on anything I want whenever I want and now, as a “gardener”, I finally understand that a lot of these herbs, fruits and veggies are imported or they sit in cold storage for months just wanting to be wheeled out to unsuspecting shoppers like moi. This is a useful tool for the best time to plant your goodies.
4. I grow things from seed packets rather than buying seedlings as it’s cheaper. This is entirely personal…I prefer to spend my money on eating out rather than buying pricey, half grown pots of herbs. For me half the fun is planting out my seeds and seeing what pops up and what just…fails. That said I could NOT grow rosemary from seed (or sage as I couldn't find any seeds) so I caved and bought myself a nice seedling to kick things off.
5. Use a good quality potting mix. The stuff from the supermarket doesn’t come with a lot of “good stuff” in it so I buy my (organic) potting mix from Bunnings or a garden centre. Be careful with potting mix…it has micro-organisms in it that are harmful if you breath them in. I always wear gloves and a face mask when I’m using potting mix. It’s not sexy, but hey it’s safe.
6. Remember to feed your plants regularly as they will quickly gobble up the nutrients that came in the potting mix. Every week or two I add some liquid Seasol to my watering can. I also occasionally do the same thing with a bit of Dynamic Lifter as it has different “goodies” to the Seasol so I figure it cannot hurt. Ask your garden centre for their recommendations which is what I did. So far, so good.
7. Finally just have fun. Things will die or they’ll get scoffed by caterpillars or other nasties but don’t give up – try again. Mother Nature can be a real shocker sometimes but hey, that’s gardening for you!
Miss Piggy xox