I didn’t want to garden yesterday. I was tired, I could see everything growing well, what was the point! Well, the point was that if we want to eat food from our backyard everyday, we need to put the work in to make it happen. So I employed one of my many mind tactics to get myself to the place I needed to be. I told myself it wasn’t work, I was securing our future food. That did it, I was back in action. I really love gardening, but there are days, I’m sure you all have them, when I can’t be bothered. However, if we want food from our garden, we need to give it constant care. Oh, it will produce vegetables with a minimum of work, but it won’t fulfil its potential. Prime quality vegetables need work.
If you’re not prepared, or unable, to give it the time it needs, your garden will probably be a disappointment to you. If you're just starting out, small steps are essential. Make sure you've got the time and energy to look after the garden you plant. Start small and add to it each year. And make sure you build up your soil with organic matter each year as well. Adding compost and worm castings, or allowing straw mulch to break down into the garden each year, will add to your garden's fertility. It's much easier to get good results from fertile soil.
Menu plan and work out what you enjoy eating and then plant according to your tastes, not what’s currently in fashion. Make sure that you, or someone in your family, will eat every single thing that is planted in the vegetable garden. A productive vegetable garden can be a very beautiful thing but if you plant for anything other than eating what you grow, you might as well be growing flowers. And on that note, grow flowers - things like nasturtiums, yarrow, Queen Anne's Lace will not only look beautiful but will also attract beneficial insects to your garden. Bees, world-wide, are in trouble and need all the help we can give them. A healthy and productive vegetable garden in their foraging area might be just the help they need in your area.
You need to be thinking about how to manage your crops to get the best from them. Check what is ready to pick right now and plan for what should be picked soon. This is a constant juggling act. What to eat fresh and what to preserve for later? We had some freshly picked silverbeet last night for dinner but there is still a lot out there. Hanno will pick some of it today to go into the freezer. That will keep some in the garden for picking later in the week and allow the plants to put on new growth after the leaves have been picked. We'll have a continuing supply of fresh young leaves instead of allowing the leaves to grow old, and then pick them. If you have a long growing season, don't forget to sow your follow up seeds so you have a non-stop supply of veggies.
Plant heirloom seeds, not the general type of every-day seeds that you can buy in the supermarket. If you’re going to the trouble of planting, watering, fertilising and weeding, you need to get something special out of it. If you plant the same tomatoes that you buy at the supermarket, you just get fresh supermarket tomatoes. If you plant something like a Brandywine, a German Johnson or a Oxheart, you get a tomato you’ll remember for a long time.
Supplement what is in your stockpile with what is fresh in the garden. That way you end up with excellent nutritious food at the lowest price. Stir fried vegetables with rice, spicy pumpkin soup with hot bread, vegetable and barley soup with herb dumplings, semi-dried tomato and spinach tart, roast pumpkin risotto and colcannon and salmon rissoles are all favourites in our home.
Above all else, enjoy your time in the garden. Enjoy being the provider of food and nourishment for your family and yourself. Enjoy being an independent spirit. Don't let others dictate what you eat. If you have a liking for Darwin lettuce, Turk's Turban pumpkin, Lazy Housewife beans, black tomatoes, organic oranges or whatever else, grow them yourself instead of hoping you'll see them in a shop. Most of the things commonly grown in a backyard would never be sold in a shop and if they were, they'd be very expensive. Being independent will mean you will grow what you like to eat, when you want to eat it and you'll put it on your plate for a fraction of the cost that top quality organic produce would cost you at the supermarket or farmers market.