If the intermittent rain, sun and pollen-fuelled wind is anything to go by, Spring has definitely sprung in Sydney. Everywhere you go, whether it's supermarkets, hardware stores or florists, it seems everyone is in the business of the garden right now...so why not try growing some of your own food?
There's a heap of vegetables and fruit that grows really quickly and without much help in our temperate weather and not living in a house with a backyard isn't an excuse. There are plenty of ways to grow herbs, fruit and veg on your balcony or on a window sill, so unless you live in a shoebox (and even then, you can grow mushrooms from DIY kits), there's really no excuse.
Rather than buying plastic bags of gourmet leaves from the supermarket (packaging = bad), why not grow a few salad greens, so you can snip what you need to and when.
You can buy lettuce seedlings from most garden shops at this time of the year, but they're completely foolproof for first time growers to do it from seed. Just follow the instructions on the back of the seed packet, water regularly and keep out of constant, direct sunlight.
Sorrell and rocket are also really easy to grow and even respond well to getting a regular haircut to keep them healthy.
Radishes are again, a no brainer seed-to-harvest vegetable. Simply go to your local garden shop or hardware store and buy a packet of seedling trays, some organic soil and off you go.
Strawberries love heaps of sun and are super hardy plants to grow, too.
Tomatoes: here's the thing. You don't need to grow them in the ground and tie them to stakes. Try planting them in hanging baskets, either by punching a hole in the bottom and threading the seedling through the bottom. That way you can grow a companion plant on the top soil and both share the water.
Companion plants and organic pest control
With plants come pests, but they're not hard to control. Plants like marigolds are not only pretty, but hated by aphids and other mites and pests that live in the soil. Plant them near crops like chives to deter aphids from sucking the life out of your delicious herbs.
If you do feel the need to spray, you can buy organic neem oil, which is non-toxic and fine to use on edible gardens. The oil come from pressing the seeds of the Neem tree - native to India and the rest of the subcontinent, it's been used for thousands of years as an ayurvedic medicine and is also a natural insecticide. Put a few drops in a spray gun with water, shake it up and spray every second or third day to get rid of everything from leaf mites on citrus trees to aphids and other tiny beasties.
Here's a great article about setting up your own self-sustainable balcony garden.
A list of plants that make great mates in the garden (companion planting 101)
And another thing:
Tomorrow, Saturday, 16 October marks the 30th annual World Food Day. This
year’s theme, ‘United against Hunger’, recognises global efforts in the fight against hunger and emphasises that the task of achieving food security is something everyone can, and should, be involved in.
Click here to find out how you can help.