Growing your own food can be as rewarding as it is healthy and cost effective. With some time, effort and googling, just about anyone can grow their own food. Even if you live in a tiny apartment, so long as you have a corridor that gets a decent amount of natural light and windows, you can easily plant some tomatoes, chilli, onions, garlic, lettuce, micro greens and herbs in pots or planters.
But if you are one of the lucky ones with a garden, the sky is literally the limit! Be sure to read this article and do some research before you embark on your food planting adventure, just to ensure that your first attempt will be a success.
Be Sure To Interplant
Encouraging biodiversity is the most important thing you can do for your plants. Mixing plant varieties helps to support the overall health and productivity of any plant and will yield better produce for longer. One of the most common interplanting methods is known as the “three sisters”—corn, beans, and squash, which grow better together. Here’s why: Corn takes a lot of soil resources and is very tall; beans are nitrogen fixers, which help combat the pull of the corn; and the ground-crawling squash benefits from nitrogen fixation of the beans, as well as the tall corn blocking some sun during the day.
Having a full row of plants ranging from tall to ground crawling helps to suppress weeds and reduce maintenance. You can also plant some carrots in a row with the three sisters, helping to break up the soil, along with some herbs and flowers like marigolds for pest management.
You Are Not Watering Your Crop Correctly
Most people water too often, going out every day and running a hose for a few minutes—but this can cause lots of problems. For one, it leads plants to keep their roots shallow, looking for that little bit of water every day, training them to need that and more as the weather gets hotter. Instead, water your garden every four to five days for a longer period of time. This will help your plants to develop deeper root systems that will be better adapted to hotter weather. If you are worried your plants do not have enough water, dig down a little. The surface of the soil may look dry, but if you find moist soil within the first inch or so, then you are fine to wait to water.
The time of day for watering is also important. Early in the morning is the best, and always avoid watering after 2 or 3 p.m. While many people think watering in the evening is best, it is not true. This action leaves water on the surface of the leaves overnight, which creates the perfect environment for fungus and disease to move and spread, which it cannot do if the sun is out or if the leaves are dry.
Don’t Plant Everything In One Go
Planting out your entire garden space at once can put it into a feast-or-famine cycle, where you have too much produce at one point and nothing after. The solution is to take your time making your garden plan and to plan for succession plantings. Consider how much you can eat in a week and plant a small amount each week or every other week for a continuous and sustainable harvest.
Don’t Ignore The Pollinators
Wild pollinators like native bees can be the work horse of your garden. Many vegetables (including favourites like squash, cucumbers, pumpkins and okra) require pollinators to produce fruit. You can attract wild pollinators to your garden several ways. The first is to make sure you have flowers in your garden in all seasons, especially flowers that they really like. This will not only attract them to your garden but will hold their attention until your vegetable plants are ready for them. The other way to attract wild pollinators is with an insect hotel, which encourage wild pollinators to lay their eggs in or near your garden.
Plan For Your Crop
It’s easy to end up with more (or less) produce than you originally planned for, so it’s important to know where and how to use it to avoid contributing to food waste. Make a plan for whether you hope to eat everything you grow, share it with family, friends and neighbours or wish to donate the excess to those in need. But whatever you do, don’t leave excess produce hanging on the plant, as it will lead to decay and can bring in disease to the plant and surrounding garden, as well as encourage more pests.