Farming techniques today are the result of the sophistication of methods reproduced of hundreds of years, straight from the gatherer days to the modem technology we now take for granted. Cultivation throughout history has evolved so extensively that to consume fresh produce, one only needs to jump in the car, drive to the local shops and pay for them.
However, produce is imported and exported globally and unless we take the time to find out where our capsicums, bananas and bean sprouts originate from, we could be purchasing apples grown somewhere on the other side of the world instead of from the farmer down the road. Such thoughts have lead to initiatives like Landcare Australia’s From Farm to Fork campaign to support local farmers and reduce the distance between the two; the distance between growing produce on a farm to the moment we eat it. Founded by Louise FitzRoy in 2008, Paddock to Plate is another initiative drawing attention to where we source our food that aims to create an awareness and understanding of why it is important to support our local farmers.
Many restaurants and cafes are now taking the time to grow their own produce to use in the kitchen and find some customers choose them over other local venues for this reason. Patrons know exactly what they are eating and where it came from – a veggie patch out the back, or the chef or owner’s private farms. Even schools are beginning to have vegetable gardens where the kids can get involved and learn some handy tips before taking a freshly picked bunch of carrots and silverbeet home to parents. The methods of cultivation by large scale farmers, the initiatives of reducing the travel time for foods and the vegetable gardens and private farms used by cafes and restaurants can be adopted in the home. You don’t need a lot of space – think pots, old wheelbarrows, fruit boxes or in small containers on the windowsill. If you live in a high rise apartment, possibilities may feel limited, but think creatively with herb gardens strung vertically outside on the balcony, even if just to add an extra aromatic touch of fresh herbs to your everyday cooking or for the dedicated, take to the rooftops. For more ideas, check out Indira Naidoo’s book The Edible City, a follow on book from her first best-seller, The Edible Balcony.
For those looking at creating their very own vegetable garden, here are some quick tips to get you on your way.
- Plan ahead to follow the seasons and plant what grows best in cool weather during winter, and the plants that love plenty of sunshine in summer.
- Follow crop rotation trends. If you plant something that tends to take a lot of nutrients out of the soil in one season, replace it the following season with something that returns nitrogen to the soil such as legumes.
- Ensure the soil is fertile. There is no use trying to start a vegetable garden on a bare patch of dirt that grows nothing to begin with, the soil is probably lacking nutrients. Dig up the dirt and mix in a bag of compost or fertiliser. - Use natural pest controls. Natural pest controls ensure you aren’t consuming unwanted chemicals on fruits and vegetables. Keep an eye on what pests you have problems with and aim to find something they dislike before much damage is done. - Pull out the unwanted! You don’t want weeds stealing valuable nutrients, sun and growing space, so be sure to pluck any unwanted plants out of the garden before they get too big.
- Keep your vegies hydrated. Be careful not to drown them and consider using bark chips or a finer mulch to help keep them moist throughout the day.
Check out our helpful what’s in season section for what to plant this month!
If you don’t have time or space to grow your own fresh vegetables, be sure to visit venues that have their own vegetable patches or private gardens. We’ve listed a few below that you may like to try.
Vue De Monde – VIC
Homage Restaurant – QLD
Tamborine Cooking School - QLD
Harvest - NSW
Botanica Garden Cafe – NSW
Dragoncello - NSW
Scarvelli Cafe - VIC
The Mango Place - WA
By Julie Johnson. Check out Julie's blog on Safety: Growing Your Own Produce for more information about starting your own garden.