Growing your own produce can be an extremely rewarding venture with the right circumstances, a little bit of luck and plenty of time. Imagine fresh food straight from your own garden, picked this afternoon and onto your plate for dinner tonight; what could be better than that?
However, safety precautions need to be taken when picking a bunch of spinach leaves from the garden to throw a salad together. Food safety is incredibly important to the success of a culinary business; food poisoning results in bad media exposure and a loss of reputation. Strict food hygiene rules are given and enforced by every state in Australia to reduce these food risks and spread of bacteria or disease, even when venues are sourcing produce from their own gardens and similar safety measures should be adhered to for your own private vegetable gardens.
Growing produce yourself doesn’t necessarily mean it is safer than what is commercially grown. As tempting as it is to wipe off bird droppings from your new cherry tomatoes and eat them straight from the garden, this increases your risk of sickness. The neighbour’s cat may have brushed past it and in doing so, passes on bacteria it has picked up on travels or perhaps a maggot from the dead magpie it just ate, and that’s certainly not something most of us would be interested in cultivating. Microbial contamination is a main safety concern when growing and harvesting crops and it is the same for home gardening.
Whether grown from your own garden, or plucked shining from shopping isles, it is important to wash fresh produce to remove any trace of soil and hopefully reduce bacteria levels. Cut off any damaged or bruised areas and discard anything rotten before storing it in cool conditions to reduce microbial growth. Even fruits with peels should be washed so as to reduce the chance of germs being transferred from the knife to the fruit’s flesh.
Growing your own produce at home is exciting, and to help you do so with care, we have outlined some simple safety precautions to follow, whether you have a well-established 5x5m raised vegetable garden with nutrient dense soil and seasonal crop rotation, or a simple string of vertically hanging pots out on the balcony hosting just your most loved herbs.
Wash your hands with disinfectant before gardening. We touch many surfaces throughout the day and to avoid the transportation of outside world germs into your garden, be sure to clean your hands before heading out for harvesting. No poo:
As much as manure can be full of nutrients that will replenish the soil, it’s not always a great option to nourish the vegetables you plan on eating in the near future. Instead, perhaps find a rich soil fertiliser or compost that has been controlled and fermented in the right temperatures.
Beware of the dog:
Dog is a man’s best friend but bacteria isn’t. Keep your furry and feathered friends out of the garden and you will help to keep bacteria out too.
Give ‘em a drink:
Use potable water where possible to irrigate your precious plants. To remind you not to use waste water, remember that water you can safely drink grows food you can safely eat.
The right tools: Buy some gardening tools dedicated to just your garden and keep your buckets separate rather than reusing ones that have had paint in them or are regularly used to wash the car with chemicals.
If produce looks like it has been invaded by bugs, pick the fruit and discard it somewhere away from the garden where the bugs will have trouble getting back into the garden.
Happy gardening and eating!
By Julie Johnson. Check out Julie's blog on How To: Grow Your Own Fresh Produce for more information about starting your own garden.