Do you know what tastes great? Fresh fruit and veggies, beautifully prepared for the ultimate snack or as side on your plate. Know what tastes EVEN BETTER?… Knowing that you grew those veggies yourself. Gardening is a rewarding hobby that offers a wide range of benefits, including stress relief, exercise, and the satisfaction of growing your own fresh produce.
With the rise in costs, not only of food prices but of fuel and power too, edible gardening is becoming increasingly popular, as more South Africans seek to grow their own fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
Keep on reading to explore the benefits of edible gardening and learn a few tips on how to grow your own fresh produce, what to know about soil, treatment and safety, as well as container gardening for us folks with the patio gardens.
Benefits of Edible Gardening
There are many benefits to growing your own fresh produce. One of the main advantages is saving money. By growing your own fruits and vegetables, you can significantly reduce your monthly grocery bills, and you have the satisfaction of knowing that your produce is fresh, healthy, and free from harmful chemicals.
Edible gardening provides an opportunity to teach children about the importance of healthy eating, farming and sustainability, too (a great way to show that food is not just a menu item to order on a fast-food app).
And our favourite benefit of them all, gardening and nurturing a plant to a point of literally enjoying the fruits of your labour! This is a great way to feel rewarded and enjoy the simple endorphins life has to offer.
Growing Your Own Produce
Growing your own produce is easy and doesn’t require a lot of space. Even if you don’t have a large backyard, you can grow fruits and vegetables in containers on a balcony or patio. Here are some tips to get you started:
The first step to growing healthy plants is to prepare your soil. You should start by testing the soil to determine its pH level. Most plants prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. If the soil is too acidic, you can add lime to raise the pH level.
If the soil is too alkaline, you can add sulfur to lower the pH level. Once the pH level is correct, you should add organic matter, such as compost or manure, to improve the soil structure and provide nutrients for the plants. Pop into Builders’ Warehouse for a soil test analyser (it pretty much looks like a meat thermometer, but for the ground) and then take a minute to learn more about composting here. <link to the other blog we will upload>
Once the soil is prepared, it’s time to start planting! You should choose plants that are suitable for your climate and soil conditions. You can purchase Garden Master vegetable and herb seeds from any Builders, Makro or Game.
Remember to follow the instructions on the seed packet for the best results. Be sure to water your plants regularly, and apply fertilizer as needed. If you notice any pests or diseases, you should act immediately to prevent them from spreading.
If you don’t have a lot of space, container gardening is a great option! You can grow a wide range of fruits, vegetables, and herbs in containers, as long as they have sufficient drainage and receive enough sunlight. When planting in containers, be sure to choose plants that are suitable for the size of the container. View some of Garden Master’s top container sellers here.
Then, make sure not to plant the seeds too close to each other, as the general rule of (green) thumb is that seeds must be planted two or three times as deep as the width of the seed and no closer than 5cm apart. But again, do follow the instructions on the individual packets, as sowing does vary from plant to plant. Finally, water them regularly, they are thirsty babies looking to grow!
Once your plants start producing fruits and vegetables, it’s time to harvest them. You should pick your produce when it is ripe and avoid leaving it on the plant for too long. This will ensure that the produce is at its freshest and tastiest.
According to How To Cook Recipes, here are the top signs to look for when harvesting your plants:
- Fresh fruit and vegetables will generally smell fresh. Often, the more fragrant it is, the more flavourful it will be.
- Consistent firmness is a great sign.
- Look for rich, vibrant colour. This is a good sign that it is fresh and full of nutrients.
- Ripe, fresh produce should feel heavy for its appearance.
What’s better than growing and eating your own produce…? Repeating the process without having to purchase more seeds. Completing the full cycle. “Can we get a Garden Master golden badge here, please!”
If you want to save money on seeds for future years, you can collect the seeds from your plants. Be sure to choose mature fruits or vegetables and extract the seeds carefully. Store the seeds in a cool, dry place (moisture leads to mould), that is tightly sealed until you are ready to plant them.
Avoiding Poisoning from Herbicides and Pesticides
While gardening is one of the safest hobbies to pursue (your life insurance provider called to say they are very happy about that), it’s important to take precautions to avoid poisoning from herbicides or pesticides.
Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:
- Read the Label – As simple as this step may be, it’s often overlooked. Before using any herbicides or pesticides, be sure to read the label carefully. The label will provide information on how to use the product safely, including any precautions you should take.
- Wear Protective Gear – When using herbicides or pesticides, it’s important to wear protective gear such as gloves, a mask, and long sleeves. This will help to prevent the chemicals from coming into contact with your skin or eyes.
- Store Chemicals Properly – It’s important to store herbicides and pesticides in a secure location, out of reach of children and pets. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label for proper storage. Always store garden chemicals in their original containers and after you have used a garden chemical, make sure that the packaging is tightly closed or sealed to avoid spillage.
- Dispose of Chemicals Safely – When disposing of herbicides or pesticides, follow the instructions on the label for proper disposal methods, and avoid pouring the chemicals down the drain. This is very important – do not pour poison down the drain.
Consider Natural Alternatives
If you’re concerned about the use of chemicals in your garden, you’re not alone! There are many natural alternatives that can be used to control pests and weeds. For example, you can use companion planting, crop rotation, and organic mulch to prevent pests and weeds from taking over your garden. Vinegar is highly effective on small weeds too – just be careful, vinegar is non-selective and kills everything it touches. Ominous, we know.
Bonus tip: Because we all have dishwashing soap in our homes – if you spot aphids, you can gently wipe the infested areas with a mixture of a half a teaspoon of dishwashing soap mixed with 500ml water.
Whichever route you choose to keep your fruit and veggies pest free, the ultimate secret to success is daily check-ins and maintenance, including the occasional trimming of dead leaves or stems.
Grow your own veggie garden
Did we get you excited to start planting!? Well, the great news is that some of the tastiest veggies you love, can be planted and grown now:
- Root crops such as carrots, beetroot, radishes, turnips, leeks and onions.
- Brassicas such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower also do best in the milder months.
- Leaf crops, such as lettuce, chard, spinach and Asian greens, do relatively well, too. Just keep them protected from frost on those hectically cold morning.
Lastly, the best tip for growing a fruit and veggie garden is to share you passion. That’s why social communities like Garden Master’s Facebook and Instagram are always buzzing with the latest tips, tricks, and delicious recipes!
It’s also a space for our flora-loving followers to chat with each other, share their garden goals and achievements, and get the most out of a passionate pool of plant people.
So, what’s holding you back? Let’s get gardening!