From Ground To Plate
One of the most rewarding and satisfying things you can do is to grow your own food.
Growing food at home is not so difficult. There’s nothing quite like a meal prepared from tasty and delicious produce that you have planted and watched grow. You can immediately start to grow your own food at home even if you don’t have a garden. Several veggies and herbs grow well on a balcony or even a window sill. Here are some tips for beginners:
1. What’s In Season?
Best way to start is to determine what is the ideal plant to grow according to the current season. January is a great time to plant basil, chillies, aubergines, peas and fava beans, leeks, onions, and several greens including lettuce, chard, and arugula.
2. Plan Ahead
Before selecting a container, think about the size and weight of what you are planting. Pots from 6-10 inches are good for greens, onions and herbs. Other crops, such as tomatoes, peppers will require 4/5 litre containers. Containers can be plastic, terracotta, ceramic, concrete or wooden. Once you decided what you are going to grow and your containers, you’ll need to decide the best spot for them.
Our advice is to start with one plant at a time. Take note of how much sun and shade it requires. Remember that some seeds can go straight into the ground, but others are better to start off in seed trays until they are strong enough to be transplanted. Lots of vegetables are available as plug plants – already partially grown – so that you can just transplant them into your container.
4. Know Your Soil
You will need to prepare the soil before you start sowing your produce. A simple squeeze test will give you an idea of whether your soil tends towards clay, sand or loam. If you are using compost, add a layer to the soil before planting. To keep your plants healthy and bug-free, get some organic fertilizer that is suitable for edible crops.
5. Let There Be Light
Most veggies need a lot of sun, ideally for at least 8 hours a day. Without the sun, they will still grow but not in the same way. Vegetables use the energy from the sun to nourish their cells. Growing your veggies in a sunny spot will ensure your seedlings grow big and strong. There are some vegetables that can grow in partial shade – look for a plant label when buying seeds – the label will tell you what your vegetables prefer.
6. Just Add Water
Plants need water for photosynthesis – the process that enables them to transform sunlight into food and makes them grow. Some plants can thrive with less water than others, so keep an eye on the plants themselves for signs of dehydration. Best to stick to early morning or early evening watering, when the sun is not too strong.
7. Timing Is Everything
Some crops are happy to wait while ripe. Others are tastier if harvested straight away. Keep a close eye on your ripening plants. If you think a crop is ready but you’re not sure, let your taste bud decide.
Enjoy The Benefits
Much of the produce we purchase at the supermarket has been harvested many days before and, in most cases, travelled from a different country. By growing your own, you’ll get to enjoy fresher, more delicious and even more nutritious food. Besides, enjoying food that you’ve tended to for weeks adds a certain amount of satisfaction and joy too.
Understanding where our food comes from gives us a better sense of appreciation for what goes into producing the things we eat. If you have children or grandchildren, involve them in growing food from seed too. It will help them better comprehend the ways of nature and understand that food doesn’t just appear on supermarket shelves.
Finally, pottering and playing in the dirt is a great way to relax. Gardening can be a therapy to alleviate worries, stress and just washes problems off our shoulders.
List Of Vegetables & Herbs That Are Easy To Grow At Home
Vegetables: Tomato, beans, peppers, chillies, radishes, chard, mustard greens, garlic, rhubarb, bitter melon, okra, collard greens, bok choy, lettuce, radish, carrot, onion, spinach, kale, peas, squash, aubergine and cucumber. Herbs: Parsley, rosemary, chives, thyme, oregano, lavender, basil and mint.
Words: Zen D’Amato Gautam. Edited: Gozo In The House
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