Last weekend I stood like a weirdo hopelessly in the corner of Bonds nursery. I was trying to listen to a podcast on organic gardening (out loud) inconspicuously as I’d left my shopping list at home. As the nursery is a good 30 minutes from my house, I was determined not to make a second trip to the shops.
As I stared confusingly at the range of organic potting mixes, fertilisers and plant foods, trying madly to remember what it was I had written down, I scribbled pointers from the podcast on to a flower catalogue. I questioned how much my little organic seedlings really needed that blood and bone mix, or if I really wanted a chicken poop stench haunting my small back balcony.
Organic gardening is something that most holistic health coaches swear you should do. I’ve been told there is a profound joy that comes from nurturing little seedlings into fresh, tasty fruit and veg. And as I’m a big fan of anything that’s meant to be good for the soul, I’m all too happy to drink this cool-aid.
I’m currently brimming with excitement for the satisfaction that will come from the success of growing a garden.
However there is one small hurdle that I need to conquer first. I’ve never managed to keep a plant alive for more than a month. I’m a hopeless romantic for the idea of gardening… whether I can turn this energy into something edible is the big question.
So, I’m setting a challenge. My goal is to see if I can actually grow something (on a tiny balcony with little sun…) and reap the benefits of home-grown organic goodness.
To have a fighting hope, I’ve done my research on where to start. Herbs are my focus for the short-term. Veggies can come later once I get the hang of things (and once I can convince strata to let me use a sunny patch of the garden).
I’ve also looked into what will grow with limited sunshine and with little green thumb experience; and while I’m not following the guidelines 100% (which is probably a recipe for disaster) I’m starting with basil, rosemary, thyme, mint and baby spinach.
If you are also considering growing your own, here is what I’ve learnt so far:
Soil and soil food are really, really important – in fact, they are arguably the most important part! Who would have thought?! For your produce to be full of goodness it needs to grow in soil that’s full of nutrients. Sounds simple hey! One of the issues that plagues today’s farmers is that it takes a lot of money and time to replenish the soil produce grows in – so after each crop, soil often becomes striped of all the good stuff it needs to create nutrient dense food. Research what you’re buying, and don’t just chose the simple potting mix that you see first. There are a few elements to the process of grow awesome little plants.
Be smart with your plant choices – While we’d all love to grow luscious tomatoes and berries, its not always possible. Pick produce that will flourish at your home and that’s suitable for the time of year. Basil is a summer green that needs sunlight. If it’s winter and your outdoors is in shade for the next three months, perhaps you need to rethink your strategy.
Buy organic seedlings, not just organic soil – Sourcing organic seeds can be a little difficult, so do your research online to find a reputable, certified supplier. From what I can see most are based in regional NSW or QLD. Find one that shares lots of information so that you feel confident that you’re getting the real deal. Otherwise you should also check your local nursery or farmers market. It might be worth calling around first to find out if they stock what you’re looking for. I bought my seeds online and seedlings from my local markets.
Watch Nicola Newman’s ‘Flourish Your Garden‘ – Seriously. I know this is my fourth point, but start here. It’s thanks to her that I have any idea what to do. This is one talented, organic greenie. In this video she talks specifically about growing things in small pots on balconies. Unless you’re a lucky lass with a big back yard (and even if you are), this is a good simple place to start.
If you’re a green thumb or have attempted such green challenges yourself, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what to do (or what not to do). Happy growing!