So here we are, hanging at home with plenty of time on our hands to get stuck into new projects, or old projects that have never quite seen the light of day. Creative interests are being pursued, music is being shared and board games have been dusted off to entertain another generation.
It is heartening to see and hear from so many people in the past three or four weeks who have decided to make use of the additional hours in their day by learning or enhancing some self-sufficiency skills – particularly growing some of their own food. It hasn’t been easy though. Apparently all of the big seed and seedling suppliers have had a rough time keeping up with the over-exuberant demand, so much so that it’s been tricky to find reliable supplies of vegetable seedlings recently.
Self-sufficiency wasn’t meant to be easy! Spending this time learning skills such as seed sowing, vegetable growing, chook care, beekeeping, and myriad other sustainable pursuits is time well spent. To be able to bring food to the family table from the saving and germination of seeds, or nutritious eggs from a small flock of well-looked-after hens, are important and rewarding things to know. And not just for yourself, but to share with family, friends and your neighbours.
Food-growing within our communities is a very special thing. Down here on the southern Peninsula we have access to a pretty good range of local produce, and access to the many farm gates is a much better alternative to purchasing far-travelled produce from the supermarket. However, growing in backyards within our suburbs is made even more special by the increased community interaction we can enjoy with sharing food. At a time of strict social distancing or gathering rules, this may not seem like a good idea, and it may not be the perfect time to gather and swap your home-grown excesses. But it is certainly a great time to skill-up!
So how to start? There is bucketloads of information on the web about growing your own food. Just don’t bite off more than you can chew. Take the time to plan your approach well and start small. There is no point having too much failure at once – it’ll only dishearten you and you’ll probably chuck it in. A few easy vegetable seeds to sow and grow at this time of year are snow peas, broad beans and beetroot. All can be sown directly into the soil and don’t require a lot of attention. Climbing peas will require a trellis and broad beans will need some support also as they grow, but essentially if you plant into a decent soil you should only have success.
If this is your first time and you are unsure whether your soil is up to scratch, purchase a vegetable blend from one of the landscape companies. It may not be as good as your own homemade, compost-laden soil, but it takes one of the more tricky aspects of gardening out of the equation. Transfer the soil into an existing bed, build a new one (out of non-toxic materials), or simply create some mounds on the ground. It really makes no difference to the seed. As long as the soil stays moist, you should have no trouble at all.
Once you (and the kids) have experienced the first germinating seeds winding their way up out of the soil, you will probably want to try more. Experiment. Fail. Win. And enjoy.
Drew Cooper, Edible Gardens