Grow Your Own Food articles are designed to help you with practical tips, photos and step by step instructions on growing incredible edibles at home.

Best Tips for Growing Root Crops

Do you love digging for hidden treasures in your soil, but sometimes feel disappointed in your harvest? If so, these tips should help make growing root crops much easier and more successful.

Best tips for growing root crops

Discovering an edible surprise is a bit like unwrapping a present, isn’t it? You get that feeling of anticipation as you unearth a handful of potatoes or pull up a bunch of crunchy carrots. Then you start dreaming up how you’re going to enjoy eating those tasty homegrown crops.

So let’s dig into some juicy tips on ways to get more of these delicious vegies and spices on your plate. (more…)

Choosing Fruit Trees for Small Gardens

Thinking about growing your own fruit trees? No matter how little space you have, there’s almost always room for at least one fruit tree.

The taste and satisfaction of picking homegrown fruit is one of life's pleasures!

The taste and satisfaction of picking homegrown fruit is one of life’s pleasures!

5 Tips for Fruit Trees in Small Gardens

I grow a LOT of fruit trees in a small space. Some in containers, others in the garden. It’s highly productive and I grow kilos of fruit every year. Some fruit trees are young and on their way to producing. Others are putting food on the table regularly!

Here, I grow a lot of tropical fruit trees like bananas, papaya, mango, mulberries, citrus and peaches. It takes time to get to know each fruit and how much space they require to be productive.

It can be overwhelming if you’re just starting out growing fruit trees, so I hope these tips help you avoid expensive mistakes.

1. Only Grow Fruit you LOVE to Eat

Fruit trees are like a long-term investment – in time, space and money. I think of my fruit trees like V.I.P.’s in the garden. Very Important Plants! They get the best position and special treatment, so why bother growing fruit you aren’t that fond of?

How do you choose, if you love LOTS of fruits? Which fruit do you spend the most money on? Which fruit do you eat the most of? Consider adding these fruits to your wish list.

These are a good starting point for researching varieties that may be suitable to grow in your area.

My husband always wanted a peach tree, so I found a tropical peach that produces plump fruits every year in a large pot.

My husband always wanted a peach tree, so I found a tropical peach that produces plump fruits every year in a large pot.

2. Choose Fruit to suit your Sun, Space and Climate

Sunlight

If you only have limited sunlight, your choices in fruit will be more limited than if you have 6-8 hours of sunlight/day. The majority of fruit trees need at least some sun to produce a healthy fruit harvest, and most prefer full sun. However, there are some fruits that will grow in partial shade too, so don’t despair!

Vertical Space

Remember to consider your vertical space as a potential area to grow fruit. Some fruits can be espaliered (trained to grow vertically on a frame).

Espaliered fruit trees trained to grow in a narrow space against brick wall

Espaliered fruit trees growing in a narrow space against a brick wall

Apples, pears, apricots and plums are a few fruit trees suitable for espaliering up trellises, fences and even unused vertical space along walls.

Lawn vs Fruit Trees

If you spend a lot of time mowing, watering and maintaining grass, how much return you get for your efforts? If you have children or pets that really need the space, you can probably justify your lawn. However, if you have limited space for fruit trees, consider swapping grass for groceries. You could grow kilos of fruit every year in the same space! Lawn or lemons? Mmm … I’ll leave you to ponder that one.

Climate

There are so many fruit tree varieties to choose from, but one of the most important factors is your unique climate. Contact local nurseries, speak with neighbours, visit community gardens or farmers in your area to find out what grows well.

Whilst most apples thrive in cold climates here in Australia, in the subtropics where I live, we can thankfully grow tropical apple varieties! It might take a little effort to research suitable fruit tree varieties in your area, but this can make the difference to your long-term fruit tree success.

You can also create a suitable microclimate for the fruit tree you want to grow e.g. by providing shelter or planting against brick walls to benefit from reflected heat.

Lemon tree in portable container garden indoors in winter in a warm sunny microclimate with reflected heat through glass doors

Lemon tree in portable container garden indoors in winter in a warm sunny microclimate with reflected heat through glass doors

3. Dwarf Fruit Trees

Most fruit trees typically reach a mature height of at least 4.5m (15ft) if not pruned. In a small garden, most of us wouldn’t have room for more than a few trees this size. If you want to grow several varieties, you’d quickly fill the space or have to spend a LOT of time pruning.

So what’s your solution? Dwarf fruit trees! These are grafted onto roots from a related species – a shorter, more compact fruit tree ‘cousin’!  So dwarf fruit trees grow in less space and to a lower height than if they grew on their own roots.

Compact dwarf fruit trees offer you a number of benefits:

  • They don’t need much pruning;
  • Often fruit in under two years;
  • The fruit are the same size as regular fruit trees;
  • Multi-grafted fruit trees grow several different fruits on the one tree, saving space;
  • Are more suitable for balconies, containers and espaliering in narrow spaces;
  • Are easier to net (to protect against birds and animals); and
  • Are much easier to access for harvesting – no ladders!
Grafted dwarf fruit tree varieties in pots suitable for small gardens

Grafted dwarf fruit tree varieties in pots suitable for small gardens

Some dwarf rootstock offer you other advantages, like being resistant to disease; suited to wet or dry soils; strong vigorous growth; or ability to withstand winds.

4. Growing Fruit Trees in Containers

You may be thinking of growing a fruit tree in a container, rather than a garden due to space limitations or because you are renting. If so, there are other things to consider such as:

  • The size of the pot will limit the growth of your fruit tree.
  • You will need to re-pot into a larger container as the tree grows, probably at least every 18 months – 2 years.
  • The shape of container should make it easy to remove your tree.  Grow bags and fabric Smart Pots are a couple of solutions. Only choose pots that have straight sides or taper in towards the bottom for easy removal.
  • Many pots (especially unfired clay) and potting mix dry out quickly. So consider a low-maintenance drip watering system like EasiOyYa to keep moisture up to your potted fruit tree.


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5. Fruit Tree Pollination

Many fruit trees need pollinators such as bees, beneficial insects or bats to fertilize flowers and ‘set’ fruit. Other fruit tree varieties need more than one tree to cross-pollinate. If you want a variety of different fruits in a small space, this can present a challenge. No pollination = no fruit!

An abundant harvest from the mandarin tree

An abundant harvest from the mandarin tree

In a small garden space, one of the easiest solutions is to purchase fruit trees that are ‘self-fertile’ or ‘self-pollinating’.  Some fruit trees that are usually self-fertile are citrus, figs, peaches, apricots and nectarines. You may also find some multi-grafted trees such as citrus (lemon, orange and mandarin on the one tree) are also self-fertile.

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© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2017. https://themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.

Easy Guide to Growing Basil

How to Plant, Grow, Use and Harvest Basil

Easy Guide to Growing Basil - How to Grow Basil + Planting, Using & Harvesting Tips

Why Grow Basil?

As a gardener and cook, I couldn’t bear to have a garden without Basil. This fragrant herb is not only grown for its flavour but also its many health benefits. I use it in our kitchen as much for its delicious taste as I do for its medicinal properties. Interested in growing basil? Try it in a pot, garden or on your kitchen bench as sprouts or microgreens. Every year, I allocate ‘prime real estate’ space to basil in pots, as well as around my garden. Read on for how you can use this versatile herb.

 

Basil Varieties – Which Basil should you Grow?

Basil (Ocimum Basilicum) is a member of the Mint family (Lamiaceae). Like its mint ‘cousins’, basil comes in a large range of aromatic varieties, with flavours to please even the fussiest taste buds. Annual varieties will last you a season and then provide you with free seeds. Perennial cultivars last much longer and are even better value. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Sweet Basil and Genovese are two of the most popular basil choices for pesto as they have mild sweet flavours.

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How to Prevent and Fix Leggy Seedlings

After seeds germinate, do your leggy seedlings look weak and straggly like this?

Leggy seedling stems are long and thin, but there are few or very tiny leaves.

Leggy seedling stems are long and thin, but there are few or very tiny leaves.

What Causes Leggy Seedlings?

‘Leggy’ seedlings typically have stretched skinny stems and look fragile. They may be bending forward rather than growing up straight with a strong stem.

If your newly germinated seedlings look like this, it may be due to one of three common causes: (more…)

9 Foods You Can Regrow from Kitchen Scraps

Are you growing an edible garden? One easy way to save money is to grow some of your plants for free. How? From leftover food scraps that are often thrown away!

9 Foods You Can Regrow From Kitchen Scraps | The Micro Gardener

9 Foods You Can Regrow From Kitchen Scraps

 

You may already be composting your kitchen ‘waste’. That’s a great way to build a healthy soil. However, it may save you money to be selective before throwing everything into your compost system. There are many plant parts that can help you propagate new plants. For minimal effort and no cost.

 

Why Should You Only Regrow Organic Food?

  • First, a word of warning! For health reasons, I suggest you select organic vegetables, fruit and herbs. Too expensive? So is the cost of poor health! I think safe food is one of the best investments we can make.
  • Sadly, non-organic produce is grown using chemicals. Not just one spray either. It’s commonly a cocktail of herbicides, fungicides, pesticides and other -icides. These are applied during the growth cycle and even after harvesting. These are often systemic chemicals. That means you can’t wash them off the skin. The chemicals are absorbed internally into the plant tissues through soil and water. Root crops like potatoes are especially vulnerable. Other crops are genetically modified or imported and radiated.

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4 Steps to Improve Pollination and Your Harvests: Part 2

Do you want an abundant harvest? If so, you can improve pollination by making your garden more attractive to pollinators.

4-Steps-to-Improve-Pollination-and-Your-Harvests-Part-2-wm-e1429593747707

There are easy things you can do to get lots more food on the table.

In Part 1 of this series, I discussed pollination problems in depth and the FIRST STEP you can take: Eliminate ALL chemicals from your garden.

What other ways can you improve pollination and your harvests? Read on for 3 more practical steps you can take to work with nature for mutually beneficial outcomes:

  1. Learn to hand pollinate your crops
  2. Provide insect hotels for pollinators
  3. Plant bee-friendly flowers

(more…)

4 Steps to Improve Pollination & Your Harvests: Part 1

Are you ever disappointed with your harvests? Do you ever notice flowers and baby fruits forming only to drop, wither and die? If so, don’t despair! There ARE solutions to help improve pollination and ensure you have an abundant harvest.

Picking a handful of beans is rewarding, but a bucketful is better! Especially when you add up the money this saves you. Improve pollination & your harvests by working with nature to grow your food.

Picking a handful of beans is rewarding, but a bucketful is better! Especially when you add up the money this saves you.

 

You may be happy with your current edible yields, but it’s very likely you can improve your harvest even further. One of the secrets is about give-and-take relationships in your garden.

I work with nature to get the most from my Kitchen Garden. You may have a different climate and growing season, but the principles for a productive garden are basically the same wherever you live. I hope these tips will help boost your harvest.

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9 Strategies to Help Combat Common Edible Garden Problems

Having garden problems? Do you ever feel frustrated with your soil, pests or limited space? Is it too hot, cold, wet or dry to grow food? If you’re having challenges growing an edible garden, it helps to have a ‘tool kit of techniques’ you can use to overcome common problems.

I use a variety of strategies to harvest from my edible garden all year round.

I use a variety of strategies to harvest from my edible garden all year round.

When the Growing Gets Tough

Here in subtropical SE Queensland, Australia, we have challenging wet and dry seasons. We often experience long months of drought. Our growing periods are not governed by a calendar with a traditional three month season like many places in the world. Spring typically only lasts a few weeks in the subtropics and summer is at least four months long! Here the hot/wet/dry months can be very challenging to grow food. Many northern hemisphere gardeners look forward to warm summers as a prime growing season but get frustrated with a long, cold period. So no climate is perfect!

“Extreme temperatures, high humidity, wild storms, hail, damaging winds, sudden heavy downpours, driving rain, drought and flooding are common weather issues to deal with. Not to mention pest insect population explosions. It’s no wonder many food gardeners throw their hands in the air and give up altogether!”

So what CAN you do when growing conditions are difficult?

 

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17 Water Saving Tips for Container Gardens

Are you trying to grow a garden with little rainfall? Struggling with a dry season, heat, drought or water restrictions? If so, it can be especially tough to grow food. You CAN grow healthy crops in pots – with the right strategies. These easy, water saving tips may help YOU achieve an abundant harvest.

 

One key to success is to adapt your growing techniques to keep your garden alive and thriving.

One key to success is to adapt your growing techniques to keep your garden alive and thriving.

Discover the best containers to choose; how to improve your growing medium; suitable plants; where to position your pots; and how to maintain them to save water.

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Design Tips for a Productive Kitchen Garden

Do you ever feel frustrated when pest insects damage your plants? Wish your kitchen garden was more productive? You’re not alone! Even the healthiest gardens struggle with a few ‘unwelcome visitors’ at times.

Design Tips for a Productive Kitchen Garden

 

If you have limited space for your food garden, then losing precious crops, can be even more disheartening.

The good news is there are design strategies you can use to:

  1. Maximise your space;
  2. Minimise pest insects;
  3. Enhance the beauty; and
  4. Even improve some of your harvests.

(more…)