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Easy Food Gardening Guide for Beginners

New to growing food? If you’re just getting started or relatively new to growing edibles, it can feel overwhelming. Once you get started, I promise you it’s not only an addictive hobby (in a good way) but also incredibly rewarding for your physical, mental and emotional health. You’ve made an empowering decision to become somewhat self-sufficient. Congratulations! Whilst it’s likely you’ll make a few mistakes along the way, don’t let that stop you from getting started or trying again. If you lose a few plants, consider those moments as learning opportunities to do better next time rather than failures.

This 10 Tip Guide for Beginners will help fast track your new garden with easy steps & advice.

This 10 Tip Food Gardening Guide for Beginners will help fast track your new garden with easy steps & advice.

Easy Food Gardening Guide for Beginners

Everyone was a beginner gardener at some point but it doesn’t last for long! There are some key guidelines to keep in mind when you first start a food garden. I hope these ten tips will shortcut you to successfully growing an abundant productive kitchen garden.

1. Start Small … Really Small!

Starting a food garden is exciting and overwhelming all at once! Think of yourself more like a new plant ‘parent’ starting out and preparing for the arrival of your new plant ‘kids.’ It’s unlikely you would cope with a whole tribe from day one, right? So, plan where your new babies are going to live first and start with just one or two pots and plants. Maybe a couple of your favourite herbs or a few leafy greens to add to daily salads.

Gardening Guide for Beginners Tip: Start small with a few fresh ingredients like herbs or leafy greens for salads

Start small with a few fresh ingredients like herbs or leafy greens for salads

Keep it really simple and get to know the basics first in a small space. You can always grow your plant ‘family’ once you know what to expect and have ironed out any teething issues! Go slow and gain your confidence gradually. It’s better to lose one or two plants than a whole garden. That could be an expensive lesson to learn.

2. Choose the Best Location

It’s exciting thinking about picking your own food. However, just like the home where YOU live, plants have needs for their personal space too! Especially plant ‘babies’ or seeds and ‘toddler’ seedlings. You need to care for them and provide a protected ‘room’ or spot to live in.

Pick the sunniest location in your garden, courtyard or balcony for most plants, ideally out of the wind. Food plants need adequate sunlight or good natural light to grow. If you have a lot of shade, don’t despair. There are plenty of edibles that will do well in partial shade too.

Once you’ve got that figured out, make sure you have easy access to water nearby so you can keep the moisture up to your plants.


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3 Tips for Planning this Year’s Garden

Planning this year’s garden? At the start of a new year, I take time to reflect on the past year and learn valuable lessons from my garden. Why bother? As a life long ‘student’ in Nature’s garden ‘classroom’, I make incredible discoveries and observations every year and always learn new things that make gardening more enjoyable and easier. You can too!

3 Tips for Planning This Year's Garden

3 Tips for Planning this Year’s Garden

1. Learn Lessons by Observing

When you literally ‘stop to smell the roses‘, you not only slow down for a few minutes to relieve stress with beauty and fragrance, but this action can open up a whole new world of discovery. You may notice aphids and ants or spots on the leaves.

Rather than going unnoticed, these observations can help you learn how to remedy or prevent any potential problems. Instead of feeling disappointed when you notice ‘problems’, consider them ‘learning opportunities’!

3 Tips for Planning this Year's Garden: Learn Lessons by Observing your Garden

Observing details can help with troubleshooting and insightful discoveries

By studying details like how plants grow under diverse weather conditions or how insects interact at different times, you can start to form patterns and learn so much about your garden.

What to Observe in your Garden

For example, I spend time observing the various microclimates; plant varieties; which cultivars do well and those that don’t. I have discovered which plants tough it out without water for months (little champions!) and which plants are vulnerable to pests or diseases.

The insights are fascinating and valuable data for decision-making. I know which plants are easy, low-maintenance and highly productive and those who don’t deserve a space because they’re too ‘precious’ and a pain in the neck! Grow more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

3 Tips for Planning this Year's Garden: Take a closer look at your garden to open up a whole new world of insights.

Take a closer look at your garden to open up a whole new world of insights

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18 Top Tips for Gardening in Dry Climate Conditions

Gardening in dry climate conditions can be really stressful but there are loads of simple strategies you can apply to make it easier. Many gardeners in Australia and around the world have been struggling to keep gardens alive and thriving. Drought, winds, dust storms, extended heatwaves and fires have been impacting plants, people and our wildlife.

18 Top Tips for Gardening in Dry Climate Conditions | The Micro Gardener

Extreme temperatures and long periods without any significant rain in many places are some of the biggest problems. It’s no wonder many gardeners are giving up trying to grow an edible garden.

Yet a garden – no matter how small – gives us hope as well as healthy food. It feeds our mind, body and soul; provides wonderful stress relief; and is a welcome sanctuary to escape to. Even a single, well-cared-for plant can bring great joy and healing.

For many gardeners though, water – or lack of it – is our biggest issue. Struggling, water-stressed plants become magnets for pest insects as nature’s ‘clean up crew’ move in to feed. It’s natural to expect some casualties in hot and dry weather. Without sufficient water, crops can’t take up nutrients from the soil to grow, flower and fruit. Small container gardens also need more frequent watering.

So, what can we do to help our gardens survive and even thrive?

Gardening in Dry Climate Conditions and Hot Temperatures | The Micro Gardener

18 Top Tips for Gardening in Dry Climate Conditions

For years I’ve endured all sorts of harsh growing conditions in my gardens. By careful observation, applying Permaculture design principles and journalling where my gardens have been exposed to harsh dry or hot weather, I’ve learned how to grow a kitchen garden that not only survives but thrives! This has enabled me to help my clients who suffer similar problems but in different locations to get the most out of their edible gardens.

I hope by sharing some of these strategies, you will be able to enjoy an abundant productive kitchen garden too.

1. Audit your Garden and Make Tough Choices

That’s right! If you can’t save ALL your plants, prioritise and focus on keeping the most valuable ones alive. If conditions are really tough and you have limited water resources, concentrate on your high-value fruit trees, perennials and essential crops.

Turn thirsty, low-value plants into compost to feed your soil. Some plants may just have to survive without your help or be sacrificed to save others.

Collect seeds and take cuttings to pot up as a backup plan! You can always start again with these.

Save seeds from your garden to sow again in more favourable weather

Save seeds from your garden to sow again in more favourable weather

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Can You Sow Out of Date Seeds?

Do you have old seeds you haven’t got around to planting? If they are out of date, you may be wondering if you can still sow them. Most gardeners have good intentions when buying seeds, but then life happens! Rather than wasting money you’ve spent on expired seeds, why not test their viability to see if there’s any life left in them? You may be pleasantly surprised.

Can you sow out of date seeds? How to test seed viability and store seeds safely

Out of Date Seeds

Seeds, like other living things, have a shelf-life! Just because seeds are out of date, doesn’t mean they won’t germinate and grow normally. Don’t get rid of them yet! Checking your seeds is much more sustainable than throwing them out and assuming they are useless. I’ll show you an easy way to test them. So you won’t waste time and effort planting the packet if they’re not going to grow.

If the seed packet date has expired, it’s similar to the ‘Best Use By’ date on food packaging. It doesn’t mean the food isn’t edible, but the quality may have deteriorated. Likewise, some of the seeds may still grow if planted, but not necessarily every seed in the packet. The longer you wait to sow, the lower the chance of successful seed germination. (more…)

Why are Ants in my Plants, Pots and Soil?

Do you ever see ants running up the stems or along branches and leaves? What about your pot plants? Do you notice them in your potting mix? Or in your lawn making little mounds that blunt your mower blades?

Why are Ants in my Plants, Pots and Soil?

Perhaps you’re wondering WHY they are there and WHAT they are doing? Are they causing damage or are they just annoying? If you want to know the answers and how to get rid of them naturally, read on.

Why are Ants in my Plants, Pots and Soil?

The answer is simple. Ants are extremely smart insects and ALWAYS have a good motive for inhabiting your plants, pots or soil. The two most likely reasons are for:

  1. Food
  2. Shelter

Seems reasonable enough, doesn’t it? We all need a roof over our heads and something to eat! Believe me, ants won’t expend energy doing anything unless there’s something in it for them.

If you see little black ants ON your plants, it’s likely because they have found a source of food. Ants are often a clue you have a bigger problem. Don’t shoot the messenger!  They are just the ‘couriers’ delivering you a message. They’ll take you straight to it. By being more observant, you’ll understand what they’re doing and why. Assuming they are harming your plant may be a BIG mistake because you only have part of the picture!

Most likely, if you look closely and follow their trail like a good detective, you’ll find it ends in sap-sucking insects like aphids, scale, mites, whiteflies or mealybugs. These pest insects are what you should be really looking for! Ants are your ‘tour guide’ and can detect the presence of these pests with their antennae. Smart hey?

So, instead of treating them as the enemy to be killed, learn to value their presence. Why? Because they have alerted you to the problem you really need to deal with! Micro gardening is about looking at details; learning to understand who, what, where and why things happen and ‘joining the dots.’

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40+ Best Shade Tolerant Vegetables

If you’d love a vegetable garden but your space has too much shade, don’t despair! There are plenty of shade tolerant vegetables to choose from that may be perfect for your space.

40+ Best Shade Tolerant Vegetables that Grow in Shade or Partial Sun

Whether you’re overshadowed by neighbouring buildings or trees, or your growing space faces the wrong aspect, there are still options. You may not be able to increase the sunlight, but you may be able to work with the shade you have. You may also try using your vertical space wisely.

Sometimes thinking creatively opens up opportunities to grow where you may not have thought possible. One of my clients has a heavily shaded small urban garden. LOTS of tall trees surround the two-storey house as a cool oasis in our warm climate. More like a rainforest!

How did Jenny grow a vegetable garden with such limited sun? I recommended pruning selected trees to let in more sunlight and growing vegetables and herbs that can tolerate low light conditions in this shady area. We also utilised vertical space by planting pots on the decks and growing climbers up trees or trellises to reach the sun. A mobile wheelbarrow garden also enables Jenny to move it where the sun is during the day. So don’t give up! The solutions to a shady garden may just require seeing your space through a new lens.

Sun and Shade Exposure

How much sun do vegetables really need and what can you get away with? The answer to this really depends on your climate and specific microclimates within your garden.

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10 Tips to Grow More Food in a Small Garden

Want to grow at least some of your own fresh ingredients? If you think you’re limited by a small garden, don’t be! You just need to use your space wisely.

10 tips to grow more food in a small garden

Few people have the perfect area to grow a productive food garden. So, clever design and plant choices are vital for success.

I help my clients to maximise the food they grow even when their garden is tiny, on a slope, in the shade, narrow, has poor soil, too much or not enough water and the list goes on! These tips will help you do the same.

How to Grow More Food in a Small Garden Space

1. Prioritise. Just Grow the Essentials

  • Grow the foods you love and buy most often. If you’re going to spend time growing food, it should provide ingredients you will use and save money on your shopping bill.
  • If you’re mowing lawn or growing plants that don’t serve you, you could be wasting valuable space in your garden! Make tough choices.
Grow More Food in a Small Garden: One of my client's front garden makeover before with lawn and an edible garden after 10 weeks!

A front garden makeover at one of my clients – Before with lawn; After 10 weeks – a productive pretty edible garden!

  • Dig up the lawn and save money on mower fuel!
  • Sell your ornamentals, so you have more space (and money) to grow food.

“We grow lawn that we harvest weekly in the growing season and throw it away. Why not food that we can eat?” Dave Jarratt – Sustainable Soil Solutions

  • For example, if you are buying a weekly organic food box, aim to cut the cost by a third or half by supplementing some of the ingredients from your own garden.
  • If you love salads, then it makes sense to avoid chemically grown produce by growing lettuces and salad ingredients.

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Organic Aphid Control with Hoverflies

Controlling aphids organically is much easier if you encourage natural predators like hoverflies to take up residence in your garden. One natural pest management strategy for organic aphid control is to make your garden attractive to predatory insects. These can help keep aphid numbers and other sap suckers in balance – no chemicals needed.

Organic Aphid Control with Hoverflies

 

The Hoverfly or Syrphid Fly (Diptera)

Also known as Flower Flies, hoverflies are members of the Syrphidae insect family. As their name suggests, adults often ‘hover’ like mini helicopters over nectar and pollen-rich flowers.

They lay their eggs near or in the middle of aphid colonies so when their babies hatch, dinner is served! Hoverfly larvae not only eat aphids but also soft bodied sap suckers like scale, mites, thrips and some small caterpillars. They are valuable predator insects to have in your garden as part of your organic pest management strategy. (more…)

Organic Fruit Fly Control Strategies

Fruit flies are one of the most destructive pest insects in home gardens and attack a wide range of fruit trees and fruiting crops. Many gardeners find they are the number one enemy they battle every year.

This pest insect is most active from spring through autumn and species vary in different locations. For vulnerable fruit, you need to be prepared to be vigilant and have controls in place at the right time. You really have to know your enemy to tackle it!

If you’ve experienced damage to your harvest, it can be disheartening to even try to grow your favourite fruit crop. What if managing this pest insect is all too difficult?

Organic Fruit Fly Control Strategies

If you don’t want to deal with fruit fly damage in your garden, you still have options:

1. Remove any host plants that are prone to attack.

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10 Top Tips to Create a Bee Friendly Garden

If you eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, it’s likely bees have played a vital role in pollinating many of the foods on your plate! One way to help these threatened, tiny but hardworking insects, is to create a bee friendly garden. A magnet if you like, to lure them to spend more time hanging out at your place!

10 Tops Tips to Create a Bee Friendly Garden

If you have a garden, even a small one, you can encourage your local bees to visit regularly. Bees help fertilise up to 90% of the earth’s major food crops and you can support their health and survival, while reaping some awesome benefits.

4 Benefits of Attracting Bees to your Garden

An intentionally designed bee friendly garden:

1. Has a beautiful variety of perfumed colourful flowers that bloom continuously throughout the seasons. (A visual and sensory smorgasbord for you!)
2. Improves the quality, size and flavour of your fruits and vegetables. (A more delicious edible feast too!)
3. Increases the quantity of produce you harvest. (More food on your table)
4. Attracts beneficial insects that help reduce pests. (Less effort needed on pest management)

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