The last few weeks have created a lot of uncertainty around the world with the threat of a pandemic. It’s a timely reminder to reflect on our health, how sustainable our lives are and whether we can feed ourselves from our home gardens or are dependent on our global food system. So, this month’s newsletter focuses on practical and positive ways you can support your health with nourishing foods and herbs.

Gardening Tips for February | The Micro Gardener

Gardening Tips for February

Here in subtropical SE Queensland, Australia, we’re still in the thick of summer heat, humidity and rain. Last month we were in drought, had bushfires and dust storms, and now it’s too wet in many areas! Soggy soil, high temperatures and humidity create the perfect environment for many fungal diseases like powdery mildew and root rot. Not to mention the increase in hungry insects like grasshoppers and caterpillars feasting on the new growth!

Subtropical SE Queensland – What to Plant Now

If your water tanks are full and soil moist from recent rains, it’s an ideal time to sow seeds to raise seedlings ready for autumn planting and put in the last of fast-growing summer crops. Or sow sunflower seeds as microgreens for fast-growing protein-rich ingredients. Citrus, pumpkins, tomatoes, summer spinach varieties, spring onions, herbs and cucamelons are growing like crazy in my garden. With a move to a new garden soon, I’m taking cuttings in the new moon cycle so they strike roots quickly. You can propagate your garden for free in this way.

READ Gardening Tips for February for what to do now in SE QLD, pests to watch for and more. (Download PDF)

Subtropical Planting Guide – a laminated perpetual guide to the 5 seasons in SE QLD

For other locations, read my article on what to plant and when.

Grow a Medicinal Herb Garden to Build a Strong Immune System

One of the reasons I grow my own food and specifically, a wide range of herbs, is because a Home Pharmacy Garden is the first place I ‘shop’ to support my family’s health. I believe there’s never been a more important time to focus your energy on the medicinal properties of the plants you grow. Herbs, in particular, help support a healthy immune system with phytonutrients like vitamins and antioxidants.

One of my medicinal and culinary herb tea gardens

One of my medicinal and culinary herb tea gardens

Our immune systems are being bombarded with all sorts of stresses – infectious diseases, environmental pollutants, 5G EMFs, GMOs, chemicals in foods and products we use, and much more. Now more than ever, we need to combat these detrimental influences by nourishing our bodies with living foods from a range of plant families that provide protective and healing properties.

“Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates

Not sure where to start or the best plants to grow to support your health and ward off illnesses like viruses and bacterial infections? Simply plant more culinary herbs and learn how to use them for their medicinal benefits as well as flavour in the kitchen. Research studies have shown several herbs in the Lamiaceae (mint) family have particularly powerful anti-viral benefits. These include thyme, peppermint, oregano and sage.

I encourage you to learn about the benefits of these herbs – how to grow, use and store them, make herbal teas and add them to everyday meals. At the onset of the flu, a virus or common ailment, wouldn’t it be comforting to know which herbs to use? These are a few resources to help get you started.

Grow Healthy ‘Fast Food’ with Microgreens and Sprouts

One of the easiest ways to grow your greens and nutrient-dense food is to sow seeds and raise young plants as microgreens. Or simply soak and rinse seeds for a few days and enjoy as sprouts. Instead of waiting months, you can be eating microgreens in just 7-21 days depending on the variety. Sprouts and microgreens are ideal if you have limited space and want the flavour and health benefits of tasty, digestive-enzyme rich leafy greens and legumes. If you have to stay home or can’t get to the shops for any period of time, these are life-giving foods you can grow to nourish your health and wellbeing. Keeping a supply of sprouting and microgreens seeds is a simple way to be prepared in uncertain times.  Learn more about the types of seeds, which varieties to grow and how to set up these easy micro gardens at home with these tutorials and resources.

The Allium (Onion) Family

One of the most beneficial plant families to eat and grow are members of the Amaryllidaceae family. More commonly known as the onion family or alliums! So who are these characters? Family members include onions, garlic, leeks, chives, spring onions, shallots and asparagus. When in bloom these edibles are truly some of the most attractive plants in your garden, as well as nutritious.

Members of the Allium family - garlic, spring onions, shallots and onions

Members of the Allium family include garlic, spring onions, shallots and onions

Onions and garlic, in particular, have been used for centuries for their healing and health-protective properties. In 2009, the war department in the Republic of Maldova in eastern Europe, provided each member of its army with a daily ration of one onion and several cloves of garlic to protect them from the H1N1 flu. In the same year, a study on quercetin, the main phytonutrient in onions, showed it killed a type A flu virus more effectively than Tamiflu, a prescription drug used at the time.

Allicin is the main active ingredient in garlic and just one milligram is equivalent to 15 international units of penicillin. Since each clove typically contains 7-13 mg of allicin, 3 cloves of garlic have roughly the equivalent antibacterial activity as a standard dose of penicillin. Whilst bacteria often become resistant to antibiotics, garlic appears to have no such problem.

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Leeks, chives (garlic and onion varieties), spring onions and shallots also share many of the healing and flavour benefits onions and garlic offer you. Why not consider growing at least one or two members of this family to enjoy the tasty health benefits?

Foods Rich in Vitamin C

One of the ways I protect my health is by eating foods that contain key vitamins, particularly vitamin C. Research studies* support the vital role this nutrient plays in preventing illness and healing. One of the reasons I grow citrus fruits, mango, papaya, pineapples, berries, leafy greens and herbs like thyme, coriander/cilantro, parsley, basil and chives is because they are rich in vitamin C. I find squeezing some juice daily and adding fruits, herbs or leafy green vegetables to a meal are easy ways to boost my immune system naturally. Consider growing a few of these foods for your own health.

Vitamin C Rich Fruits and Vegetables

Vitamin C Rich Fruits and Vegetables

* References

  1. Gorton H.C., Jarvis K. “The effectiveness of vitamin C in preventing and relieving the symptoms of virus-induced respiratory infections.” J Manipulative Physiol Ther. (1999): 530-533.

  2. Masaki K.H., Losonczy K.G., Izmirlian G., et al. “Association of vitamin E and C supplement use with cognitive function and dementia in elderly men.” Neurology. (2000): 1265-1272.

  3. Morton, D. J., Barrett-Connor, E. L. and Schneider, D. L. “Vitamin C Supplement Use and Bone Mineral Density in Postmenopausal Women.” J Bone Miner Res. (2001): 135–140.

  4. Carr A.C., Frei B. “Toward a new recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C based on antioxidant and health effects in humans.” Am J Clin Nutr. (1999): 1086-1107.

How to Save Seeds Series

I believe seed saving is a vital skill for all gardeners to learn. Having a sustainable garden means less reliance on outside resources and inputs – including seeds. I rarely buy seeds these days because I’ve saved the majority of my own year to year. Locally grown plants tend to be far more resilient to harsh climate conditions than those you buy. If this is a skill you’d like to know more about, check out the latest articles in this 4-part series I’ve written for Garden Culture Magazine.

Seed saving series in Garden Culture Magazine

Ready to start sowing seeds and planting? These tutorials may help:

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Want more inspiring ideas?

Each week I share photos and videos of what I’m growing, harvesting and eating from my garden and ways I use my homegrown food. Follow me for more tips and inspiration in between newsletters.

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I look forward to sharing more news and ways to grow good health next month.

Happy gardening!


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