In the December newsletter you’ll find important safety and contamination factors to consider when using manures; inspiring ideas from my dad’s small garden; small but mighty microgreens plus+ seasonal gardening tips. Dig in!
Sustainable Gardening Tips for December
Recently, I took a break from my own garden in subtropical Queensland, Australia to visit my 94 year old dad in Sydney. Age is just an attitude right? He lives in a retirement village with my step-mum. They both love gardening and do the majority of planting, pruning and maintaining the flowers, herbs, vegies, hedges, perennials and annuals. It gives him a sense of purpose creating a beautiful space in these small gardens. They give all the residents joy. It’s hard to slow dad down. He walks every day and always has a pair of secateurs and gloves in his back pocket or a bucket filled with weeds in hand!
There’s a joke in our family that us gardeners suffer from ‘Secateuritis‘. The symptoms are the inability to surrender our secateurs or stop pruning plants! If you keep a sharp pair of secateurs handy to take cuttings and transplant, you too may be one of ‘us’! This incredibly therapeutic activity is quite addictive and rewarding. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face too. Propagating new plants by ‘community pruning’ is a fun and very satisfying skill to learn. We always have new free plants to nurture or gift.
It’s amazing what an incredible impact colourful flowers and foliage have on the spirit. You can view all my photos here and I hope this inspires you to grow more blooms and use vertical spaces. You’ll also see dad’s creative solution for keeping the rabbits and possums from eating the parsley.
Small but Mighty Microgreens
I got excited about microgreens 10 years ago after reading the research on their nutritional properties. Have you eaten baby vegetables and herbs as microgreens yet? If not, I hope you will be inspired to start. They provide high nutrient value and health benefits for minimal time, space and cost. These fast growing mini gardens are perfect for time and space poor people all year round regardless of your climate. Especially if you want nutritious fresh ingredients without the hassle of gardening! Learn more about their benefits in my free tutorial and introduction video. I’ve also got some fascinating research to share about raising seeds as microgreens to excite you! Read on.
Does it matter what growing medium you raise your seeds in?
Based on study1 results, YES! If you want the most nutritious food, your seed raising medium should include vermicompost (or worm castings). I raise my seeds using easy-to-make homemade seed raising mix. I always include this ingredient. The correct proportions though are critical. Too little and you won’t get optimum results. Too much and it can have negative effects. Check out my Potting Mix Guide to make five seed raising mixes for nutrient-rich healthy plants. Let’s see what the study results reveal.
Vermicompost vs Hydroponic Microgreens – Which is Better?
This illuminating study1 compared the nutritional value of lettuce and cabbage microgreens grown hydroponically (with NPK fertiliser solution) versus in a growing medium that included composted food waste and vermicompost. The study also compared results to the nutrients in store-bought cabbage and lettuce as mature vegetables. 10 nutrients were examined (phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, iron and sodium). “Vermicompost-grown cabbage microgreens had significantly larger quantities of ALL nutrients than hydroponic cabbage microgreens” except for phosphorus. Vermicompost “lettuce microgreens had significantly larger quantities of ALL nutrients than hydroponic lettuce microgreens except for phosphorus, magnesium and copper”. Overall, the results indicate that “vermicompost-grown microgreens are significantly more nutrient-rich than hydroponically grown microgreens.”
That makes sense! In Nature, plants don’t grow in water. Nor are they fed synthetic NPK solutions as in hydroponic systems! Plants naturally have a beneficial relationship with soil microorganisms and worms. They help ‘feed’ plants by converting minerals into soluble nutrients in the soil or seed raising medium. Vermicompost and compost add microbes to the growing medium. Plants grow as nature intended in conjunction with these beneficial soil workers! Multiple studies3 support these findings. Hydroponic systems can’t offer this same benefit.
Nutrient and Health Protective Value of Microgreens
“Microgreens, irrespective of growing method, had greater average nutrient contents than industrially produced mature vegetables that are commonly available in supermarkets.”1 So, growing microgreens at home provides us with “access to larger quantities of nutrients per gram of plant biomass“1 compared to the same mature vegetables purchased at stores. No harmful sprays or toxic chemicals either!
Another study2 found that eating 3-day-old broccoli microgreens provides large quantities of “enzymes that protect against carcinogens” (cancer causing agents). “Crucifers (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts) may play a special role in affording such protection.” The study notes “small quantities of crucifer sprouts may protect against the risk of cancer as effectively as 10 –100 times larger quantities of mature vegetables of the same variety.” So, by eating at least some vegetables from the cabbage plant family (Brassicaceae or Crucifers) as microgreens, we can enjoy significant nutritional value. Plus potential protective health benefits, even in small quantities!
There are many benefits to growing vegetables and herbs as microgreens. We also save garden space, growing time to harvest, water, time and inputs. We can recycle our household food waste to produce compost as a growing medium. This helps reduce landfill while improving the nutritional value of the food we grow and eat. A sustainable way to garden and produce nutrient-rich food, especially in urban areas.
Learn to Grow Microgreens and Start a Worm Farm
Check out these resources to get started.
- 12 Valuable Tips to Grow Healthy Microgreens
- Easy Guide to Growing Microgreens
- 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Raising Seeds
- How to Prevent and Fix Leggy Seedlings
- Seed Starting Guide: Quick Tips for Starting Seeds Successfully
Should You Use Manure in Your Garden? Is it Safe?
If manure hasn’t been on your radar, my latest article may give you some serious food for thought. Most gardeners pick up a bag of fertiliser, compost or manure from the garden centre. You probably assume it’s safe and won’t harm your plants or food you grow. You might even buy a trailer load or bags from the side of the road direct from local suppliers. But, have you ever considered WHAT the animal eats? What VET MEDICATIONS, HERBICIDES and other CONTAMINANTS might be in the manure? The reality is quite sobering.
Have you ever had unusual symptoms on your plants and not known what caused them? This article might be a good place to start. Herbicide injury is just one potential culprit that may be caused by our garden inputs. From personal experience with contaminated soil, I believe we need to do our due diligence. Start digging deeper by tracing the journey of the inputs you use in your garden.
I share a list of questions to ask suppliers. Rather than just thinking about the end product (manure, compost or fertiliser), it’s worth investigating ALL the potential inputs in an animal’s life. If we want to grow safe food without contaminants, this is vital information. You’ll discover which manure to use; benefits vs contaminants and risks and the best ways to use manures safely in an organic garden. I hope you find the research and findings helpful in making more informed decisions. Tell me more.
“More than simply putting organic matter (such as manure, leaves or ordinary compost) into our garden soils, we must provide the inorganic minerals that are key to the growth, maintenance, repair and reproductive or seed-making capacity of food crops, as well as the health and performance of ornamental and landscaping plants.” – Gary L. Kline
What to Plant Now in Subtropical SE QLD
December has been hot and despite some rain, most gardens could benefit from more to refill the soil reservoir to take us through summer. Heatwaves, storms and unpredictable weather are likely. Cyclone season is here. Be prepared. This time of year can be really challenging. Download your December Gardening Tips PDF for planting ideas, tasks to do in the garden plus issues to watch out for. Check out these articles to help your garden survive the months ahead.
- Tips to Grow Food in Hot, Dry or Windy Weather
- 18 Top Tips for Gardening in Dry Climate Conditions
- List of 75+ Drought Tolerant Foods for Dry Climates
Have you tried timing planting in harmony with the moon phases? I work with Nature’s clock and find it helps improve seed germination. I’ve noticed cuttings take root well when propagating plants and plants establish and grow robustly. The new moon phase each month is the best time to optimise the quick uptake of liquid nutrients. During this phase, plants access nutrition and get off to a good start. Working with moon phases and a Moon Calendar has distinct benefits. It helps me plan and stay organised! I know the best dates to take specific actions in my garden and reap the rewards. The natural cycles of energy and water that ebb and flow each month are there for us to tap into. Learn more here.
The Vegetables Growing Guide is a reference chart to help you grow 68 of the most popular vegetables in Australia and New Zealand climate zones. It includes information on companion planting, making compost, soil and moon planting.
What to Plant Now in Other Locations
Bonus Gardening Guide Gift with Purchase
Our economical range of laminated/foldout charts, books, DVDs and gift vouchers are sustainable, durable ways to learn to grow an abundant healing garden. They are popular gifts for gardening friends and family. My Live Chat Gift Vouchers are always a lovely surprise for recipients too. If you’re a member of a garden club, community group or gardening organisation, why not pool purchases and enjoy your bonus gift? Choose from our popular DIY Potting Mix Guide OR Subtropical Planting Guide (Value $12). Offer valid until 25-12-23. Thanks SO much for your support. x
Shop Gardening Guides and Resources
- Nutrient content of cabbage and lettuce microgreens grown on compost and hydroponic growing pads
- Broccoli sprouts: An exceptionally rich source of inducers of enzymes that protect against chemical carcinogens
- Effects of vermicomposts and composts on plant growth in horticultural container media and soil
Dig into my free online Article Library for more topics
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I look forward to sharing more news and ways to grow good health next month.
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