- You can have organic produce without a sprawling garden.
- There are free websites that provide you with all the tips you need.
Two years ago, CHOICE member Matt De Britt decided to set up a mini-farm in his sprawling garden on NSW’s Central Coast. He estimates it has since saved him and his wife $1800 a year in fresh vegetables and eggs. All he wanted was fresher, tastier and more nutritious food; the huge cost savings were an unexpected bonus.
Forty percent of Australian consumers buy organic food at least occasionally for health, taste and out of environmental concern; however, they cite higher prices as the main reason they don’t buy more, according to The Australian Organic Market Report 2008. While “survival gardening” is part of a worldwide shift in consumer demand for more nutritious and tastier food, rising food prices, environmental concerns and the global downturn are key catalysts, spawning a grassroots approach towards food security.
CHOICE discovered that starting an edible garden simply requires good guides, time and common sense. And though not everyone has the kind of backyard space to make a vegetable patch complete with chickens, there are several other options.
Please note: this information was current as of September 2009 but is still a useful guide to today's market.
Armed with a couple of gardening books and some tips from the net, Matt De Britt and his wife planted capsicum, tomato, chilli, broccoli, corn, lettuce and celery in their backyard. Matt opted for the “no-dig garden” method, pioneered by Sydney gardener Esther Deans, among others, in the 1970s. The above-ground garden is created by laying newspapers, hay, fertiliser and compost until you achieve a raised garden bed. The different types of organic matter rot down into a nutrient-rich soil. The idea is to create good soil content on any surface; you can even create a no-dig garden using just a planter box that fits on your apartment balcony.
“You can always get started with the herbs and vegetable plants sold in plastic pots at your local nursery or hardware store,” says De Britt, who lived in a two-bedroom apartment in suburban Sydney before moving to his Terrigal house. “You’ll be amazed how well carrots can grow in an old wine barrel or potatoes in a styrofoam box on your apartment balcony.”
To get the best out of your garden, you need to learn about seasonal planting. Work out which vegetables and fruits grow in each season using a gardening calendar (see Contacts). It will tell you which month to plant what and when to expect harvest, in whichever Australian climate zone you live. According to the Diggers Club Garden Annual, for example, sweet corn is best grown between September and February in Victoria, while the climate in NSW means it’s better between July and October.
For more information on Gardening, see Backyard.