Welcome to all new gardeners
"Strange times" seems to be the theme at the moment, right? With Covid 19 and Corona virus advice coming from all directions, I'm getting a few requests from people eager to start growing more of their own food at home.
This is perhaps one of the few blessings in this crisis, and I think it's also an opportunity to build gardening communities. Please ask your neighbours if you can plant up a few crops for them, and swap (or sell) your surplus. This could be a way for many urban farmers to create a new livelihood, and it's predicted by many in the sector to be a new career as we embrace a circular economy.
If you have any questions about getting started with a garden, I'd love to help - remotely. Think of me as your online garden coach.
March 17 2020: What's happening in Titirangi, Auckland
My garden this week:
I'm planting seeds for my winter crops - Leeks, Onions, Spring Onions, Kale, Asian Greens, Broccoli, Cabbages, Beetroot, Turnips, Celery, Spinach, Kohlrabi, Carrots.
I'm also planting some quick growing crops for autumn: Lettuce (always lots of lettuce!), Coriander, Peas.
A common theme in my garden is flowers - for the bees, for the cheerful colour through the garden, and also to make sure I can always pick a bunch of flowers for inside.
Winter flowers: Calendula, Borage, Pansies, Violas. I'm experimenting with cosmos, to see how late they will carry on flowering. Last year I had a sunflower still in full bloom in June!
Plant soon for spring: there are so many bulbs to buy right now. Think of the daffodils popping up to say hello in spring, and plant yourself a treat in anticipation now. My favourite spring bulbs are freesias and ranunculus, but every year I splurge on a variety as I know it's just what I need to see in spring.
Grow the food you love to eat
This is my first rule of what to plant - only what you enjoy eating. Always. The end result is then a source of joy and delight, a daily walk through your ideal pantry - sound good?
I personally don't like broad beans, brussels sprouts or kale, but I adore coriander, tomatoes and lettuce. It's taken years to stop planting kale (actually I ended up giving in, and now I grow it because it's so pretty, and I know I can hide it in a smoothie or cooked casserole).
Start your garden planning with careful consideration of your meal planning - brainstorm all the vegetables and herbs you like to use. You can sort them into seasons later, but I think it's really important to get a good picture of what's welcome in your garden.
Find a good seasonal guide
Where to find a seasonal guide for planting in your area?
There are so many Facebook groups devoted to gardening, then there are magazines, websites, articles online... you could even wander round your neighbourhood to see if there's a friendly gardener in your street with a style of gardening that appeals to you - that's how our grandparents did it. Garden centres are full of knowledgeable sales people, or you could find a garden coach like myself who works online.
I'm on the process of completing my Kitchen Garden Coach training with Nicole Burke at Gardenary. It's an exciting platform to be part of, and I'm learning so much - finally I have colleagues who love empowering home gardeners just as much as I do!
There are also guides published by seed companies and other wholesalers - I quite like the layout of the one from Tui: https://tuigarden.co.nz/media/3353/tui-planting-calendar-poster.pdf
I look forward to the day when crop swaps are commonplace, and locals meet up to share their surplus produce, plants, seeds, cuttings and preserves. We all have our own favourite specialties, and sharing with each other means we can all enjoy a wider range of food. Would you start up a crop swap in your street? Here's a podcast interview with Franziska von Hunerbein explaining how the movement began in New Zealand. I hope it might inspire your friends and neighbours to join you, and start growing more as a community: https://therubbishtrip.co.nz/podcast/podcast-10-franziska-von-hunerbein-crop-swap-aotearoa/
Garden Planning: a reflective process
As you reflect on your diet, your garden, and the potential to grow more food, I hope you'll start making lists of what you'd love to be growing. Here's a tool I use with my clients - 10 meditative reflections to journal on (or draw) so that you can build the edible garden of your dreams: https://blueborage.teachable.com/p/foodscaping-10-meditations
If you'd like to connect with a gardening community who are into slow gardening, using biodynamics, appreciating each season, and tuning into the seasonal rhythms, then you are most welcome to come and follow along at Blue Borage Gardening, a private Facebook group for the gardeners who supported my first attempts at video demonstrations, and who have stuck around as Blue Borage the business grows and evolves to serve an ever changing niche of clients.