Starter Guide On Growing a Food Garden In a Small Space

Words: Devon Bowers

Covid-19 and lockdown has really changed the way we live in South Africa, probably for the rest of our lives. For a lot of us we are spending a lot more time at home making it easier to do some of the things that we have struggled to find time for before – like gardening. Now is the time to join the farm-to-table movement by using this handy starter guide to grow your own fruit, vegetables and herbs. Start a garden and save some money on that grocery list! Starting your own garden will connect you to your food by having fresh fruit and veg straight out of the soil. It’s also a great way to make use of space in the garden for something functional vs just aesthetic. What can be better than that? Don’t worry if you don’t have a green thumb (most of us don’t), these are simple and easy to start with and don’t require much space. So get planting and watch as your plant babies grow.

HOW TO PREP YOUR FOOD GARDEN

First start with getting containers. Luckily any dirt-filled container with a hole in the bottom will work. So get creative by going through your recycling and find storage bins, plastic yoghurt tubs or buckets and get decorating. If this sounds like too much effort, you are also able to get regular flower pots too.

Now that you have your containers, fill them with a bit of gravel, smashed up ceramic items, bits of concrete, marbles or some stones. This will encourage drainage, which is important for your plants. Make sure you put some kind of saucer or dish underneath the container so your floors or counters are protected from leaks. The last step is filling with soil and then you are good to start planting for your food garden.


GET YOUR GREEN THUMB GOING

HERBS

Herbs are definitely top of the list in any starter guide on growing a food garden. They are the easiest to start with because they require very little effort. Have them in a sunny spot by a window and water regularly. Just be careful to not harvest too frequently or else you might need to replace the whole plant.

Forget buying expensive herbs at the store and grow basil, rosemary, mint, ginger, or parsley right at home. Just be sure to understand that different herbs have different care requirements. A tip, if growing from scratch scares you, buy the herb plant already grown and care from there.


MICROGREENS

Microgreens are great to have in your kitchen as they contain many healthy vitamins. You are able to add them to almost any dish and they work without fail in a salad. Same as herbs, microgreens don’t require much labour. Plant in a shallow container and put in a sunny spot. You will have to remember to water frequently as they need plenty of water. These plants are fast growing, so you will certainly be using these soon enough.


Food Garden

GARLIC

Garlic is a definite must-have in any kitchen and is also easy to grow at home. All you need is a discarded garlic clove and a small container. Position cloves root-side down in your container while burying the tips about 5cm down. Water your garlic often enough so that the soil stays moist but not wet. It may take awhile for it to grow fully so patience is key. Nevertheless, soon you will be adding tasty garlic right from your garden!


TOMATOES

Oh yes, you can grow tomatoes at home! They might require a slightly larger pot, but it is totally worth not having to buy this fruit at the store! You will need to keep plants in a warm area that gets light for about 12 hours a day. There is also the option to plant them in a hanging basket on your balcony or patio.


Food Garden

LEMONS

This might be surprising to the non-gardener, but you are able to get mini citrus trees such as Meyer lemon trees. It is perfect in the home because of its fragrant smell and beauty. Unfortunately, citrus can be a bit temperamental but all you need to do is properly care for them. These lemon trees need about 8-12 hours of sunlight and moist air to thrive. Also be sure to put something underneath the pot to protect your floor and furniture as lemon trees give off a sticky sap. When done right you will be making lemon meringue pie in no time!


CHILLI PEPPERS

For those chilli lovers, growing chilli peppers is the best thing to get started with. They grow year-round and thrive when indoors, just give them at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. Even better is that they are pretty hardy so they won’t die if you forget to water them for a few days. You are also able to grow them from seeds you scrape out of your store bought chillies, as long as they are organic.


Food Garden

CARROTS

With carrots, you might need a little more space than the others with a box about 20cm deep and wide. The sprouts that grow need to be thinned out and have enough space between each carrot. Carrots tend to need deeper soil and take about 70 days to harvest. It might seem long, however it will definitely be worth it when you can make honey and chilli roasted carrots with bacon and cashews.


KALE

For the juicers, growing your own kale is certainly going to save you money. Even though it grows amazingly outdoors, it is perfect for being inside to stay away from harsh weather. Just make sure that you have a big enough container for the kale, as it will need about a 40cm square box. On the bright side, you will be able to keep it growing all year round by staying on top of the watering and making sure it has direct sunlight.


Food Garden

SPRING ONION

What is so great about this plant is that you can buy it once and then never again. Use the green tops for your yummy dishes and then save the white bottoms to plant later! All you need to do is submerge the bottom of the spring onion in a small cup of water by a sunny window and change the water every few days. After about a week, you are able to plant them in a pot. When the fresh ends come in, just snip them off and use the bottom again! A bonus of this plant is that they might start to flower. These flowers are edible and are great in salads. Spring onion is a definite must in your food garden.

When all your plant babies are harvested, get inspiration for cooking them by checking out our recipe section. Our favourite must-have recipes will make all your gardening effort worth it, such as Red Pepper and Tomato Soup and Aubergine Thai Curry with Coconut Milk.

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