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Organic Gardening for Avril!

Welcome to the organic gardening page. Growing your own food is very easy and inexpensive. The rising cost of fruit and vegetables would be motivation enough however consider the health benefits of truly organic food and the convenience of it literally at your fingertips! Here are some practical tips in 5 easy gardening steps to make even the complete, novice gardener a producer of wholesome, organic food in a few short weeks if not days!

As Spring and Fall approach in the Southern and Northern hemispheres respectively, now's the time to sow the seasonal seeds you may have collected or bought. Sow them in peat pods or cardboard egg cartons and keep them indoors in a sunny place to sprout and then you can transplant them with their containers into the garden in 2-4 weeks when they are established. Don't forget organic pest sprays and pellets and start to prepare the soil outside 2-4 weeks in advance with compost, organic fertilisers and good quality soil! 

Step 1 - Recycle everything!

Keep the container, food scraps and seeds from the fruit and vegetables that you buy.

Keep the large plastic containers for composting food scraps. 

You can compost almost anything except - citrus, meat, fish, onions and garlic. Put the scraps in the container and cover with the lid because it can be a little smelly and attract flies if you leave it open. 

Place seeds to dry on old paper or plastic containers. When dry, transfer them to old clean jars or plastic containers and label them clearly.

Paper egg cartons are fantastic to grow seedlings and you don't have to transplant them just cut out each individual egg holder, make a small hole in the bottom of each and plant it directly into the ground or a pot. you can wet each egg holder before planting to make the paper decompose faster. 

The photo is of mixed herbs in the blue pot, beans in the egg holders and eggplant in the egg carton lid. These are planted next to the kitchen sink where they are easy to water and they get sunlight each day. You can see the plants growing towards the window for the light.

Step 2 - Invest in quality soil and fertiliser

A bag or two of a quality organic compost will set your seeds up with a great foundation. 

If planting into the garden or a pot, add a slow release fertiliser and some home made compost including the vegetable scraps and crushed egg shells, buried directly into the pot to decompose at it's own leisure. 

DO NOT compost meat, citrus or onions. 

If you are growing on the window sill, buy some peat-moss pellets. They are fantastic to support the fast growth of seeds. 

Step 3 - Start simple, Grow herbs.

Start by growing a few herbs by the window sill in a recycled container and some peat-moss pellets. 

Mustard is fantastic as it sprouts within 2 days and is ready for garnishes and cooking within 2 weeks. It will produce pretty yellow flowers in a month and seed pods for harvesting for the next crop of seedlings in 2 months. It's great cooked with potatoes. 

Try also basil, coriander, mint and parsley. 

You can plant the peat-moss pellets directly into a small pot with a holder plate which looks great in the kitchen or on the dining table. See the blue pot with herbs in the second photo above. Alternatively you can plant the seedlings directly into the garden or a bigger pot. 

Step 4 - Manage pests

In the garden you will need to plant a lot of garlic (I use the garlic that shoots in my kitchen drawer) around the herbs to keep the snails and slugs away. 

You can mix ground chilli (1 teaspoon), minced garlic (2 cloves), olive oil (1 tablespoon) and 400 ml water in a spray bottle and spray the plants every 2-3 days. 

If this doesn't work place some snail pellets around the outside of the pot. Or you can place a saucer of beer near the pots. Snails love a drink too, apparently. 

For fungus - Use 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of vinegar and 1 tablespoon of eucalyptus oil in 500ml water in a spray bottle and spray the leaves of the plant. Also cut back any badly affected leaves. For strongly affected plants try: 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar mix with a tablespoon each of the oils above.

The zucchini plants in this photo produced a large crop and were then hit with fungus. After this treatment they bounced back for the end of their season with plenty of new baby zucchinis.   Be patient with crops and understand that pests are a part of the cycle of life!

Step 5 - Plant en Masse and water!

To ensure you get a good crop, harvest the seeds and plant many so you get lots of seedlings. 

Separate them when they are about 10 centimetres tall and give them room to grow with a good mulch and water mixed with a tablespoon of Seasol (seaweed solution).

Always ensure the seedlings sit in a small well (hole), surrounded by higher soil so that the water collects around them and doesn't run to lower ground.

Water every 2 days and less if there has been good rainfall. 

Use a slow release fertiliser and a good mulch like pea straw to keep the soil wet and the seedlings protected. 

Here all the seeds from 2 pieces of 2 different types of store-bought pumpkin were used. The pumpkin plants took aver the vegetable plots and produced over 26 pumpkins. Some were given away and there were still pumpkins left for a year. Now seasonal crops are growing from the seeds of last year's crop. Remember you can cook and eat the small, young pumpkin leaves. They taste like spinach!

Tomato seeds from 1-2 tomatoes were harvested, dried and planted here and produced a good crop of tomatoes. 

Growing your own vegetables can save you thousands of dollars each year and you will have the peace of mind of knowing exactly what you are eating. 

Give it a try!