What to grow?
The simple answer to this is what do you like to eat? Once you have decided what you eat from week to week, the next step is to work out whether you can grow the food you eat in the climate zone where you live.
An important note here is to start small and work your way up as you gain experience. There is nothing worse than when you grow a huge vegetable patch and then leave it to be overrun by weeds, creating a home for pests and diseases.
Simply put, some fruit and vegetables will not grow well in certain climate zones. For example, tropical fruit will be difficult to grow in cold climate zones and fruit that requires cold temperatures to set such as apples will not set fruit in tropical areas.
Having said this, it is always worth pushing the boundaries a little and experimenting to see if you can grow some fruit and vegetables in areas where they are not supposed to grow. One of the experiments I have taken on is growing Avocado’s in a temperature climate zone. I know of others who are attempting to grow bananas and mangos in cooler climate areas as well, with some good success.
The climate zones are usually defined in 4 categories
Tropical or Sub Tropical – Characterised by constant high temperatures with an average of 18 degrees Celsius or higher
Dry or Arid – Hot and not much rain fall such as desert environment
Temperate – Average temperature of above 10 degree Celsius in warmer months and coldest month average temperatures of just below 0 to about 18 degrees Celsius.
Cold – Average temperature of above 10 degree Celsius in warmer months and coldest month average temperatures of below 0 degrees Celsius
How much space do I have?
Rather than just looking at the ground space available, be adventurous and also look at vertical spaces that have good access to sunlight throughout the day. My garden utilises a lot of vertical space to grow my produce, such is the boundary fences and free standing trellises. Each plant that you plan to grow will have differing space requirements, so you will need to spend a little time working out which plant produce will have priority in your kitchen for the relevant season.
Soil – the soul of the garden
The most important part of the garden is the soil. Most of my time is spent trying to improve and maintain good soil structure with the right nutrients to feed my plants. Some backyards have some pretty ordinary soil and it can take some time to get the soil to a level that is going to produce a good crop, but spending a little more time up front will give you huge returns in the long term. There are plenty of easy ways to improve the soil such as adding compost (from lawn and garden clippings, vegetable scraps and dead leaves), mulching with straw to retain moisture, adding worms/worm tea and adding well rotten animal sheep, cow, chook are horse manure.
My first steps were to add a huge load of locally sourced horse manure which came with the added benefit of plenty of worms. The only disadvantage was that the horse manure contained a number of weeds – so I now use other manure such as alpaca, sheep and cow. The other major benefit to my soil in the garden is the regular addition of worms and worm eggs from my worm farm. I can take out a couple of handfuls of the rich worm casting and worms from the farm and within a month they are back to their original population.
There are plenty of resources on the internet to show you how to improve your soil, so make sure you spend some time doing this before you plant and grow anything.
All that is left to do now is to get planting! Take a look at the different methods used for growing fruit and vegetables, work out which one works best for you and get to it!