Folks who are just starting food-growing at home may well already have a garden, however big or small, that they are happy with and are now branching out into food. It is possible to have a big garden pull-through holiday project, then just keep it ticking along happily with just the seasonal maintenance, but it is a mistake to think the same goes for growing food.
Building connection to your food
Despite an entire industry based on satisfying our New Year resolutions, I think we all know that successful dietary change is MORE slower lifestyle changes that stick, and LESS holiday project. Growing your own food is the same deal. The most important things absolute beginners can do to guarantee long term success is to follow the Five Level Zero rules for absolute beginners, and BE IN the garden almost every day – not ‘In your boots with hands in the dirt’, but even just the few minutes stroll through it as you come home, go out or take the bins out.
📷 Every small stage of growing brings understanding.
Growing food brings you closer to how the seasons move through your place, because each stage of growth is important – shoots, leaves, roots, fruits and seeds.
🌿 Most vegetables are annuals, so their chance to thrive is all within one tilt around the sun.
Vegies thrive on attention
This is for two reasons – a food garden you don’t look at every day will get away from you; growing well requires being connected, to slowly learn what each variety needs and it’s change with the intimate turn of season. The other is that pests don’t like human interference so being in it just a little each day keeps them on their toes. 🐛🐌🐜🦗🔍
📷 Veg beds can look unchanged from a distance, but up close a lot is going on (⚠️this photo taken before the change in netting gauge regulations)
Anything automatic in your vegie plots is designed to avoid being there, and ends up making too many assumptions about what the plants actually need. For example, with irrigation – I use upside down lawn spray hoses (the blue/green ones) just in the summer, as they deep soak, rather than drip feed.. thereby encouraging deeper root systems. I AVOID putting irrigation onto automatic timers, and instead go out and attach the hose to the bed and water whilst doing other things (you can still set a time on the hose, just not have it totally automatic).
📷 Inexpensive soaker hose upside down pinned with turf hooks.
Avoid Groundhog Day
There are many ways to record and develop what you learn about your place too. If you like writing, then a seasonal journal is the go, or graphite jottings in the margin of your favourite veg growing book. If not, then try pictures into seasonal albums on your phone, or making seasonal reminder-app lists, or annually recurring calendar items to let yourself know next year what you did this year. Whichever way works for you, make it quick, easy and recurring so you aren’t reinventing the wheel.
If not connected regularly to what you grow in this way, your food-growing experience can end up like Groundhog Day where you have to relearn every year because the small cumulative understandings and reinforcement that come from short frequent visits don’t ever really happen.
🌿 Fewer plots, fewer vegies, more small moments of attention, more often, is the way to cumulative knowledge that sticks..
Look wide; grow well, folks 🌿