Enjoy gardening for better health and well-being!
When the bushfires were racing along the east coast, the air quality was a health concern and residents were fleeing from their home across Australia we wondered if it could get any worse.
Only 8 weeks later and all of Australia is in lockdown. Now is the time when gardening and connection to nature is more important than ever. Scientists have found that spending two hours a week in nature (this includes gardening) is linked to better health and well-being.
There is a renewed focus on growing your own food and the panic buying in the last few weeks across the country makes many of us want to turn away from the shops in droves. Being able to supply a selection of leafy greens is easy to do regardless of space available. Leafy greens grow just as successfully in pots as they do in the ground.
Fast-growing repeat harvest vegies.
It’s the perfect time to plant many of the fast-growing repeat harvest varieties. Repeat harvest refers to the way they are harvested; only take the leaves you are planning to use immediately, leaving the others to continue to grow.
English spinach, Chinese cabbage, kale, loose leaf lettuce varieties, Pak choi, rainbow chard and silver beet are super easy to grow, the perfect staples to the diet and can be used for many different recipes. Harvest when the leaves are tender and small and the flavour is at its best.
Tips for growing repeat harvest vegies in the ground.
Tips for growing repeat harvest vegies in the ground cont:
- Spread composting mulch before planting seedlings, it makes it easier to apply mulch.
- To plant split the mulch to reveal the soil, an area about the diameter of a 2lt ice cream container is ideal.
- Soak seedlings in a bucket of Seasol before planting, the plants can be completely submerged. Mix 30mL of concentrate per 9 litres of water (standard watering can).
- Always plant two seedlings in one hole, seedlings seem to do better with two together.
- Water in well with Seasol at planting and then apply PowerFeed fortnightly.
Most repeat harvest varieties will be ready to harvest a few leaves in 3 weeks. In 4-6 weeks’ time plant a few follow up crops, to ensure you have a continual supply of tender flavoursome leaves.
Tips for growing repeat harvest vegies in pots:
- Select a container at least 40cm across or volume of at least 30 litres. Large containers are perfect and will not dry out too quickly. The extra soil around the roots allows mass planting.
- Fill with equal parts premium potting mix and coco peat. Coco peat has increased water holding capacity without water logging plants and very good nutrient exchange properties, which means plants can take up nutrients quickly and efficiently.
- Growing vegies in pots is perfect for small space gardens and can easily be moved to capture as much sun as possible.
- Have a few pots on the go at varying stages of maturity – that way you will never run out of fresh leafy greens.
For even Quicker and Easier Results
One of the easiest and cheapest ways of growing vegies in containers is to grow them in a bag of premium potting mix. This option isn’t as attractive as large beds or a few mixed pots, but the results are the same. Tasty greens will be ready to be harvested in a few weeks.
All that is needed is a bag of premium potting mix, scissors, Seasol, PowerFeed and a couple of punnets of vegie seedlings.
Follow this simple process.
- Loosen the bag of potting mix if compacted to make it fluffy.
- Select a sunny position and lay potting mix bag flat. Pierce some holes in the bottom for drainage and cut 6-8 holes on the top side of the bag. Pierce some holes on the top around the holes that have been cut. Holes should be big enough to fit two seedlings in each hole.
Follow this simple process cont:
- Plant seedlings in holes. Plant similar sized varieties together in one bag. Pak choi and repeat harvest lettuce go well together, as does silver beet and Chinese cabbage.
- Water in well with Seasol and apply PowerFeed fortnightly over the foliage (50mL of concentrate per 9 litres of water – standard watering can)
- Once the crop has been finished, the potting mix can be spread over a garden bed.
- Plant another bag in a few weeks’ time to ensure follow up crops are ready as one crop has finished.
Gardening for Stress Release
Surrounding yourself with greenery has been proven to make you feel better. Green is calming and it doesn’t matter if you have 5 plants or 500 you will feel some positive effects of a few plants in your life. Spending time outside tending to plants will reduce blood pressure, give a sense of calm and be beneficial to the immune system.
Its time to immerse you and your family in the world of plants. A social prescription (non-medical treatments) are widely used across the world to tackle loneliness, anxiety and depression.
Tips for Stress Release Gardening.
- Find a calm spot in the garden and place a chair, bench or a few cushions. Preferable with a view to a tree or green foliage. Use this space as a time out or to unwind for a few minutes throughout the day.
Tips for Stress Release Gardening cont.
- Large planters filled with your favourite coloured flowers will give a sense of calm.
- Place a few fragrant plants throughout the garden. Select varieties that flower at different times of the year. Perfumes bring back memories. Plant fond memory plants.
- The sound of running water, immediately brings calm to the soul. It can be as simple as a small fountain in a large bowl or as elaborate as a waterfall and a pond. The choice is yours.
- If you are working from home, position yourself so you can look out a window onto nature, tree or gardens. Research confirms that it only takes 40 seconds of looking at nature or greenery and gardens to feel a physical calming effect.
The last 12 months has seen an explosion requests for the public to be involved in science projects. Scientists need people on the ground to report what is happening across the country, from identifying ants to the Great Cocky Count there is something for everyone. Through this period of self-isolation there is no better time to connect with your outdoor space (with your family) and discover what nature lives under the bark of the trees, in upper canopy or in the shrubs. I have a frog who has hidden itself under the foliage of a Tillandsia, bunkered down and has found the perfect home. There is a local food source with the bugs being attracted to the window and a water bowl close by. See what you can discover.
Simple citizen science projects to keep kids connected to their backyard through school closures:
- Download the Frog ID app from the Australian Museum. You can record frog calls and submit photos for identification. You can even listen to frogs from the state you live.
- Place a bird bath in a prominent spot and monitor how many different species of birds visit the birdbath at a nominated time through the day.
- Everyone nominates a plant in the garden and explores how many different types of critters live in that plant. Is it different depending upon the time of the day or varying weather patterns?
- Depending what state you live in, the state-run agricultural department will have many open citizen science projects on the go. Check out Ant Blitz or Pestwatch. Monitoring pests in your back yard is a front-line defense for our biosecurity team. Many exotic pests and diseases across the world haven’t reached Australia and by keeping an eye out for what is in your local backyard or courtyard could help keep them out. Put the period of self – isolation to good use.