It's a little late but here is February's Gardening Guide courtesy of Dave. He'll be back later in the month with a post about how to include your kids in the gardening process, because this month is all about the kids, right!?
I'll be honest - I love the idea of a new project; the dreaming, the excitement of the scheming and planning, the actual moment that I get going and get some action on the ground. Now if you ask Em, she'll tell you that's where it ends; that is, in amazing dreams and half finished bits and pieces all over the place. But don't buy it okay - it's totes not true. I finish heaps of things, sometimes.I have found that one of the best tricks to successfully growing some of your own food is just to start. It sounds so ridiculously simple but I think it is absolutely the key to urban or backyard food production. Too often we get stuck in the dreaming because everything seems too big; I know for me, I often see all the things that I don't have rather than the things I do (i.e limited space, poor aspect, tree cover etc). But I've found that in the simple act of starting, a world of possibilities reveals itself.
The first thing we grew in our front yard was a row of seven climbing snow pea plants, climbing up some chicken wire against a brick fence - Em planted them with the kids one day while I was at work and they were some of the crispest, most succulent snow peas ever.
Once those were done, I hounded Em to let me take over some lawn space and put in two raised beds, 3000mm x 1500mm - a total of 9m2 of growing space (after about 6 months Em gave in and I was out there in a flash - one of my life goals is to slowly eliminate any lawn mowing from my weekend chores!
In those beds we planted various bits and pieces, all of which were relatively simple (tomatoes, herbs, spinach, silverbeet, kale, garlic etc); it was still a pretty small set-up but about ten times the size of what we'd previously had. Now we have almost half the front yard devoted to vegetable production and looking at photos of the yard prior, I can honestly say that I would never have thought of putting some of things where we have. It is incredible how much food you can produce in a relatively small space (we produced over 20kg of tomatoes 0.5m2 of bed in our first year); the trick is that until you start, you don't notice the nooks and crannies that have been there all along; the small corner of the bed that's perfect for a little thyme bush; the far cramped corner adjacent the water meter that is just hanging for a few sunflowers to be slotted in (the guy who checks our water meter must curse us every time he comes near the place). Nor do you have the knowledge that you gain by getting in there and doing it - that too starts to open the space up and the possibilities become so much more exciting.
On my computer desktop I have the below photo - it's pretty much what my dream kitchen garden would look like; we're still a long way from this but every time I look at it, it reminds me of the possibilities that even a small space provides. And the beauty that food gardens add - so much less dull than 40m2 of grass!
So, whatever your space, get started. Find some pots and plant those out; if you have a yard, dig up a small patch of the garden and start small with a bunch of seedlings from the local nursery. If you only have a balcony there's still no excuse - Indira Naidoo has an amazing garden on her Potts Point balcony that produces an astounding amount of food.
Just start, and I promise you, you'll begin to notice things you've never noticed before.