Rohan Anderson is a Ballarat based Dad, Husband and self confessed modern Hunter Gatherer. He’s often found pottering in his vegetable garden, in the kitchen or out embracing the food that nature provides. His blog ‘Whole Larder Love‘ documents his approach to food, fun and life in general.
A few unseasonably warm days at the end of winter has me thinking about the spring plantings. Actually I turn into a pubescent schoolboy, giggling with joy when I asked that cute girl out to the blue light disco. Man I’m old. Sure you can grow some veg during winter, but it’s the warm season that floats my boat. So much garden action, and less reliance on the evil supermarkets for fresh produce.
One of the keys to having a veg patch that will provide enough produce for a family is planning. ‘Be prepared’ was the mantra drilled into me when I was a Cub; yes I was a total cutie in that uniform. If you want pictorial evidence email me at (email@example.com).
Being ready for the onset of spring is something I diligently take care of every year. A few years ago I purchased one of those cheap little hot houses from the hardware store, all of $30 and worth every penny. I have to mend it with new clear plastic each year but the frame size is good, perfect for the urban farmer.
Raising seedlings makes more sense to me than buying a punnet of seedlings for around $4, especially when you are growing a lot of veg it can become quite a fiscal commitment, one of which our family, on a single income, couldn’t afford. It’s not that I’m a super tight arse but it just makes sense to find a cheaper alternative. Okay so I’m a bit of a tight arse.
We raise our own seedlings; with a packet of seeds costing only a few bucks which goes a great deal further than buying trolleys full of punnets at your garden centre. Take carrots for example, in a punnet you get 6-8 individual carrot plants for $4, where as a jumbo pack of seeds for the same price can grow you a 100 individual carrots. So why on earth do people insist on buying punnets of seedlings? Well usually it’s a combination of poor planning, laziness or limited knowledge of how to raise your own seedlings. It’s super easy guys, like opening that crisp cold beer on a stinking hot summer day. Easy.
Making the effort will you save a heap of doe, but the satisfaction you get from raising a plant from the beginning to end is something we don’t get from most of our everyday lives. That’s one thing I believe is fundamentally flawed in our society, we don’t get to see much physical evidence of a job well done. You go to work, sit in front of a computer, make a few phone calls and go home. Sure you’ve done ‘something’ but the satisfaction isn’t immediately obvious. With gardening you can physically see something rise from the soil and grow into a tangible object you can put on your plate. You know its origins, you know no chemicals were used and the flavour will blow you away so much you may need to change your knickers. I remember tasting my first homegrown garlic many years ago and was astonished by the rich peppery flavour. A change of knickers ensued.
Gardening doesn’t require super specialised equipment, or rules… I hate rules. Like everything in life simplify the process and leave room to enjoy yourself. I tend to recycle items that would otherwise be destined for the bin, like toilet paper rolls and food tins. There are a few advantages of utilising both.
The toilet paper roll is normally bound for ground fill where they would rot without purpose, but using them for seedlings gives them one last purpose. There is also another great advantage – from a gardening perspective – for the seedling to be planted directly into the garden still in the roll, the roll will eventually rot down while at the same time providing some support for the delicate root system of the seedling. When you plant from a punnet you disturb the root system no matter how careful you are. If there is a lot of disturbance the growth of the plant can be set back a few weeks while it recovers. With toilet rolls there is no (minimal) root disturbance, allowing the fresh seedling to thrive once it’s planted.
Saying that though I also like to use old food tins to raise individual seedlings. A generous root system develops and they make ace gifts for your family and friends, especially when you plant a tomato in an Italian tomato tin… oh the irony. With the tins – I bang in a few drainage holes with a hammer and nail underneath – otherwise they can get waterlogged.
It’s a simple process. Choose your seeds; fill the chosen container with seed raising mix, pop in your seeds and top with more seed raising mix and water. Continue to water each day and in a few weeks depending on the seed type little plants will pop up, at this point you will need to change your undies due to the level of excitement.
I always tend to grow more than I need, and the excess I give away to anyone interested, in the hope of getting someone else interested in becoming one step closer to self sufficiency. Now that totally rocks.
Now finish up the gardening session with one of these…