A great first step into the world of self sufficiency is container gardening. The cost is relatively low, the returns amazing.
So where to begin?
Let’s start with the container. Small circular pots about 8cm (3 inch) in diameter are good. Plastic, ceramic, manufactured for purpose, fruit tins or found objects all work. Begin where you are and use what you have at hand. Potting soil can be picked up cheaply. Soil dug from garden will work but it will give you drainage problems most times but you might be lucky and have suitable soil. It’s all an experiment so have fun.
I would suggest any or all of these five warm weather annual herbs:
Basil, Rocket, Chives, Coriander, Parsley, Mint.
They have small seeds and grow quickly. Sprinkle the seeds on the surface of the potting soil, sprinkle a layer of potting mix on top of that and water. In a week you see the first green shoots. After the plants are a four fingers high, you can pick a few small leaves. As the plant grows, you pick more. As you come to know your plants you’ll learn exactly how much you can pick. Take too much and the plant will die. Take too little and it will run to seed.
These lessons are invaluable. You can apply them to container veggies.
Let’s look at container veggies for beginners!
Lettuce, Silverbeet, Tomatoes, Beans, Potatoes.
Lettuce and silverbeet you treat like the summer herbs above. Pick the leaves as you need them and they will keep growing. I’ve had a silverbeet plant last fourteen months. The stem looked quite gnarly and exotic but the leaves were full of flavour. Six lettuce plants, picked from the outside kept four of us in salad green for five months. It is doable!
Tomatoes and beans will require a trellis. Chicken wire, old fallen branches or then bamboo canes can all be used. Again make use of what you have at hand.
“Potatoes?” I hear you ask? Yes these too can be container grown in a relatively small space. Old rubbish bins with holes in the bottom, either through rust or punched into them with a pick work well. The thing to remember with potatoes is this: the tubers form between the seed potato and the surface of the soil. Assuming an old rubbish bin, either metal or plastic, you place the seed spuds on the bottom, cover them to about 25 cm (10 inches) and wait. Once the stems and leaves are about 25 cm in height, cover them to just below their tips with more soil and so on until the bin is full. Once the top leaves have flowered and died off, you tip the whole thing out on the grass and pick your spuds.
So get to it! Be warned, this can be addictive! Plant pots lead to raised beds and before you know it you’ll have surpluses to give away to friends. The next minute you’ll be thinking of keeping chickens! It is a slippery slope.