Saturday, 27 August 2011

Where Do Your Vegetables Come From?

One thing a lot of people don't think about when buying food is the transport involved in getting the food to the shop/market/stall, and then to their home.  Just in brief, your vegetables (and fruit) are picked and packed, they then have a truck ride (which of course uses fuel and makes pollution) and sometimes even a plane ride (which of course also uses fuel and means another truck ride to the final destination) and then after you buy your fruit and veggies, you transport them too, and unless you can carry all your groceries walking or on a bicycle, you're using fuel and making pollution, too.  Often it is impractical or impossible to completely eliminate this part of your carbon footprint, but there are things you can do to minimise your impact.
If a product has come from another country, that's obviously needed more transportation than something grown in your own country; over and above this, you can buy food from your local farmer's market or fruit and veg shop which is grown in your own state, and quite often your own town - even better!  Remember that it's always ok to ask questions about the origins of what you eat, and local produce will be fresher, too.
But what can be fresher than food from your own backyard?  Not much! 
If you
  • don't have a backyard
  • can't dig in your yard
  • can't bend down to garden and/or
  • have very little money
the following may help you.
What follows here is the wonderful visual cacophony which is the story of my beloved.
This is the what, why and how of my home veggie garden.  It may even have pictures.  I don't know yet because I don't make drafts, I just sit here and type whatever comes into my head.  You'll notice if it has pictures because it'll have pictures in it.
My family has a reasonably big backyard, but we can't plant anything in the part where our dogs run around, as they are gigantic eating machines, and will eat anything in the yard with them, including onions and other things which are bad for dogs.  Our dogs have a very good run, so our yard is reduced a lot.
We can't dig in most of the remaining yard, as lots of important pipes and things that affect the whole entire city run through the yard, and if the council needed to get to them they'd just rip out our garden.  I didn't really want a garden all that way down, anyhow, as I have back and joint pain and it's difficult for me to bend down.
The solution Mum and I came up with was to make an edible garden in tubs and pots, but this posed one problem: tubs and pots cost money.  We worked out that while tubs and pots do cost money, we could make them cost less money.  Mum and I asked our friends for any old, disused flower pots they had; Dad scoured the local tip and second-hand shops, not just for pots but for barrels, wine tubs, big buckets, laundry tubs and anything else we could drill some holes in and fill with potting mix.
Here's a picture of an assortment of our pots and "pots":
We also thought we'd get a little compost going.  One day I opened the lid and found these potatoes growing:

A lot of our first seeds came from vegetables we'd bought from the supermarket, we simply saved the seeds from what we ate, or kept a potato that'd grown eyes.  Seed packets for other plants were sourced from friends and relatives, found on the covers of magazines we were going to buy anyhow (hooray!) and picked up very cheaply from the bargain bin at the hardware store (sometimes $1 or less!).  Dad wondered how we'd (ok, how he'd) get the lawnmower in around the pots to mow the lawn, which is when my fabulous mother had the idea of laying weed mat against the fence line, and placing the pots of veggie seeds on the mat.  The pots and "pots" were placed on the mat and prepared with potting mix and fertilizer.  Mum and I both decided we wanted to keep the garden as organic as possible, so our fertilizer consisted largely of plant matter, animal manure and a dead goldfish who'd lived a wonderful long life and gotten very big; we figured feeding our garden would be a good use for our loved pet now departed.
I planned out which seeds would go in what pot, and got to planting.  Everyday, like an eager child waiting for Christmas, I would run out into the garden and peer into every pot to see if anything had grown, yet.
After a few weeks, we found we needed to buy less food; some of the money we saved went into buying some more "exotic" seeds and seedlings, like yellow zucchini and purple carrot amongst others.
Below is a photo of our pumpkin vine.  The pumpkins were one of the easiest things we grew; we just threw some pumpkin seeds in potting mix in an old wheelbarrow tray with no wheels on it.  We're not sure what kind of pumpkin it is, but it's either JAP or Kent, as that's the kinds we would buy from the supermarket.

Another very easy thing to grow is of course the potatoes, and we start some more when we find one with eyes in the cupboard. Growing them in tubs means harvest is as simple as tipping the tub up on a tarp.  Potatoes do attract one unique garden pest, the "28-spot ladybird".  These ladybirds don't eat aphids like all the others, they just make lattice work out of potato leaves.  Personally I don't worry too much about them, since we can't eat the leaves of the potato, anyhow.  Here's a picture of one and what they do:
And here's a picture of a "good" ladybird on some catnip, so you can compare:
Having the plants in large pots means most of them can be tended from sitting in a chair; some smaller pots we have set up on an old table.
Here's a picture of a pineapple in a tub on the table:

That's some clover growing in the same tub.  It's not bothering the pineapple, so we just leave it.  It's really surprising how many different things you can put in the one tub:
If you want to start your own edible garden from seeds, most seeds are quite straight forward to collect, just take the seeds out the fruit and plant them.  Tomato seeds are a bit tricky to collect, but you can collect and grow the seeds from any tomato like this.  Pineapples are especially easy, just cut the top off a pineapple and plant the top, but they do take about two years to bear their first fruit.  If you have any other questions about starting your own garden in tubs and pots, please comment them on this post, and I'll try to answer them on the next post.
Lots of lovely love and peaceful peace to you all,
Cassandra Louise.
PS- I just really wanted to show off the carrots I'm growing in an old garbage bin, so here's a picture of them.

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