Published : 24 February 2016
Did you know that you don't need acreage in order to create a self-sufficient backyard? While the amount of food you can grow relies on the space available, you can aim for a degree of self-sufficiency even when apartment living.
As we increasingly demand better quality food, grown with less or no chemicals, growing your own is one way to ensure you get what you want.
And home food gardens are an excellent way to enjoy healthy produce without paying a premium for it. Better still, once created, your garden can produce delicious produce all year round.
I often hear people say that they can't grow veggies in their garden because the soil is poor. But that shouldn't stop you! You can either improve the soil you've got or, better still, build raised garden beds, or use containers.
Less bending and digging
Raised garden beds are fantastic, because you can build them up with good soil, manure, straw and compost - even old newspapers, and they are easy to keep watered and mulched. They're also kinder on the back, with less bending and digging!
But you can also create box or container gardens, even indoor vertical gardens. Provided the soil is kept well fertilised, disease-free and turned over before planting each year, it can be re-used again and again.
Another key element to creating a self-sufficient garden is compost. If you've got space, simply build yourself a good, old-fashioned compost pile. Alternately you can buy compost bins that can be regularly rotated to speed up composting. If you don't have the space or the inclination to build up compost, you might consider a worm farm!
A worm farm is easy to use, surprisingly clean and odourless, and turns organic waste into nutrient-rich fertiliser.
If you're lucky enough to have a decent-sized backyard, you may even consider keeping chooks.
Yes, you can keep chooks in suburbia - but not cockerels. And you'll need to check with your local council for regulations and requirements for keeping domestic chickens (often referred to as 'poultry keeping on a small scale').
Keeping chickens in the backyard has lots of benefits and done properly will reward you and your garden in many ways for years to come. It's a bit like combining your compost heap and your worm farm, in fact, because chooks will happily eat your kitchen scraps, while fertilising your garden and presenting you with fresh eggs.
One word of advice, find out which predators are common in your area - for example, snakes or foxes - and take this into consideration when designing and building your chook run.
A bit of research is needed in planting your garden, too. Check to see what plants grow best in your area. For example, there's no point trying to grow cold weather crops in Queensland!
And make sure you include different types of herbs. Growing herbs adds colour and smell to your garden, as well as easy access for cooking.
Finally, hydroponics. Most people have heard of this method but don't realise how simple it is to do.
This type of gardening produces an abundance of plants and vegetables as they receive optimum levels of nutrients, light and water. There are complete systems you can buy and install that practically run themselves.
You will find that your plants grow faster and they will be much juicier and fuller flavoured. You'll also have the satisfaction of knowing that your produce is free from chemicals and pesticides which makes them much healthier for consumption.