Today’s blog will show you how to Keep yourself busy with food gardening during shutdown

The nationwide lockdown due to the Covid 19 virus that we are currently experiencing is forcing us to think out of the box in regards to activities to keep you and your little ones busy at home. Why not partake in an activity that you and your family can all take part in and enjoy, which will have added health benefits like receiving Vitamin D (sunshine), keeping active, as well as the resulting produce will increase vitamins and minerals in your diet and keep you out of the shops. I speak of food gardening that is. This blog will be discussing easy veg and herbs that you can try your hands at growing and how to access materials to do so at the moment.

So the first thing we tend to do when wanting to start a food garden is rush off to a nursery to purchase seeds, seedlings plants etc. This is obviously not an option at the moment as nurseries are closed so I will be listing veg, herbs and fruits which you can grow from produce that you have bought and can regrow from scraps and seeds etc.

Firstly you can save seeds of certain veggies and fruits which can be grown. Just remember that seed is more than often not true to type so the fruit or veggie produced eventually may not be exactly the same as what you collected the seed from. Some good examples of what seeds you can collect and grow are the following. Tomatoes (Baby/cocktail/Roma tomatoes are the best as these varieties are less prone to diseases), peppers (hot and sweet ones), squash and pumpkin family, beans and peas watermelon, strawberry (Yes can you!! Cut off thin slivers with seeds attached and cover with median to grow) are just to name a few. Please keep in mind that when growing tomatoes that the seeds germinate better after fermenting so my recommendation is to let one of the fruits rot a bit and then place whole fruit into planting media and cover with median to grow. Keep in mind tomatoes produce heavily so you do not need many plants to have enough produce. Remember pumpkin seeds can also be dried and roasted. You can make your own seedling mix with 1 part well-rotted compost, 1 part garden soil (loamy) and 1 part coarse sand like malmesbury.

A lot of veggies which are classified as tubers and rhizomes are extremely easy to regrow. Some will actually start growing without even putting any effort into it, like potatoes and sweet potatoes which grow eyes just lying around. These can then be planted. Ginger can be cut into pieces with visible eyes and then be planted. Eating and using ginger when sickness is around is very beneficial.

Individual garlic cloves can be planted and will grow into garlic bulbs

Certain vegetables can also be grown from what we would call scraps. These are the bottoms of the veg where the roots would have usually been, can be replanted and will regrow. Some good examples of this are; Spring onions/green onions (very easy to regrow and quick), leeks, lettuce (if you have bought full heads of lettuce), onions, celery, fennel, cabbage. There are other vegetables which can also be planted again but will not produce the original veg but rather the leaves produced are edible. Examples of these are carrots, beetroot, radishes, turnips etc. I personally love beet greens and they are full of nutrition. An interesting fact is that pineapples can be regrown by planting the head again. There are many articles and videos on the internet on how to regrow all of the above that I have mentioned. Please do your homework first to make sure that you are successful.

Certain herbs are extremely easy to root and grow from ‘slips’ which you have gotten from fresh herbs purchased. Examples are basil, mints and oreganos for example which can be kept in water until they are rooted and can then be planted. Certain herbs which are woodier will be better rooted in a growing medium for example thyme, sage, rosemary etc. Propagating is not difficult at all; it’s just a case of knowing what you are doing. The internet is again full of articles and videos which can help you to learn how to propagate plants.

Then there is the fact that certain people are living in flats and small spaces and don’t necessarily have the space to grow plants or even do not have gardens. Do not be discouraged. There are still some projects which you can partake in. You can even if you have sunny window sills, try your hand at growing some herbs and veg in limited quantities in pots, containers etc. Or here are two other options as well.

Example 1: Microgreens.

This is process of growing plants and cutting the young shoots to be used for salads, soups, decorating meals etc. These microgreens are full of nutrient and pack more a health punch then even the adult plants do some say. You do not need a lot of space to do this; sunny window sills will do the trick here. Pie containers are very useful for microgreen growing, but shallow containers of any sort will work as long as drainage holes are created. Use a seedling mix as a planting medium. See above in blog for homemade seedling mix. Some good plant seeds to grow which you may find in your pantry are Alfalfa, sunflowers, dill, wheatgrass, flax, chia, buckwheat and mustard. Otherwise there is a possibility that some of the supermarkets which are open and selling might have some seed packets still available for seed which will extend what you can grow. Chives, beetroot, radishes, onions, broccoli, cauliflowers and cabbage are other examples of good microgreens.

Remember the old grass heads and egg head growing. These are classic examples of how to make micro growing in general fun for kids. Considering that Easter is coming up egg heads could be a great way for you to entertain the kids. There are plenty of articles and videos in regards to how to do this. Easy and great fun!!

Example 2: Sprouting.

The difference between microgreens and sprouts is that sprouts are germinated seeds which are eaten root, seed and shout. This is the concept where no growing medium is required but rather the seeds are grown in jars with water or rather in cotton wool. Again not much space is required. This is an extremely quick process and sprouts are great added in salads and on top of soups and other dishes as a healthy décor. Some good examples of which seeds to use are the following: Chickpeas, mung beans, alfalfa, sunflowers, lentils, peas, pumpkins, sesame and many more. Seeds which should not be sprouted as they are said to sometimes make a person sick are kidney beans and Quinoa.

For materials for planting all these veg, herbs and fruits think out of the box and recycle if you do not have the normal materials required. For example for planting containers you can use shallow dishes, pie containers and other shallow metallic dishes (old webber containers), ice cream tubs, yoghurt tubs and containers, egg boxes etc etc etc. Do some searching on the web and you will get some ideas. For labelling seeds planted etc, cut up ice cream tub lids into strips and write on them with permanent marker. Just remember that permanent marker can still rub off, so make sure to check up on them and touch up if necessary.

In conclusion, during this time where we are forced to slow down and you may be looking for something to do, take gardening into consideration. I can also recommend that while you are doing all this you try and take the opportunity to teach your kids about plants in general and maybe have a bit of a bio lesson. Teaching your kids about nature is always beneficial to them and is actually great fun. Surf the web for info and inspiration.

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