Plant Power: Health benefits of fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables come in a variety of colours and are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that boost the immune system and reduce the risk of numerous chronic health conditions. They are also an excellent source of dietary fibre, which can help to reduce cholesterol, promote regular bowel function, and improve gut health.

Eating the recommended 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit each day, from different colours and varieties will keep you energised and focused throughout the day.  

There is no better way to care for your health than by focusing on a nutritional intake abundant in fresh, seasonal, and homegrown produce. Growing your own food enables your fruit and vegetables to be picked at their peak and consumed soon after harvesting, meaning high vitamin, mineral and antioxidant levels, fabulous flavour, and freshness – so it is a win on every level.

It is the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables that give them their different colours; so choosing your favourite seeds to plant across the year from each of the colour groups below is a great way to increase exposure to various phytonutrients (plant chemicals) as well as diversity in your dietary intake. See table below that explains the health benefits of different coloured food!  

ColourFruits or VegetablesPhytochemicals & Benefits

🍅 Red



Tomatoes
Capsicum
Strawberries
Apples
Beetroot
Red grapes
Red peppers
Red onion
  • Reduces risk of diabetes & heart disease

  • Cancer protective

  • Improving skin health

  • Carotenoid – Lycopene
    Ellagic acid
    Citrulline

    🥕 Orange and yellow
    Oranges
    Carrot
    Sweet Potato
    Pumpkin
    Peaches
    Banana
    Winter Squash
    Yellow pepper
    Pineapple
    Corn
  • Protects against eye damage (cataracts and age-related macular degeneration)

  • Supports communication between cells in the body

  • May help to prevent heart disease and stroke

  • May protect against UV damage

  • Carotenoid – Beta-carotenoid
    Hesperidin
    🌿 GreenSpinach 
    Avocado
    Asparagus
    Artichokes
    Broccoli
    Alfalfa sprouts
    Kale
    Cabbage
    Kiwi fruit
    Green tea
  • Help to protect against cancer and eye related diseases
  •  
    Sulforaphane
    Isocyanate
    Indoles
    Lutein
    Zeaxanthin

    🍇 Purple
    Blueberries
    Blackberries
    Elderberries
    Raisins
    Eggplant
    Plums
    Figs
    Prunes
    Lavender
    Purple cabbage
  • Delay cellular ageing

  • Reduce blood clots

  • Help to protect against some cancers

  • Assists with memory

  • Anthocyanins

    🧄 White
    Onions
    Cauliflower
    Garlic
    Ginger
    Leeks
    Parsnips
    Turnips
    Daikon radish
    Mushrooms
    Dates
  • Antibacterial and antiviral

  • Helps to protect against some cancers with its anti-tumour properties

  • May reduce inflammation and hypertension

  • Allicin
    Gingerol
    Sulforaphane
    Quercetin
    Kaempferol

    Spice it up!

    Herbs and spices are another ideal way to boost the phytochemical and antioxidant content of a meal. Using these to top meals is a great way to add flavour to your favourite recipes and can help to reduce the need for added salt. Some great herbs to try your hand at planting to easily include in meals at home include:

    • garlic
    • coriander
    • parsley
    • oregano
    • basil
    • thyme
    • sage
    • rosemary
    • chives
    • mint

    Try to eat a rainbow of colourful fruits and vegetables each day to get the full range of colours and consequently vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and  health benefits.  

    So next time you’re thinking about what to grow at home – don’t just consider the seasons, but also give thought to the vegetable colours you are planting. Variety is the spice of life!

    – Catherine (FFH volunteer Dietitian) 🌱

    Introduction to Composting

    The team at Cockatoo Community House and The Hills Community Garden have kindly provided us an introduction to composting.

    What do I need?
    All you need is organic matter and space in a garden or even just a container and if none of the above are possible find out what your local council or community has on offer. Some councils now offer a small compost bin that is supplied with your green bin so you can send all your compostable waste off with the weekly bin collection. 

    A compost pile will be successful when you have a good balance of organic matter, water, oxygen, time and all the good organisms to help with the breakdown process. There are so many ways to compost you just need to find what suits you and your lifestyle.  

    Types of composting

    • Spinning aerial bins  
    • On ground bins or piles 
    • Buckets or sealed containers 
    • Vermicomposting (worm farm)  

    Ingredients for a successful compost

    • Greens – see table below
    • Browns – see table below
    • Water 
    • Oxygen – either by turning the compost pile or layering with browns 
    • Worms/ insects 
    • Animal manures like sheep, chicken, cow or horse. 
    • Other – eggshells, hair, vacuum cleaner contents

    Ingredients to avoid

    • Inorganic materials coloured & glossy paper  
    • Animal products like meat, bones, fish, dairy, fats 
    • Pet poo (there are special compost systems e.g. Ensopet)
    • Diseased plants (eg rust, mildew) 
    Greens / wet (Nitrogen rich)Brown / dry (Carbon rich)
    Vegetable scrapsHay
    LeavesSawdust
    Grass clippingsDry leaves (shredded)
    Weeds (without seeds)Brown paper bags
    SeaweedNewspaper (shredded)
    Coffee groundsCardboard boxes
    Tea leaves (avoid plastic bags)Toilet rolls
    Aged manuresMulched trees/branches

    Common problems:

    • Too dry? Water it
    • Too wet? Add more browns
    • Vinegary flies? Add more browns
    • Starting to smell bad? Add more browns and aerate it
    • Not breaking down? Add more greens
    • Rats getting in? Check that you’re not putting in dairy, meat or bread

    If composting excites you but you don’t think you can do it just yet why not check out Sharewaste to donate your scraps to a local composter or get in touch with your local community gardens.

    Join the Cockatoo Sustainable Food Project for weekly “Zoom in on your Garden” Q&A sessions, and further gardening resources and support from local community.

    Need more inspiration, motivation or information about composting? You can find lots of upcoming events as part of Compost Awareness Week 2nd – 8th May 2021.

    Gardening and Greenery in the Workplace: A Worker’s Retreat

    The benefits of growing and harvesting your own food does not have to only happen at home or at your community garden. Have you thought about growing food at work? Workplace vegetable gardens is increasing in popularity and builds upon an increasing trend of vertical and rooftop gardens, at-home growing and community gardening. There are many appealing factors of having a communal veggie patch in a workspace, so here we will provide you with a brief introduction to office-based edible gardening and some practical tips to make your workplace more sustainable.

    Benefits of growing edibles in the office:

    • Plants help purify the air by absorbing pollutants. They can also reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. High levels of CO2 can cause headaches, drowsiness and difficulty concentrating.
    • Optimise balconies or otherwise unutilised indoor and outdoor spaces.
    • Provides an incentive to staff to get up from their desks, to observe and interact with the plants.
    • Indoor plants and greenery lead to a significant reduction in anxiety, depression and fatigue, thereby increasing productivity, creativity and overall mental health of staff.
    • Encourages staff to begin growing food at home as well as eating fresh seasonal produce.
    • Fosters staff community connectedness and positive relationships.

    What conditions are needed:

    • An indoor or outdoor area that receives at least 5-6 hours of natural sunlight per day.
    • Ideally north-facing, floor to ceiling windows (or windowsills for smaller plants).
    • Raised garden beds or pots.
    • A coordinator or designated team to ensure ongoing maintenance of the garden.

    What to grow:

    • Salad leaves and greens (lettuce, spinach, silverbeet, herbs) = ideal for beginners, suitable for indoor or outdoor with low light.
    • Roots (carrot, parsnip, beetroot) = suitable for indoor or outdoor.
    • Fruit trees = can be potted, ideal for balconies or deck areas.

    To help get you started, you can pick up some Food from Home FREE seeds (including carrot, parsnip and silverbeet) at all branches at Casey Cardinia Libraries or Greater Dandenong Libraries. If you’re not sure where your closest free seeds are, register your interest on our home page and we’ll let you know!

    REA Group Limited office-based edible garden (based in eastern suburbs Melbourne)

    If you cannot foresee an edible garden growing in your workspace, there are many other simple ways to make your office a little more sustainable:

    1. Green spaces
    If your office space is not suitable for growing food, you can still optimise unused spaces with indoor non-edible plants. Many are ideal for low lighting and suitable for big or small spaces. These include succulents, rubber plants and peace lilies. Depending on the number of indoor plants you have, they have the ability to absorb sounds, thus reducing the distraction of background office noise. Creating a green space can become a respite from stressful workspaces and allows staff to experience the many health benefits of indoor plants.

    2. Composting
    Reduce food waste and waste removal costs and have a dedicated food scraps bin in your office. A colleague who has a compost bin at home can take this bucket home each week. Alternatively, you could look at joining a community composting scheme such as Share Waste, where organic waste can be dropped to neighbours who may have compost bins, worm farms or chickens.

    3. Keep Cups on hand
    We’ve all had those days where we have forgotten our keep cup. Creating a communal collection of reusable cups in the office can help on days like these! You can also just take an ordinary mug to your local coffee shop.

    4. Loose leaf tea
    Some teabags are not recyclable nor biodegradable and consist of microplastics, especially those premium brands who use higher levels of plastic mesh. So, ditch the bags and embrace loose leaf! Bonus points if you source your tea from your local bulk foods store.

    5. Eco-friendly workplace practices
    As many of us are heading back into the office, being intentional of your office practices can help reduce waste and energy. Such as reducing your use of printing, opening the blinds instead of turning a light on, and avoid heating/cooling as often as possible. You may also want to organise your office days with your colleague who lives nearby so you can carpool. Every effort to reducing your carbon footprint, no matter how small, is an effort worth giving.

    Extra resources:

    • Click here for a case-study of an office-based edible garden based in Eastern Melbourne.
    • Click here to access Food from Home’s Monthly Growing Guides (FREE to download)

    – Georgia (FFH team) 🌱

    Fall in love with edible gardening this Autumn: Our beginner guide!

    If you have only been growing food for a short while, or still just thinking about edible gardening, Autumn is a great time as any to get into the garden and begin growing your next season of produce. With more frequent rains and less intensive garden management, Winter veggies require less care and attention than your summer veggie garden. They practically grow themselves with Melbourne’s cool and wet climate!  

    We’ve compiled some of our favourite Autumn garden blogs and articles to help get you started: 

    🌱 Tips on preparing your Autumn garden: 
    The Little Veggie Patch Co: Preparing the Autumn garden 

    🌱 Choosing what vegetables to grow: 
    The Diggers Club: Autumn veggie gardening 

    🌱 Month-by-month tips on what’s happening in your garden:  
    Ceres: March planting advice 

    🌱 Short summary of planting advice for different climate zones: 
    Sustainable Gardening Australia: March in your patch 

    🌱 Seasonal planting advice and preservation tips: 
    My Green Garden: What to do in the vegetable garden in April

    Foods to try planting in Autumn 

    For a simple growing guide, check out Food from Home’s March Growing Guide. Below are some of our suggestions for beginner-friendly edibles to consider adding to your garden, courtyard or balcony! 

    Brassicas 

    If you have the space, broccoli, kale and some mini-cauliflowers are perfect for those new to gardening as they are easy to grow successfully. Choose seedlings that are small and young and avoid those with tough looking stems. Brassica crops will grow better if planted in full sun (a spot which receives a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight each day) but can tolerate partial shade (3-6 hours of sunlight each day). Consider using fine netting to deter white cabbage moth, or finely crushed eggshells to stop caterpillars, snail and slugs from enjoying your new seedlings. 

    Garlic 

    Easy to grow in small spaces! To grow garlic, you can use garlic bulbs purchased from the supermarket, but if bought from a nursery you are ensuring you are getting a variety that is disease and chemical free. Break the garlic head into individual cloves and plant them pointy end up, 5cm deep, 20cm apart. Like onion, they take a long time to reach maturity (9 months), so take some time planning where they go. Choose a pot or area in your garden that you don’t plan on using for your spring/summer veggies! 

    Peas 

    Make the most of your small spaces and grow peas up a trellis. Great fun for the kids to pick, shell and eat all within 10 seconds! Different varieties grow different heights – make sure to check the tag on the plant/seed packet for more information. Dwarf and bush peas grow to about 60cm high, ‘Melbourne Markey’ (also known as Massey Gem) grow to 50cm high. Sugar Snap peas are also a tasty choice. 

    Broad Beans 

    One of the easiest plants to grow. Plant before May to harvest in Spring. Sow 10-15cm apart. Coles Dwarf are a hardy variety, best for handling strong winds. At the end of the season, remember to leave a few of the last pods to dry on the plant and you have some seeds ready to sow for next year’s crop (or to share with your friends and neighbours!).  

    Leafy Greens 

    Lettuce, mustard greens, spinach, rainbow chard (also known as silverbeet – perfect for stirfrys!) all grow well in Autumn and into Winter and are perfect for beginners. Within about 8 weeks from sowing seeds (less if planted from seedlings) you can start to harvest leaves from outside the plant. 

    If you have any questions or have some further tips to add, make sure to connect with out FFH Community Group, where you will receive great advice from likeminded locals with lots of knowledge and experiences to share.  

    Want to get growing this weekend? Pick up some free veggie seeds as part of Food from Home’s Free Seed Initiative at one of your local libraries across Greater Dandenong, Casey or Cardinia. If you’re not sure where your closest seeds are, head to our website, fill out the form and we’ll let you know.   

    Happy growing! 🌱
    – Georgia (FFH team)

    Top tips for success with your Woolworths Discovery Garden.

    With the second round of Woolworths ‘Discovery Garden’ promotion well underway, Food from Home thought it timely to provide some additional information to make the most of your free seeds.

    While we think it’s great that Woolies is providing us more opportunities to grow food (particularly as a substitute to a collection of plastic figurines), there are a few extra things that we think are worth knowing to ensure success with your growing Discovery Garden collection!   

    When to plant – Don’t be tempted to start all of your seeds now.
    This may be hard to explain to eager children, but if you want your seeds to sprout and end up on their dinner plate – it might be worth waiting. Not all the seed varieties that Woolworths has released are ready to plant in Summer and Autumn. Unfortunately, Woolworths chose to only publish a planting guide online – which isn’t good news for those of us who got excited and rushed to plant them immediately. The Woolworths planting guides can be found here, or you can check out our cheat sheet which provides all the planting information in one convenient infographic!



    Another thing to consider is our climate here in South East Melbourne. Just because Woolworths says spring onions can be planted all year round – it doesn’t mean that it is the best time to plant. It might be worthwhile doing some further investigating into what grows well in your area. We love this handy planting guide from Local Food Connect which provides some climate-specific recommendations!

    Where to plant – Consider where you plant your seeds.
    Start your seeds in a warm, light and well-ventilated environment. Like the majority of us who don’t have a greenhouse handy, a windowsill (without too much direct sunlight) is perfect. Set them up somewhere you walk by regularly so you can also keep an eye on whether they need watering – as the pots provided can get dry quickly. We love this clever hack from Plastic Free Brisbane, who suggest using old plastic strawberry punnets as mini greenhouses for your seed pots! Wait until your seeds have sprouted before considering upgrading them to a sheltered outside location to ‘harden off’.

    How to plant – Avoid using the pop-out cardboard plant labels.
    The plant labels provided are made of cardboard, which can crumple and breakdown when exposed to water. Don’t risk losing track of what you planted – and try using some other DIY or recycled options for labelling. We love these ideas from Mr Brown Thumb using old milk cartons or icy pole sticks. Keep your cardboard labels aside and somewhere safe, as they’ll also provide you with important information about when to expect your seeds to sprout (heads up – they won’t all sprout at once), when to repot, and when to harvest!  



    Other tips!

    • Want to troubleshoot an issue? Woolies have an FAQ page where you might be able to get your questions answered. Otherwise, you can always post your question in our Food from Home Community and have other local gardeners answer it for you!  
       
    • Wondering what to do when it comes time to repotting? Particularly if you are limited by space or budget? Fortunately, many of the plants included in the Discovery Garden range can be grown in pots, planters, containers or grow bags! You can get creative with things that you might already have at home (ice-cream containers, polystyrene boxes, jars, wheelbarrows, buckets or pallets etc.), or consider asking your local Facebook ‘Buy Nothing’ group for requests!     
         
    • If your seeds are lucky enough to make it to harvest, make sure to check out the great range of video recipes on the Woolworths website. These recipes feature all the ingredients that you’ll be growing as part of your Discovery Garden!  
    • Don’t be disheartened if your seeds don’t sprout. There are a number of factors as to why your seeds don’t germinate – and sometimes it can be no fault of your own. We encourage you to try again, whether it’s with seeds or seedlings! Growing food can be a process of trial and error, but it is a great lesson in persistence and patience (especially for children). If you’re new to edible gardening, you might like to check out Food from Home’s beginner-friendly resources on getting started.

    If the Discovery Garden promotion has you feeling inspired, remember that you can pick up even more free seeds as part of the Food from Home ‘Free Seeds’ initiative. Register your interest in receiving free seeds here, or pick them up directly from one of the seven participating library services in the City of Greater Dandenong, the City of Casey and Cardinia Shire!

    Happy growing, and good luck! 🌱
    – Kate (FFH team)

    Feel-good gardening: How edible gardening can benefit your mental health.

    If you think that edible gardening is all about the delicious end-product, think again! Research shows us that it can also be great for our mental health, in many different ways. Natalie from the FFH team looks at some of the ways that we can benefit mentally from edible gardening.

    I spent much of last weekend researching cucumber recipes. Is it too much to have cucumber in an entrée and a main? What about a cucumber dessert, is that pushing it? I had finally managed to grow a vegetable to a great size for eating, and I wanted to showcase it in everything! As it turns out, I am not alone in feeling proud of my small gardening feat. Prior to the Food from Home campaign launch, the team at enliven surveyed South East Melbournians and found that almost 80% found that a sense of achievement is one of the most appealing parts of growing food at home.

    My enjoyment from growing my cucumber didn’t just come from being able to eat it. Joy also came from the process of growing; spending time each day in the garden, asking my neighbour for her growing tips and finally inviting family over to share my 3-course cucumber dinner. Similarly, the mental health benefits of edible gardening don’t only come from eating the fruits and vegetables that you grow. The process of gardening itself supports mental health and can provide benefits to your mental health. Indeed, for the locals in the South East who were already edible gardeners, almost 65% nominated mental health/wellbeing as the one of the main reasons why they grow food at home.

    “My veggie patch is in my front yard and I engage with heaps of passers-by. From there I share produce, seeds, knowledge, joy and plants.”

    South East Melbourne Growing Food at Home Survey

    Defining Mental Health
    Mental health can be a difficult concept to define. Often, it is used as a substitute term for mental health conditions (such an anxiety or depression), but mental health is an important part of our overall health. The World Health Organization defines mental health as a state of wellbeing that allows individuals to realise their own abilities, cope with normal stresses in life, work or study productively and contribute to their community.

    Edible gardening can benefit people with mental health conditions, as well as helping to promote mental health for all people.

    Gardening to promote mental health
    There are many different aspects of edible gardening that are beneficial. Below are some examples of how edible gardening can help us to maintain or improve our mental health.

    Connection to nature:

    Before you even get your hands into the soil, just being in a garden can benefit your mental health! Research has shown that everything from looking at a view of nature through a window, to having green areas nearby can benefit aspects of your mental health. These include improved mood, wellbeing by reducing the impact of stressors.

    Here are some ways to immerse yourself in the benefits of nature during your edible gardening journey:

    • Consider including non-edible elements that might encourage you to spend more time in your garden. These could include trees for shade, a bench, chair, or table.
    • If you do not have a yard or garden at home think about the way you can transform other spaces, such as your balcony or windowsill to a green space. Alternatively, think about visiting a local public park or community garden to spend some time in nature.
    • If there are activities that you love doing to relax or unwind, consider doing these in the garden. The next time you want to do a puzzle, read a book or play cards, think about doing this in your garden.

    Social interaction:

    The act of developing a garden, as well as enjoying the produce that you grow, can help you to form social connections in your local community and develop a sense of belonging and inclusion. Research has demonstrated that social connectedness can benefit mental health and reduce distress. Specific research into gardening has also shown that involvement in at-home or community gardening can reduce loneliness, improve social connection and benefit wellbeing.

    Here are some ways to encourage social contact during your edible gardening journey:

    • Taking part in a community garden is also a great way to connect with people in your neighbourhood, and can offer opportunities for social connection and knowledge exchange. A Community Garden Directory is coming soon! Subscribe here to our newsletter to stay updated.
    • Try gardening in the front yard. One of the FFH survey respondents found this a great conversation starter with their neighbours: “My veggie patch is in my front yard and I engage with heaps of passers-by. From there I share produce, seeds, knowledge, joy and plants.”
    • Consider involving others in growing, harvesting, or eating the produce that you grow. You could have a working bee with friends to help you establish your edible garden, have your kids help with harvesting, or organise a meal with family to enjoy and showcase the delicious food that you have grown.
    • The Food from Home Community Facebook group is a great way to connect with local edible gardeners and share your gardening tips or questions.

    Eating fruit and vegetables:

    What you grow in your edible garden can also benefit your mental health. Research has shown that fruit and vegetable intake can support good mental health.

    Here are some ways to increase your fruit and vegetable intake in your edible garden:

    • Grow what you like to eat and what you eat most often.
    • One survey participant found that their edible garden also led them to find new things that they loved to eat. “I can grow things that are never available in stores (like Jerusalem artichokes) and try some new things. [My] favourite herb [that I] only tried since growing, is lovage.”
    • Consider growing different produce than your friends and family. This way, you can share what you grow and try a variety of fruits and vegetables. You can also attend local crop-swaps to try and learn about what other locals are growing in their garden.

    The next time you’re in your garden, relax and stay a little longer. Do not underestimate the benefits of having an edible garden. Not only are you doing your bit to help the environment, but you are helping to take care of your own mental health.

    – Natalie (FFH team) 🌱

    More than just food: How edible gardening benefits our environment.

    People decide to garden for a variety of reasons. Many enjoy edible gardening because of the mental, physical and social health benefits it provides. What you may be unaware of, is that edible gardening can also positively impact the environment and help to mitigate the impact of climate change.

    Here are some reasons how edible gardening can benefit the environment, and how you can become a more sustainable edible gardener:

    Reducing CO2 emissions: Plants as natural cleaners

    Plants and green spaces can act has highly effective air and ground cleaners. Plants absorb many air pollutants including carbon dioxide, while releasing clean oxygen that we breathe in.

    Roots uptake much of what they come into contact with, such as chemicals and metals found in the soil. This may not always be best for your plant, but this can help alert you to poor soil quality and problems that lie below the surface.

    Reducing food miles

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    Food miles is a measure of carbon-based fuel used to get food to you. On average, fruit and vegetables in Australian supermarkets travel an average 745km from farm gate to shop. This creates an average of 49g of CO2 emissions per kilo of fruit (CERES, 2007).

    If you grow your own fruit and vegetables, even just a few on a balcony or courtyard, you are reducing food miles as well as reducing time, energy and waste.

    • Tip #1: Grow from seed using seeds you saved from previous harvests to reduce your carbon emissions even further (resource coming soon to our website about seed saving!). Selecting heirloom and heritage seeds can also promote plant biodiversity.
    • Tip #2: To maximise benefits, choose to grow something that you and your family eat a lot of and/or that is expensive to buy in mainstream supermarkets. For example, herbs are easy to grow in small spaces, they do not need too much watering and there is something to grow all-year round. Choosing to grow foods that are often packaged in single use plastics (like herbs and berries etc.) at supermarkets, will further reduce your carbon footprint.  
    • Tip #3: Supplement or diversify your own home-grown produce by coordinating different crop varieties to swap with neighbours and friends, or attending local ‘crop swaps’ to keep our food local and environmental impact low.

    Reduce use of chemical pesticides

    Using natural pest management, organic gardening techniques, and companion planting are changes you can make in your garden to help further reduce carbon emissions. Many chemical pesticides require a high amount of energy and emit carbon dioxide in their production and transportation. In addition, the chemicals used in these products can also be harmful to your soil and plant quality and can kill off the ‘good’ bugs we need in our garden. Make sure to keep an eye out on our Resource page for a new resource coming soon all about Natural Pest Remedies.

    Reducing waste: composting

    Reducing the amount of organic waste (i.e. food scraps and edible garden waste) we send to landfill can reduce the amount of methane produced, which is a harmful greenhouse gas. Although your compost heap at home produces some carbon dioxide, applying it to your soil helps to increase you soil quality, helping it to retain more carbon. Some local councils also offer rebates to residents buying compost bins, bokashi systems and worm farms! If you don’t have the space or equipment to compost, try looking into community composting schemes like Share Waste, where you can drop your organic waste to your neighbours who may have chickens, worm farms, or compost bins!

    Click links below to learn more:
    Casey rebate system
    Cardinia rebate system

    Reducing waste: thrifty gardening

    Get creative! There are lots of clever ideas for reusing and recycling in your edible garden which means less waste and plastics going to landfill.

    Here’s some crafty ideas to get you started:

    • Using newspaper seedling pots instead of plastic ones,
    • Planting out old wheelbarrows, furniture or kitchen appliances (bowls etc),
    • Using old chicken wire as a trellis for vertical plants,
    • Shopping at local op-shops to find terracotta pots and other old furniture you can transform to garden material.

    Local plant/produce swaps or ‘Buy Nothing‘ groups are also a great way to give away old or unwanted tools, pots and plants without them going to landfill – you might find one or two recycled treasures yourself!

    Take home messages:

    • Do not underestimate the collective impact of individuals in taking action at a household and community level.
    • Do what you can – you don’t have to have a large backyard to grow food at home – transforming any space to a green space is a step towards a greener and brighter world.

      Cheers to sustainable living! 🌱
      – Georgia (FFH team)

    Fast food: How to get from seed to feed in less time!

    Does a lack of patience hold you back from growing food at home? You’re not alone. But edible gardening doesn’t have to be time-consuming, nor do you have to wait months on end to actually harvest something (despite this process being incredibly satisfying for some)! 

    With the right plants and set-up, you can create a productive and fast-growing edible garden with minimal time and energy. Selecting seeds and plants that are quick to grow can keep you motivated, keep young children interested, and means you’ll get to experience the rewards of your home-grown produce sooner. 

    Your fast food menu… 
    The following plants are notorious for producing fast and plentiful harvests that are sure to satisfy the most impatient edible gardener. Coincidentally, many of these crops are also among the ‘easiest’ to grow, making them perfect for beginners and those wanting to build their confidence. 

    Radish
    Time from sowing to harvest: Approximately 21 days 
    Where to grow: Sow direct into pots, containers, or garden beds 
    When to grow: All year round


    Top tip: Radishes are completely edible – enjoy the leaves and roots to really maximise your harvest! Learn how to store and prepare radishes here.
     
    Lettuce 
    Time from sowing to harvest: Approximately 21-28 days 
    Where to grow: Sow direct into pots, containers, or garden beds 
    When to grow: All year round 


    Top tip: Choose a ‘cut-and-come-again variety’ for an ongoing supply and to prolong your harvest! Harvest from the outside leaves first. Learn more about how to plant and maintain your lettuce crops here

    Spinach 
    Time from sowing to harvest: Approximately 30-40 days 
    Where to grow: Sow direct into pots, containers, or garden beds 
    When to grow: Autumn – Winter


    Top tip: From about three weeks, you can harvest the small leaves first and use them for salads! Learn more about the different varieties of spinach you can grow here.

    Microgreens
    Time from sowing to harvest: Approximately 7-10 days 
    Where to grow: Inside on a windowsill, in seed trays 
    When to grow: All year round 


    Top tip: Microgreens are ready to harvest as soon as they have their first set of ‘baby leaves’. Learn more here in this video from Gardening Australia.  

    Some other ‘fast food’ options
    Asian greens, turnips, peas, baby carrots, rocket, cress, spring onions, and green beans. 

    Additional things to consider:

    • Soil quality will affect how quickly things grow, so buy the best soil/ potting mix you can afford! 
    • Utilise fertilisers such as compost and worm tea for a nutrient boost and to speed things up.
    • Keep in mind there are many other factors that can influence the growth rate of your veggies like humidity, moisture, sunlight, and pests. 
    • Most plants will grow quicker in the warmer months 
    • Purchase seedlings instead of seeds if you’re wanting a head start! 

    In summary
    Not all food from home needs to be fast, however starting out with some quick growing varieties might help some of us develop the skills, confidence, and motivation we need to embark on a longer-term edible gardening journey. Talk to any edible gardener and you’ll commonly hear about the immense satisfaction and appreciation that can come from growing slower crops such as pumpkins, avocadoes, and brussels sprouts. Edible gardening can even be a valuable lesson in patience and persistence! Head to our resources page for more information and fact-sheets to help get you started.

    Remember, we’re all in this together. Share your edible gardening photos and experiences with us on Instagram and Facebook by using the hashtag #FoodFromHome.

    Happy growing 🌱
    – Kate (FFH team)

        

    Bugs, bugs, bugs!

    At this time of year, we have lots of bugs coming and going in the garden. It’s a great time to observe nature and experience the ebbs and flows of pest predator interactions.  

    It’s important we can identify the good from the bad, especially if you are new to edible gardening. The FFH team have put together a list of some creepy crawlies you might find in your garden this summer, and some tips on how to manage the particularly pesty ones! 

    Traditional “Bad” Bugs

    Earwigs 

    Earwigs chew holes in leaves, especially those fresh young leaves of your bean, lettuce or broad bean seedlings! They only come out to feed at night. However, earwigs are great at decomposing and breaking down our composts.

    How to control: Baited Jars! simply put 1cm of soy sauce, linseed oil or other oil concoctions in an old glass jar, and bury in soil so that the top of the jar is level with the soil. The earwigs will be attracted to the smell, fall into the jar and drown in the liquid.

    Slugs & Snails

    Slugs and snails often emerge to feast on young seedlings during and after rain. They tend to be attracted to sugar cane mulch which is full of sugar and yeasts. 

    How to control: Beer traps similar to the earwigs, put a container of beer in or around your seedlings. The sugar and yeast from the beer will attract snails and slugs and keep them away from your seedlings.

    Whitefly

    You may find every time you move in the garden you are greeted with a flutter of little white insects. Don’t be worried, many gardeners across Melbourne have this problem! Whitefly is a type of aphid, causing speckled damage to leaves of your veggies, leaving the leaves with scribbly white lines, white blotches, curling, or wilting. 

    How to control: Trap crops (or also known as sacrificial crops) are plants you add to your garden to attract pests away from your edible garden. Different insects prefer different trap crops. Nasturtiums, Nettles and French Marigolds can attract (and distract!) aphids such as Whitefly.  

    The Good Guys!

    Lacewings

    Lacewings control whitefly, aphids, mites and other sap suckers. They can be difficult to spot as they use debris to cover their back as a disguise.  

    Ladybirds 

    There are many different varieties of ladybirds you may find in your garden. Most eat anything, including whitefly and fungus. On top of their pest-control duties, ladybirds are also pollinators!

    Praying Mantis

    These guys will eat any other arthropod they can reach! They stay still until their prey comes within reach and then they strike.

    Hoverfly

    Hoverflies are often mistaken for bees or wasps, you’ll find them buzzing around your garden this Summer. They prey on aphids. 

    Predatory Wasps 

    Predatory wasps target all types of ‘bad’ bugs including caterpillars, whitefly and even other wasps. 

    It is important to begin seeing your outdoor space as an ecosystem. All bugs (good and bad) create a rich diversity and interact with one another to achieve a balance. Next time you spot a pest in the garden, try to relax and witness nature take care of the imbalance for you! 

    Sign up to our newsletter to ensure you don’t miss out on an upcoming resource all about natural pest remedies.  

    – Georgia, FFH team 🌱

    Growing knowledge.

    In a recent survey of over 300 community members, we learnt that 50% of individuals either ‘don’t know how to start an edible garden’ and that 56% of individuals ‘don’t know how to maintain an edible garden’. We believe that everyone should have access to knowledge and simple information to enable more people in our community grow food at home.

    One of our strategies to support this has been to team up with Casey Cardinia Library Service to increase opportunities to learn about edible gardening. CCL staff have put together their top book recommendations in three resources to grow your knowledge around:

    Creating an Edible Garden
    Edible Gardening with Children
    Growing & Cooking Food at Home

    When you borrow a book from the recommended list from one of the library services listed below, you’ll also receive a free packet of vegetable seeds!

    • Bunjil Place
    • Cranbourne Library
    • Doveton Library
    • Emerald Library
    • Endeavour Hills Library
    • Hampton Park Library
    • Pakenham Library

    You can head straight into your nearest library, or register your interest in our ‘Free Seeds’ initiative here.

    And the learning doesn’t have to stop there. Let’s connect and grow together!

    Food from Home newsletter
    Instagram @foodfromh0me
    Facebook @foodfromh0me
    Food from Home Community (online group)

    Happy growing 🌱
    – The FFH team