These weeks of lockdown have been a boon for gardeners – loads of time to get into the garden and attend to all those jobs that have been waiting months or even years for you to get around to. Gardening itself has also been a boon for gardeners in these turbulent times – it is probably one of the best ways to get your mind off all the world’s problems, reduce stress levels and maintain physical health.
Gardening also provides time to think. One issue I have thought about a lot recently is resilience – of individuals, of communities and of countries. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed a lot of weaknesses in all of these, from countries that have insufficient means to look after their citizens in times of crisis, or bureaucratic or political blocks that prevent them from doing so, right down to families and individuals who can’t go more than a few days without purchasing food from takeaway outlets or supermarkets, or struggle to make ends meet when circumstances change.
Growing your own fruits and veggies is one of the most basic but vital skills that individuals can learn to increase their resilience. Benefits include improved physical and mental health, reduced food miles and food wastage, improved environmental conditions, lower weekly food bills, better tasting food, increased veggie and fruit consumption and more.
The amount and diversity of what you grow is entirely up to you. Leafy greens, seed sprouts, microgreens and herbs are the easiest to start with. Pots of herbs, lettuce and spinach on a sunny kitchen windowsill or deck will supply nutrient-packed salad greens all year round.
A few square metres of raised bed is enough to provide an ongoing supply of leafy greens for a small family. Add a frame for half a dozen snowpea plants and you’ll be eating these delicious treats all winter and spring. Broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are easy to grow and help boost your immune system. Add the various Asian cabbage varieties, and stir fries and soups will be a welcome addition to the winter table. Start with just one bed if you are a beginner or short on time. As that is filled, start another – that way your garden won’t get away from you.
Fruit is also easy to produce, although the trees are more expensive and slower to start than veggie seed or seedlings. However, fruit trees will produce for many years with minimal attention. For those who are renting, planting in large pots or planter bags works fine for quite a few fruit crops. A potted lime tree will produce more limes than you will ever need.
Once you get the basics right, you can move on to the crops that are harder to grow or take up more space or time to produce. A bed of asparagus takes a few years to grow but will produce succulent spears every spring for decades. Likewise, a clump of rhubarb comes in handy when you are looking for a quick dessert treat. Although potatoes don’t really make that much difference to your budget, the delight in fossicking around for new potatoes under the plants makes it more than worthwhile. With the addition of a small greenhouse, many crops can be produced nearly year round.
God forbid that we ever come to a Level 4 lockdown again, but if we do, you won’t need to be panic buying or queuing at the supermarket again for fruit and veggies.