Looking for some tips on a starting garden that is edible and beautiful? Garden guru Matt Leacy, from Landart Landscapes, offers tips on creating a salad garden for you to enjoy this summer. Plus, our resident 12WBT nutritionist Georgie Moore offers delish recipes tips for using your home grown goodies!
For maximum nutritional value, Mish Bridges encourages eating the freshest ingredients possible. And what could be fresher than vegies and herbs straight from the garden?
If you fancy saving a few pennies and having fresh organic salad ingredients – like lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, chilli and basil – within arm’s reach, plant a living salad bowl now and you’ll soon be reaping the rewards – in more ways than one.
“Spring is the time to get started!” says Matt. “If you start developing your garden now, you’ll be ready in time to enjoy it during the warmer months when you’ll use it most. Spring is also the time to fertilise most plants in your garden, so feed them up and you’ll get maximum growth.
Starting your garden
Matt says the best approach is to grow everything from punnets rather than seeds. “Buy punnets of seedlings from a nursery or hardware store” he says – “it’s not as cheap but the hard work is done.”
1. If you can, get a low contemporary bowl where you can set a few things into it.
2. Get some good quality potting mix and mix it with manure, chicken poo and dynamic lifter for a good base – any compost is good.
3. Then cover your soil with loosen or a tea tree mulch to keep the moisture in.
Now you’re ready to plant!
Matt says: I like to grow things that I use all the time. Lettuces are great – you can grow them all year round, and they’re really easy to grow from seeds. Baby spinach and rocket – plant them now and they’ll be self sufficient over summer. Be careful with watering. The flavour of lettuce depends on how much water it gets, especially rocket – it can get really spicy without enough water. Pick your rocket early to keep the flavours nutty and fresh.
Georgie says: Have you been to a restaurant where your cuisine was presented on a bed of lettuce? It may seem a bit odd, but try BBQing some lamb chops seasoned with garlic & pepper, and then serve them on a bed of rocket. The lamb will look just beautiful, but more importantly, the strong bitter taste of the rocket really compliments the lamb.
Matt says: Basil is pretty easy to grow. Don’t leave it in the punnet, as by the time you buy them they’ve played out and taken all the nutrients. Pop them into the bowl in full sun for quicker growth. It does like a fair bit of water keep it pretty moist, but the good thing is that basil will tell you when it needs a drink, as it quickly shows signs of wilting. Keep pruning it and taking leaves continuously through the harvest process. If you ever see it flowering, make sure you remove the flowers because the plant will put all its energy into flowering and the flavour in the leaf won’t be as strong.
Georgie says: As strawberries are coming into season, why not make a really fresh, tasty dessert using basil to spice things up. Marinate your strawberries in a tiny amount of balsamic vinegar mixed with finely slices fresh basil for an hour or two. Serve in glasses dolloped with natural yoghurt, for a summery treat.
Matt says: The quicker and faster you grow your tomatoes, the less likely they’ll have pests and diseases. Start by planting them in a good soil mix and then, to give your tomatoes an extra boost, apply Seasal or a seaweed solution every two weeks. Keep an eye on any green worms or bugs that eat the leaves – they will get into the fruit. Pick them off by hand, rather than adding toxic spray, and you’ll have organic tomatoes.
Georgie says: Tomato skins make a great case for a stuffing full of flavour. Cut the tops off the tomatoes and using a spoon, remove all the insides. Chop up the insides and put into a bowl, along with cooked quinoa or couscous, currents and some garlic and herbs. Bake in the oven and then serve with a beautiful garden salad – delish!
Matt says: Grow chilli up until December and into January. Now until Jan is the best time for it. Grow it from a punnet. Grow it alone or with other things. Red chillies – you know the time to pick them is when they turn red.
Georgie says: Chances are, if you’re growing your own chilli, you won’t be able to eat all the peppers that are produced, so why not put some into a home made chilli sauce? Mix chopped chilli, some garlic, white vinegar and some sugar in a large pan, and cook until the mixture thickens. You can then pour your chilli sauce into sterilised jars and give some away as gift. Keep the rest to use as a sauce or marinade.
Matt says: You can plant radish all year round and the good things is they are pretty quick to crop – you get radishes in about 4-6 weeks. That’s a very rewarding one. Like a carrot, radishes grow solo in the ground. They are easy to grow from seed – just space them about ten centimetres apart.
Georgie says: Radishes are so underutilised! Radish is an exciting addition to your traditional coleslaw salad. As well as finely shredding red and white cabbage, include grated carrot and finely sliced radish in your coleslaw. Instead of using standard coleslaw dressing, try mixing together low fat natural yoghurt, some seeded mustard and white pepper for a guilt free lunch.
A balcony or even a window box is enough space for a little salad garden. Kids will absolutely love this activity – getting their hands dirty and producing something they can eat. Plus, you’ll know exactly where their food is coming from!