Winter. Cold nights, short days, gloomy weather.
Truthfully, we’re lucky enough to have relatively short, mild winters here in Queensland, and so the garden keeps growing; it’s still producing nutritious fresh food in July. Even so, Winter is traditionally the time to clean up and plan for Spring, and that’s what we’ve been busy doing. For the uninitiated, it can be daunting to plan out a food garden, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. I spent so many hours figuring all this out for myself, but being the caring people person that I am (*cough cough*), I thought it may be helpful to some if I put it all into a step by step plan.
Basically you want to order your seeds, prepare your garden for planting, then get your seeds into the ground. Why seeds? Firstly, they are so much cheaper than seedlings, but there is also a much larger variety of plants available to you when you order seeds. You can go organic, you can order odd looking yet delicious heirloom varieties, you can order varieties specifically bred for your climate conditions. It’s a little more work than ducking down to Bunnings for a punnet or two, and requires a little more patience while you’re waiting for them to sprout, but is worth it in the end.
Even if you decide to go with seedlings, the first few steps are the same. You could also do a mix of seedlings and seeds. That’s the route I went for our first season to get off to a quick start, and to help stagger my harvest. For our second season I’m ordering seeds and some perennial root stock.
So here’s how to get started:
1. Decide what you want to plant
Get out a notepad and a pen. Write out a list of vegetables you eat all the time. Add to this list vegetables that you want to try. If you have chooks, you could add on vegies for them to eat (seeds are cheaper than layer mash after all, and most girls prefer to scratch up their own fresh greens). If you want to make your own sauces make sure you add on tomatoes, garlic, onion, chilli, etc. Your garden should work for your family. There is no point planting spinach if no one is going to eat it, or in leaving out spuds when you eat them every day. You get the idea.
2. Figure out when you need to plant
Next jump online and find out when your preferred vegetables need to go into the ground. I’m most definitely a novice gardener, so I look up what to plant and when. Make sure you get information specific to your climate, and better yet, find information specific to your area.
My top 3 picks are:
1. http://www.annettemcfarlane.com (for Australia wide info).
2. http://www.queenslandgardening.com (Queensland specific)
3. http://www.bogi.org.au (info specific to Brisbane and surrounds)
Just write a little note beside each vegetable of which season’s planting it belongs to.
3. Create a list for the upcoming season
Take your original list and cross off any plants you now know won’t grow in your climate. Ask your neighbours, your friends, your Nanna what they never have luck with and (unless you are brave and determined) cross it off. I don’t know anyone in my neck of the woods who has had much luck with cauliflower, so I won’t bother trying those until my garden is really well established and I have more experience. It would be a waste of time and money at this stage. Then sort your master list into four seasonal lists. Order your Winter seeds in Autumn, your Summer seeds in Spring, etc. This will give you plenty of time for prep work, and the tedious task of waiting on Australia Post to deliver the parcel 😉 It also gives you time to reorder or go through another supplier if your preferred variety is out of stock when you order.
4. Order your seeds
This part is fun and easy! There are lots of fabulous seed suppliers in Australia to choose from. I asked around and compiled this list of reputable suppliers:
- Green Harvest
- Diggers Club
- Eden Seeds
- The Lost Seed
- Cornucopia Seeds
- Phoenix Seeds
- All Rare Herbs
- Australian Seed
- The Seed Collection
I went with Green Harvest as they are located quite close to me. I was told Diggers Club seeds generally tend not to do well in Queensland. Cornucopia and Phoenix are reportedly fabulous for Tassie gardeners.
(If you know of any more seed suppliers, or which to go with/avoid for certain states, please feel free to share the info)
Check off your list as you order your seeds. You may want to get some from one supplier, and others from somewhere else, and you don’t want to lose track. Have fun with this part. You know you want tomatoes for your garden, but whose to say you can’t have those glorious purple tomatoes? Or the chocolate brown capsicums? Or the purple potatoes that actually stay purple when you cook them? Or the beans that are an amazing red on the plant, but go green in your cooking pot? Told you heirloom varieties are fun!
While you’re waiting, get busy preparing your beds. More about that another time because my seed order has just arrived 🙂
*Caution: ordering seeds is ADDICTIVE. If you find yourself fantasising about seeds, put the seed catalogue away. Just jokes, grab that catalogue and circle EVERYTHING!