Grow guides

How to get the most out of a new edible garden

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

There has been a tremendous amount of buzz and activity around growing your own food recently. This makes it a great time to get alongside other gardening beginners and ‘dive deeper’ in your knowledge of how to grow your own food! 

Use books to learn the gardening fundamentals

Nothing beats good gardening books for both beginners and intermediates to learn topics in-depth, directly from the expert authors. The fundamentals of gardening haven’t changed much in the last few decades, so sometimes you can find fantastic vintage volumes at second-hand bookshops that you give you a good overview of gardening principles. 

Newer gardening books you can buy online include:

Tip: it’s helpful to make sure you have at least some gardening reference books specific to your country and region.

Make sure your reading covers these gardening fundamentals:

  • Soil health, especially mulching and creating good compost from your kitchen scraps
  • Tips on watering your plants
  • How to position your plants, e.g. to get the right amount of sunshine
  • Organic methods – even if you’re not going fully organic, it might still be interesting to research some organic topics such as composting and pest controls. See also permaculture

Find dedicated gardening information online

After you have a firm grasp of the principles you want to use in your own garden, online research can be a great place to extend your knowledge. 

Hunt around online for good quality sources of information and ask your friends what sites they like. In Australia, you might want to start with websites like Gardening Australia and Green Harvest

It’s also worth finding and joining some online gardening communities in your area. They’re great for ‘crowdsourcing’ solutions to specific problems, getting help with identifying plants and being inspired by the projects of your fellow edible gardeners. 

Modern techniques for getting started in urban and suburban edible gardens

Here are some techniques you may want to research when looking to grow the size of your edible garden:

  • No dig gardens: provides all the nutrients plants need to thrive on top of the soil, in various layers of compost. Perfect for people with poor quality soil, renters, and people who can’t (or don’t really want to) dig up the ground.
  • Self-wicking beds: the art of building raised garden beds with the water in a tank underneath the soil. It means the plants can ‘draw up’ a constant supply of water, which is healthier for the plants, uses less water, and is more forgiving if you forget to water your plants properly. You can also get small self-wicking planter boxes for your indoor plants and kitchen herb garden.
  • Hydroponics: where the plants grow in a water container or pipe, and feed the nutrients directly through the recycled water flow. Great if you like the idea of a controlled environment. You can also combine with fish ponds to get something called aquaponics.
  • Microgreens and sprouts: herbs and greens picked while they’re still very young. They’re easy, fast, packed full of nutrition and can be grown totally inside your kitchen. 
  • Backyard food forests: you don’t have to contain all your edible plants within raised garden beds. You can also dedicate (even some) of your backyard to permaculture principles, which help your plants work together to create its own self-seeding micro-ecosystem. 
  • Layering your raised garden beds – it’s also worth mentioning here that you can get the benefits of a raised garden bed without filling it completely with expensive (and imported) soil. Layer it with wood, straw and compost before putting down the soil. For an even more traditional touch, consider hügelkultur beds

Find a good seed exchange / bank

You can, of course, find seedlings from your local nursery or hardware store. But a lot of gardeners find they get immense satisfaction (and savings) from growing directly from seeds, and then using the seeds from their best plants in the next season’s crop. 

There are many places to get high-quality seeds and advice. Look up long-standing seed retailers that include heritage and heirloom seeds, such as The Diggers Club in Australia. 

You can also get involved in communities of gardeners who swap seeds. You can research local seed exchanges / seed banks, or look up the local members of large umbrella groups (such as Seed Savers in Australia, Seed Savers Exchange in the USA, Seeds of Diversity in Canada and Community Seed Banks in Europe).

Get to know the big community projects happening in your area 

All around the world, there are community organisations dedicated to motivating and educating the community on how to grow food well. 

From across the globe, here are just some community projects that you might be inspired to get involved in:

  • Incredible Edible Network – with origins in Northern England, the Incredible Edible Network aims to inspire whole communities to transform landscapes into edible community gardens.
  • Very Edible Gardens and the sister projects in Melbourne, Australia and offer awesome events and resources for creating your edible gardens. 
  • Seeds of Diversity in Canada offer a lot of member-run events to promote growing plants from seeds.
  • The Edible Landscape Project based in Westport, Republic of Ireland, which aims to use public engagement and targeted workshops to help people make food choices that fight climate change.
  • National Garden Clubs in the USA promote local gardening clubs, programs and resources.
  • Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden promotes its research and education on edible gardening to tourists and locals at Luang Prabang, Laos’ largest city.
  • Sadhana Forest works on major ecological projects to encourage food production for local rural villages across India, Haiti and Kenya.

Share your gardening journey with others!

Don’t forget that one of the best parts of gardening is sharing your journey with others. Ask advice from friends and family who are already gardening. Share your ideas for your gardening with others, and encourage each other to keep up the excellent work. Consider joining a community garden.

Finally, do you want to connect with others in the Farmhouse Exchange community? We’d love to have you! See our Share page for how you can get involved.

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