Using your green thumb for good health

Submitted by Susanne Jones, Just Better Care Brisbane North and CBD

There are few things in life more satisfying than filling your plate with items you have grown in your own garden.
Aside from the enjoyment of gardening, research shows there are numerous physical and psychological benefits from working in the garden, including improved endurance, strength, flexibility, mobility and general wellbeing.
A pot or two is all that’s needed to create an interesting and edible garden.

Which space is best?
The beauty of an edible garden is that they don’t require a significant amount of space.
Courtyards, balconies, porches and even living rooms are all ideal spots in which to place a pot or container to grow your produce of choice. To make your garden a talking point try upcycling an old bath or laundry tub or even stacking a few old car tyres in which to grow your plants.
Unless you have access to a raised garden bed, the area you select should be flat and sheltered but also receive reasonable amounts of sunlight.

What to plant?
Common options include: edible flower types such as chamomile, fuchsia, lavender, honeysuckle and violet; herbs such as rosemary, basil, chives, sage, thyme and mint; vegetables such as lettuce, silver beet, tomato or corn; and fruits such as kiwifruit, strawberries or passion fruit.
Planting times will vary for different vegetables, herbs or fruits depending on their growing seasons. A good rule of thumb is to plant warm-season vegetables in spring and cool-season veggies in winter.

Safety comes first
Remember, everything you pick to eat should be washed carefully. Only eat flowers in salads if they are organically grown and free of pesticides and other garden sprays. Some flowers, seeds and leaves can be toxic, so if you’re not sure, do further research.
When working outside remember to wear adequate sunscreen and protective clothing including a hat, correct footwear and gloves. Always bend at the knee when lifting something heavy and don’t use your back.
When using potting mix, or spraying fertilisers observe safety instructions and ideally wear a mask.

Be realistic
When planning to plant an edible garden the most important thing you can do is to be realistic about the time you will actually have to tend to your vegetables, fruits or herbs as this will likely influence what type of garden you plant.

Tips for success
There can be no guarantee of success but try the following tips to ensure a flourishing and productive garden space.
-Monitor regularly for weed growth, ensuring that when weeds appear you remove them from the root and not just the top foliage.
-Check the health of the plants. Do not leave old fruit, vegetables and pruning material underneath the plants as these can harbour disease.
-Where possible, undertake minor pruning to keep shrubs and trees in shape. This removes dead growth and encourages new growth.
-Pests and diseases are a natural part of nature, and it is not always possible to eliminate them. Consider using non-chemical solutions like garlic, chilli spray or milk to ward off any unwanted pests.

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