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Hunter Gatherer with Rohan Anderson - Growing Veg for a Family of Four

30th August, 2011
Jenny Butler
Tuesday 30th August 2011

Another tasty day with Ballarat hunter gatherer, Rohan Anderson! Today Rohan is showing us how to grow veggies at home with even the smallest space, especially with great ideas like wall-mounted planters! - Jenny x

My mum had this dream to live in the country and grow fresh food for her family - she achieved said dream back in the 80’s. We lived on a small farm, with a large veg patch, a modest orchard, a plethora of happy chooks and a bunch of cattle that we raised - some for us and some for market. It was the good life, minus Margo and Jerry living next door.

Times were good, and it’s been in my blood ever since. Even in rentals I’d plant a little summer crop, often at the bemusement of my friends.  At the time probably not a very normal thing for a bloke, but I admit I have a soft spot for raising something from seed and harvesting the fruits of my labour, or should I say, veg of my labour.

A lot of people I speak to say they’d love to have a veg patch, and knowing their backyard situation I always stir them up and ask why they don’t actually have one!  It’s not hard folks! It’s easier than you might think - start with baby steps, and keep it small and simple. For your first season just buy a punnet of strawberries and a few tomato plants. Look after them well during summer and I guarantee you’ll be hooked after tasting your home raised real fruit.

I’m not a big fan of rules, but I do like sensible advice.  And the best advice I think is to restrict what you plant to veg you know you’re actually going to eat.  So many times I’ve fallen into the trap of planting something ‘exotic’ and never eating it, it’s a waste of resources. Most family cooking requires a good quantity of the basics; onions, garlic, lettuce, tomato, potato, carrots etc...

So when you're ready I suggest you grow these first, then move onto plants that are a bit different but will surely become a regular each season, like kale, purple sprouting broccoli, reddy spinach, borlotti beans and whatever you find tasty. Just refrain from growing veg that you won’t get a kick out of.

Like most things, follow the instructions on the pack, have fun, preservere and you’ll be able to provide some (not all) of the fresh food for your family, whilst making a little dint into your carbon footprint by not relying on produce that has traveled plenty of road miles to reach you.

Now that I’m a Dad I get extra special joy in the garden with the girls. I love summer gardening, when they come out and eat cherry tomatoes and strawberries straight from the plant.  I get so much of a kick seeing the kids learn about where their food comes from, I’ve ended up a volunteer teacher/gardener at the primary school, teaching kids how to grow and look after their own patch. They have a ball; I just wish I could get the message out to more adults!

If you’re really keen, then now is the time to start raising your seedlings for spring planting. But if that’s a bit intimidating, then go to you local independent nursery and buy up on seedlings. And ask those dudes for advice, they really know their stuff.

This month I’m planting onion, basil, lettuce, carrots, leeks, beetroot, eggplant, spuds and even a few early tomatoes. We only have a 9m x 9m backyard, which supplies our family well. What's your excuse?!

- Rohan

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