Growing your own food from such a tiny seed can be really empowering, but many people find it challenging. Successful germination is about providing the right environment for particular seeds to flourish. And once you get the hang of…
Biting into a sweet, crunchy pea pod straight from the vine is a highlight of any gardener’s year. As diverse as they are versatile, the humble pea is a nutritious and easy-to-grow annual that deserves a space in every…
Wild beets are native to northern Africa and the coast of Spain and Portugal. They were introduced to northern Europe by the Romans who fed them to both their troops and horses. Beets adapted very well to cold, northern winters and from them sugar beet and the round red beet were developed. Collections of the wild relatives of beetroot are being made in Sicily and Calabria for large-scale gene banks.
Practising crop rotation when growing annual vegetables not only increases long-term yield, it preserves the fertility of your soil while deterring pests and diseases.
In a world of a changing climate and an increasingly politicised and broken food system, regenerative agriculture is a large-scale example of practices we can adopt in our own backyards which are beneficial for both our health and our environment.
From tropical western Africa and introduced to southern Europe 2000 years ago, melons have been a popular fruit for a very long time. A distinctive group of melons called cantaloupes were developed in a place called Cantallouppi near Rome, where they became very popular with the emperor Tiberius. They were then introduced to Armenia from where they reached Iran, which became a secondary centre of diversity.
Permaculture design works with Bill Mollison’s ‘each element performs many functions’ principle. So when choosing your plants, look for species that can perform multiple functions. Whether it’s in small suburban gardens or on large-scale properties, vetiver grass does exactly that0 Vetiver grass (Vetiveria zizanioides) is a perennial bunchgrass native to India and Ceylon. It grows up to 1.5 metres in height and shoots from an underground crown, which makes it resistant to frost, fire and heavy grazing. As long as it’s planted in full sun, vetiver will tolerate a broad range of climates from tropical, semi-arid through to temperate zones. And it isn’t particularly picky when it comes to soil quality, either..
Australia is home to more than 150 native species of fruit fly, but only a few of them pose a threat in the garden. There are two main types of fruit fly. The Drosophilidae family, often called the vinegar fly which is the one you see around compost bins and fruit bowls. It’s tiny, between two and four millimetres in length, and can range in colour from pale yellow through to black. The other is from the Tephritidae family which includes the two main flies affecting Australia’s backyard gardeners and commercial growers. There’s the Queensland fruit fly (Bactrocera tryoni), which is found on the east coast of Australia and, although it can’t fly too far, spreads easily by jumping from backyard to backyard. It’s hugely adaptable to its environment, so as climates change and backyards become more productive, this insect is becoming increasingly invasive and can’t be ignored. It’s larger than the vinegar fly, around seven millimetres in length, it’s reddish-brown in colour and easily identifiable by its distinct yellow markings.
Broad beans have been cultivated since prehistoric times in Europe. They were unearthed in the ancient city of Troy, found in Egyptian tombs as well as with Bronze Age artefacts in Switzerland, so their exact origin is difficult to determine. It is recorded that Romans used them as voting tokens and they reached China by the first century CE.
Sweet and juicy, dried and ground, grilled, boiled or popped, it’s easy to understand why corn is a favourite all-round staple. Fresh, frozen, ground into flour or made into porridge, polenta and tortillas. Hugely versatile, you can snack on corn raw, feed it to livestock, turn it into syrup, even convert it into ethanol. Originating in Mexico and spreading rapidly through the Americas, the humble grain has established itself as an essential in gardens and kitchens all around the world.