In fact, my earliest memory is of washing my Oma's green oak lettuce leaves in a bucket on their verandah as a four-year-old, veggie patch on one side of their hill, Lake Eildon views over the other. When you're wanting to grow food at home, knowing how to start is often the most challenging decision.
Do I need to purchase an expensive raised garden bed? Will I need to rip up my lawn? What do I even plant first? Of course, once you're over the first hurdle, the rest is much easier. After reading this article, you'll have the know-how to jump that first hurdle and be growing your own salad in no time. And it won't cost you much money, if any!
BEGIN WITH A PATCH OF SOIL OR LAWN (OR WEEDS, LET'S BE REAL HERE!) THAT GETS A MINIMUM OF FOUR TO SIX HOURS OF DIRECT SUNLIGHT ACCESSING YOUR PATCH DAILY. MORE IS BETTER! REMEMBER THAT WINTER AND SUMMER ANGLES ARE LOWER AND HIGHER RESPECTIVELY, AND SUMMER AFTERNOONS WILL BE A LOT MORE INTENSE THAN MORNINGS.
If you have a contaminated or inner urban site, I recommend raised beds for health reasons. If it's in your budget, you can purchase good weed-free soils by the cubic metre - look for enhanced soils like 'Veggie Mix' or 'Manure-Added' for an extra nutrient boost, or enhanced organic potting mix.
You can of course also build your own soil for free, depending on what you can access, with the no-dig method! We'll get to that part in just a tick. Gently aerate soil first using a garden fork to pierce and loosen - insert as deep as you can (at least 300mm is ideal), wiggle, and remove. No turning over!
Next, if you have grass, start by covering the area with wet newspaper (a good 15-20 pages thick), followed by damp cardboard no more than two layers thick. Note that running grasses like couch and kikuyu will eventually invade without installing deep root barriers - it's up to you whether you choose to maintain or eradicate. Next - grass or no grass - build your future soil. For this, obtain bags of mixed animal manure types - cow, horse, pig, poultry, rabbit, alpaca, sheep - ensuring poultry or pig poo is well aged before use (if not, compost first).
You'll also need plenty of dry material - pea straw, hay, leaf litter and newspaper are all great. Thirdly, you'll need green material - lawn clippings, food scraps, small prunings, immature weeds, etc. Like a lasagne, layer each item you have (the more variety, the better the result!) at 5-10cm per layer, watering as you go and alternating manure / brown / green until at least a foot high. Keep going if filling a raised bed, otherwise this is ample to top existing soil.
Finally, use some homemade or bought compost on the top layer, mulch with a final straw layer and water deeply. You can plant directly into pockets of compost, while layers break down over time to form beautiful rich soil. Come spring, your patch will be green and lush - homegrown salads await!
I am Katie Traill from Seedblog. If you have any questions or are interested in my workshops, courses or blog, all the links are on my Seedblog profile.