Grow Your Own Organic Produce

You don’t need a lot of time, space or know-how to start growing your own organic produce, writes Porter Fish.

Lolo Houbein must be the only author to start a book by urging you to put it down and go outside. Why? So that you can follow her passion for growing your own food.

Most of us probably like the idea of producing our own organic fruit and vegetables but wouldn’t know where to start, or we start so big we can’t cope and give up. Houbein’s book One Magic Square (Wakefield Press, $45) recommends we begin our gardens with just one square metre: small enough for the busiest person to manage but large enough to grow a significant amount of food.

Ready, steady, garden

Growing vegetables is easy, says Houbein. It’s a case of digging out that first square, filling it with potting soil and a sprinkle of blood and bone, then planting your seeds.

Small garden?

Check to see if there’s a strip anywhere you can dig up, perhaps along the driveway, advises Houbein.

Courtyard or balcony?

Use old wooden boxes, planters or plastic tubs. A fan of One Magic Square, reports growing several varieties of lettuce, herbs, a dwarf peach tree, eggplant, zucchini, roma tomatoes and Lebanese cucumber in her Melbourne flat using this method.

A good way of keeping a balcony garden organised is to use empty milk cartons. “Wash in soapy water and cut two bottom corners for drainage,” says Houbein. “Fill them with potting soil, enriched with a sprinkle of blood and bone, and put one or two seeds in each. You can then pack them neatly in a concrete pot or box, which will make them look more attractive and also helps stop them drying out. Because there’s plenty of depth for roots, they’re ideal for growing lettuce, beans, carrots, chives, garlic, radishes or herbs.”