THERE are a number of reasons why you should grow your own food.

One being you know exactly what goes into your soil or onto your produce. Growing your own food means you can enjoy pesticide-free produce that tastes amazing.

Two, growing your own food helps the planet by contributing to the reduction of carbon emissions that are created through the transport and refrigerated storage of fresh produce.

Thirdly, and finally, growing your own food will save you money!

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According to the ABC, fresh produce prices are expected to increase by up to 29 per cent due to labour shortages.

A report by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) predicts a drop in fruit and vegetable production for 2021/2022 harvest season in response to a shortage of overseas workers.

These drops could result in a price rise of seven to 29 per cent for fresh produce that will be felt by consumers.

So, with that in mind, now is the perfect time to grow your own food.

Whether you own, rent or live in an apartment, here’s how you can grow your own food, now:

1. Growing food in containers

Just because you live in an apartment or rent, doesn’t mean you can’t grow your own delicious food.

Container gardening is the solution to growing food in a small space.

Growing food in containers has many advantages also.

One, containers can be moved around to maximise or minimise sun exposure as required, encouraging early growth or better ripening, or moved to protect crops from strong winds.

Containers can make planting, watering, weeding and harvesting easier if they are raised and soils can be modified where required for particular crops.

But, as with all pros, there are also a few cons with container gardening.

Containers can become hot and place extra stress on plants. Container grown produce requires extra watering and fertilising and yields from container-grown plants are generally less than open ground grown food.

When it comes to growing your own food in containers, any good-sized container can be used and the best crops for containers are:

  • Herbs: basil, parsley, marjoram, thyme.
  • Fruit and veges: tomatoes, aubergines, chillies and capsicum.
  • Greens: spinach, silverbeet, Chinese cabbage, lettuce and bok choi and zucchini and squash grow in containers that are at least 40cm deep.

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2. Growing food in your yard

Before you start planting seedlings or sowing seeds, you need to find the best possible spot in your yard to grow your food.

Vegetables and fruit generally like six hours of sunshine a day, so you need to select a sunny site in your yard where your produce can get enough sun but also has some protection from the hot westerly sun.

Next, you want to feed your soil. Produce plants are hungry plants that require good quality soil. Dig in lots of organic matter such as compost or worm castings, chicken poo, cow manure or mushroom compost to feed your hungry plants. Make sure you let it all settle before you sow your seeds or plant your seedlings.

Most crops will grow in your backyard vege garden but be mindful of what to sow when for best results.

3. Growing food from seed

Growing your food from seed can save you money if you have the time to wait for the seedlings to raise. Buying a packet of seeds might cost the same amount as buying a punnet, except instead of buying four to eight plants, you’re essentially buying 50 to 100.

Make sure you invest in good quality seeds and go for organic or heirloom varieties.

When choosing seeds, diversity is the key to a healthy vege garden so aim to plant several vege and fruit seeds, interplanting them with herbs and flowering plants. This is called companion planting.

Many seeds can be sown directly into your garden beds and for crops such as broccoli, rocket or lettuce, sowing them directly works best.

Otherwise, you can sow your seeds into punnets filled with good quality seed raising mix to propagate and transplant later.

Regardless of which method you choose, always water your soil well first before scattering the seeds finely, pressing them down gently and covering with a fine layer of seed-raising mix.

If you are transplanting seeds, once they have germinated, usually between two to six weeks, and stand around 15cm high, gently take the plant by the leaves, squeeze the punnet to release the roots and plant directly into your vege bed.

It is best to do this in the cool of the morning or late afternoon and always give the transplanted plants a good soak after and an application of Seasol.

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4. Maintaining your vege garden

Make sure you check your vege garden regularly and give it a good water at least once a day.

A thick application of straw mulch can help lock in precious moisture for your plants and reduce the number of weeds that pop up.

Applying compost, manure or Seasol regularly helps feed the soil that feeds your hungry, growing plants. Make sure you know when the best times to feed your plants are. In winter, a liquid fertiliser often works best.

Sharing your food and knowledge

Finally, if you find you need some help or want to share your own tips, connect with other like-minded backyard producers. Look for permaculture groups or ask at your local library.

Similarly, when you get a glut of produce, share it around. Give it to friends or family or find someone to do a food swap with.