If only toilet paper grew on trees…

THE functional limitations of Perth’s grocery supply chains have been exposed by the recent shortages of rice, beans and even toilet paper, and in response many people are beginning to wonder if it’s too late to plant a garden in order to ensure some measure of self-sufficiency if there’s a Coronavirus lock-down.

I always tell people that it’s never too late to plant a garden, and as current WA Health Department modelling has the Coronavirus outbreak peaking in WA around August of this year, there is more than enough time to get some decent amounts of food happening in your backyard by the time a trip to the supermarket becomes something many will want to avoid.

In this brief guide, we will focus on two broad groups of things to plant; those which give the quickest result, and those that will yield a useful harvest of food.

In order to be successful, ensure that you have at least the basics for a successful garden prepared, such as sufficient sunlight, weed-free and nutrient enriched soil and measures in place to keep pests away from your precious food. 

Even if you’re just pulling up a patch of grass to repurpose as a garden bed, mixing in a few bags of organic potting mix with your existing soil will be a start, as well as aerating and refreshing your soil that may have been locked up under grass for decades. 

Raised garden beds are even better if you can buy or make them, but many people have success with foam eskys and even large buckets with drainage holes in the bottom – your imagination is the limit here, aesthetics can wait.

The first group of plants to get you started is leafy greens and Asian greens – think spinaches, silverbeet, lettuces, bok choi and tatsoi. 

The key advantage of these, especially the Asian varieties, are that they grow fast and can be picked at an early stage if need be, or left to grow larger before harvesting. 

Some greens will be ready in just over a month, and can be eaten as sprouts if things get desperate, or mixed in with smoothies if you prefer.

Enjoyable

The second group is plants that not only provide a decent crop, but are enjoyable to eat frequently. 

For this reason, I don’t include radishes on the list, which add zest to salads and dishes but would be unfortunate to eat as a meal on their own every day. Beans and peas are definitely on the list though, as they are easy to grow, even in pots, don’t take up much ground space, can be eaten fresh, cooked or stored, and produce loads of seeds to ensure an ongoing supply. 

Beetroot and carrot are probably the most difficult to grow out of this group as they need properly prepared garden beds with nice, loose soil, but fortunately grow underground away from most pests.

Another crop to consider is potatoes, however there is a risk of introducing soil diseases by growing supermarket-bought spuds, so it’s worth considering certified seed potatoes from a garden centre.

That being said, this still entails a small amount of risk that perhaps should be avoided for now. 

Broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are also great food crops but are more susceptible to pests so require more care and are therefore not recommended for beginners.

by JUSTIN STAHL

QUICK, EASY VARIETIES
Beans (bush, climbing, broad and borlotti)
Beetroot
Bok choi
Carrot
Catnip (for lockdown laughs)
Chard
Kailaan
Kale
Lettuce
Peas (snow and sugar snap)

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