Building a Productive Food Garden

8 GREAT LESSONS from the

"BUILDING A PRODUCITVE FOOD GARDEN" workshop.

at the Port Macquarie Community Gardens on Saturday 2nd April 2016

Hosted By Green Dean.

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1. BIOMIMICRY - copy nature!

Nature has been gardening pretty well for a long, long time, and we can learn many of its secrets to success if we learn to observe and listen to nature.
Nature is organic – only natural inputs!
In your garden, commit to ‘keeping it organic’ – use only natural, organic inputs. Avoid synthetic inputs and toxic chemicals at all times.
IF IN DOUBT – KEEP IT OUT!
Always ask yourself: what does and would nature do?

2. STRONG FOUNDATIONS!

It all starts in and with the soil.
WE ARE ‘DIRT FARMERS’ – our sole purpose and focus is on our soil. Keep soil care in mind at all times. A good philosophy should be: If you wouldn’t give it to your children to eat, don’t put it in your soil.
Focus on ‘build it and they will come’ – encourage and care for all your ‘soil life’: worms, fungi, bacteria, countless microbes and insects and much more!
Lifeless or mediocre soil = lifeless, mediocre food. Living, great soil = nutrient dense food.
ALWAYS RETURN TO THE SOIL!

3. Remember the organic gardener’s mantra: COMPOST, COMPOST, COMPOST! MULCH, MULCH, MULCH!

Keep adding good quality organic material to your soil – compost, mulch, composted manures, worm castings and more.
Work on always building and maintaining HUMUS! Humus is the lifeblood of soil for gardeners. Humus adds soil structure, retains water and nutrients, repels ‘baddies’, stores carbon and is a magnet for good soil life.
Humus is the goal … food growing is a bonus!

4. THE PAST IS NOT THE FUTURE!

Explore many things outside our current model of the 4 seasons and climate zones. You don’t have to grow strictly according to the 4 seasons and climate zones. Some of it is important and functional, but we need to break free from the old European legacy of gardening rules.
We need to stop cutting the ends off the roast meat to fit in the baking tray!

5. WATER IS AN ART!

Watering is a skill, but we can practise and experiment with it until it becomes intuitive. Nature will always give us feedback whether we are watering too much or too little. Again, observe and listen to nature!
Soil needs a certain amount of water to provide nutrients to plants and trees, and soil life needs water not only to thrive, but survive.
WATER IS LIFE!

6. A SHIFT IN ATTITUDE!

Every week or fortnight, commit to trying a new veg or fruit, or try new ways to cook and eat various produce. Variety is the spice of life!
Then commit to growing new produce – break free from the European legacy of edible gardening. We live in a different country, with different seasons, climates, soils and plants. Try new ways of growing things – organic, biodynamic, urban farming, permaculture, intensive, bio-intensive, verticle gardens, wicking beds and other growing methods.
Focus on perennials … and focus more on SE Asian food plants for our climate zone and hot, humid Spring and Summer.

7. GROW FOR LIFE!

Experiment and practise growing food year round!
Celebrate and embrace the energy and change that each season brings, plus the fresh seasonal produce that each season and sub-season, and climate zone, offers.
Remember that seasonal = fresh, nutrient and climate appropriate food.
Seasonal = taste! Seasonal = reconnection to nature and our gardens in a fresh new way as each season rolls around. Yay!

8. FOCUS ON AND CELEBRATE THE ‘TOTAL SUM OF YIELDS’ from your garden, not just the obvious ones like the produce we eat.

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A single 1m x 1m raised garden bed yields fruit, vegetables, herbs, soil and other fertility, biodiversity, water, shade, fibre, exercise and recreation, entertainment, satisfaction, love, food, sustenance, nutrition, community, family, learning, spiritual connection to nature, seeds, animal food, mulch, compost, sustainability, self-sufficiency and self-reliance, intimate personal food, stimulation, a legacy and so many more things.
A single small garden bed, or even a few herbs in pots on a balcony, can be a wonderful gateway into the awesome world of edible gardening and urban farming.
ALL of these things are the TOTAL YIELD from your garden – not just the obvious food we grow. How exciting is that?

I wish you all the best in your food gardening and pursuit of a more ethical and green lifestyle. Thanks to everyone who attended the workshop on Saturday. For those who couldn’t make it, I hope to meet you in the future.
— Green Dean