ThinkstockThinkstock Thinkstock Thinkstock Thinkstock Thinkstock ThinkstockWith economic conditions raising the price of food, and the global organic movement, people are seeking creative ways to eat healthier and more cost effectively. This has opened up a whole new world of growing your own produce at home – fresher, often healthier, and certainly rewarding for those with a green tinge on their thumbs!

When my family moved into our new home late last year, we were blessed with a sizeable patch of earth, already set up to become a lovely kitchen garden. The sturdy frame around the patch held up netting which protected the area from birds and some pests. So I set about researching creating our very own herb and veggie garden right in our back yard.

There were many factors to take into account: the levels of water and sun that each type of veg and herb required to flourish; good pairings of plants to support mutual growth; and of course, our own commitment to tending this patch of potential. But good research leads to good planning, and we planted the seeds of a most productive patch that offered my toddler hours of fun exploring the red stems of the beetroot, pulling up carrots and rinsing them with pleasure to nibble on, and getting stuck in pulling up the weeds that relentlessly tried to share the good fortune of the seeds we had carefully planted as a family.

Not all home owners are as lucky to have a ready-to-plant kitchen garden, with apartment living being a big trend in city lifestyles. But far from laying the idea of having your own kitchen garden aside, there are the most wonderful ways to bring fresh herbs, veggies and even fruit into your home.

Try planting some basil, coriander and mint in pots on your window sill (with the added benefit that flies are not too partial to basil, and basil loves to be picked and enjoyed, flourishing from the experience). Or recycle some old pots, milk bottles or baked bean cans. These can be decorated to create an eclectic aesthetic, and then planted with the most wonderful variety of fresh goodies to keep your salad bowl overflowing and your food flavoured with the freshest herbs available.

One of my favourite concepts, which I have seen applied in numerous places, is the idea of hanging pots. Pots are either strung along a wall on a specially created harness, or simply nestled in slings, then filled with good soil and seeds – and create a living, edible wall, either outside on a balcony, in a courtyard, or in your kitchen itself (provided drainage is sufficient). These can be designed in the most inspiring ways to become exceptional décor additions to your home. So if you don’t have space or time to tend a veggie patch – create a veggie wall!

If you are one who enjoys your garden but isn’t inclined to get down on your hands and knees to weed a dedicated veggie patch, why not consider sharing some of your garden space with a few veggies and herbs? There are many plants that grow very comfortably alongside a certain type of veggie or herb – which in themselves can be very pretty and add tremendously to the aesthetic of your garden. I’ve heard of a couple who loved this concept so much that they created an edible garden, and instead of having flowers, ferns and fronds, planted red, green and yellow peppers, baby spinach, and a vast assortment of purely edible plants. If only my thumb were that green…

So don’t deprive yourself of the joy of harvesting fresh herbs and veggies – there is always a way. See what you have available in the way of containers, then turn them into something fabulous – a natural gift that keeps on giving. It’s not only a small lift on the financial burdens of living, but a small lift for the soul too – to nurture something that your family will enjoy creating together, and enjoying the fruits of your family project together.

Sociable companion plants:

  • Marigolds and tomatoes: it is believed that marigolds secrete an enzyme into the soil to protect their roots from infestation, and tomatoes benefit greatly from that enzyme
  • Likewise, having tomatoes and basil as room mates has the same benefit
  • Nasturtiums are excellent sentinels for cabbages and cucumbers
  • And create your daisy chain amongst your potatoes to deter earwigs
  • If, like my two-year-old, you love carrots, throw some chives and onions into the vicinity to keep flies at bay
  • If you’ve had a heavy-feeding crop, and need to give your soil a bit of an enriching holiday, plant some stinging nettles, dandelions, beans and peas: these each play a special part in restoring your soil’s strength for the next planting

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