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Instant Edible Garden

Well, maybe it isn’t exactly “instant” but there are plenty of things you can do today to put fresh produce on the table within a very short time. With the issues going on in the world at the moment so many people have been asking about how they can produce their own food as quickly as possible. So let’s give you some ideas to get you started…

~ Sprouts

Nothing gives you a harvest faster than sprouts! Grow a variety of different sprouts to suit your taste buds. It’s easy, quick, nutritious and tasty.

Grab a jar and put your seed of choice in there (I recommend you use organic seeds as commercial seeds may have been sprayed with fungicides or other chemicals). If the jar is approximately 1L you will want about 1 teaspoon of small seeds (like alfalfa or broccoli) or ¼ cup of large seeds (such as mung beans). Don’t overfill your jar as they will take up a lot more room once sprouted. Next, add about 1 cup of water and then put clean cheesecloth (or other thin cotton material) over the top of the jar to serve as a “lid” (secure it with a rubber band). Leave the seeds to soak overnight and in the morning drain off the water – this is made easy with the cheesecloth top. Rinse the seeds well with fresh water and drain off again then put the jar upside-down at an angle so excess water will drain off. Seeds do not need to be in sunlight to sprout and in fact, too much sunlight will force them to produce their first leaves more quickly rather than the juicy sprouts that you are after. Rinse the seeds several times a day and leave the jar draining upside-down after each rinse. Sprouts will be ready to harvest in 3-7 days and can be eaten any time before they produce their first pair of true leaves (ie third and fourth leaves) after which point the sprout will start to become tough and bitter. Use your sprouts straight away or store them in the fridge for about a week.

Some seeds to try include: alfalfa, peas, pumpkin, mustard, broccoli, lentils, chia, sunflower, buckwheat, chickpea, fenugreek, mung bean, onion, radish, and cabbage.

~ Traditional vegetables

We move on now to your traditional garden vegetables. I recommend you plant them thickly. Ignore the spacing limits stated on the pack and plant them nice and close. This way you will start to get a crop earlier as you can eat the seedlings as you thin the plants out to a more suitable spacing. I also recommend you stagger your planting. Don’t throw all of your seeds in the ground all at once, if you plant every 2-4 weeks you will have a constant supply of plants rather than a huge glut (followed by nothing much at all).

So let’s have a look at some things you can get in the ground now and have fresh produce on your table in a very short time. Note that the harvest days below are approximations only as this will differ depending on your local conditions as well as how soon you choose to harvest (some of the below you might be harvesting the whole seedling within the first couple of weeks).

• Cress – 14 days
• Radish – 21 days
• Shallots – 21 days
• Chinese greens (mizuna, tatsoi, bok choy, etc) – approx 25 days for baby leaves or 40 days for mature plant
• Lettuce (loose leaf) – 30 days
• Spinach – 30 days
• Rocket – 30 days
• Kale – 30 days
• Silverbeet/Chard – 45 days
• Mustard – 30 days

Most vegetables can actually be eaten as seedlings or you can eat the leaves before the main crop is produced. So don’t look past experimenting with other vegetables such as broccoli, peas, onions, and beetroot for this.

~ Weeds

It wasn’t very long ago that harvesting weeds was a part of the regular meal. Most of you would be able to recall a grandmother who talks of foraging for weeds from around their neighbourhood to cook up for dinner. If you really want instant produce then weeds are your answer! Many are edible and often more nutrient dense than the vegetables we grow in our gardens. Make sure you do your research on what you can and can’t eat (there is plenty of information on the internet). Start by identifying all the weeds in your garden and then research their uses. You might be surprised just how much “food” you already have available to you. Some common edible weeds include dandelion, chickweed, nettle, cobbler’s pegs, purslane, and mallow. 

~ Poultry

How about fresh eggs every day? Chickens are the obvious choice and can be accommodated even in a small back yard, or you might consider quails if space or council restrictions are an issue. Why not save a battery hen from slaughter after a life spent in a cage? They are usually still producing – just not at the break-neck speed that the commercial producers want them to, but they still have more than enough egg-laying life left in them for the average family! For the more adventurous look into ducks, turkeys, geese, or guinea fowl.

Not only will your poultry give you lovely fresh eggs, but they will also help with pest control and provide fertilizer (in the form of manure) for your budding veggie patch!

Remember to keep your garden close and compact. If it is right outside the door and of a manageable size then you will find it much easier to look after and you will notice problems before they become an issue.

Now run outside and create your oasis!