Growing your own: Dirty secrets of edible plants

Posted on 28 October 2018

It’s that time of the year when the green thumbs (and wannabes) amongst us roll up sleeves, grab the trowel, sprinkle the compost and get planting. From balcony pots to garden plots, spring means sowing and growing!   

We asked local veggie garden enthusiast Jessica Brewster for the lowdown on what’s hot to grow now, plus she has dished some dirt on a few tricks, tips and little-known facts about your edibles.

Good to grow:

Basil, beans, beetroot, borage, cabbage, calendula, capsicum, carrots, celery, chamomile, chilli, chives, corn, cucumber, eggplant, fennel, leek, lettuce, marigold, nasturtium, pak choi, snowpeas, pumpkin, pyrethrum, radish, rocket, silverbeet, rainbow chard, spring onion, sunflowers, thyme, tomatoes, watermelon, zucchini.

Tips, tricks and fun facts

1. For tomato lovers

Full size tomatoes are notoriously difficult to grow here due to the pesky Queensland Fruit Fly. Small brown spots on your fruit are a telling sign that they’ve been affected. Plant them now and harvest early to avoid the summer swarms, or try growing cherry tomatoes.

2. Happy together: Corn, zucchini and climbing beans

Known as ‘The Three Sisters’ planting technique, these plants grow well when planted together. The corn provides support for the beans to climb as they grow.  The zucchini acts as ground cover and a living mulch, keeping the soil moist and preventing weeds from growing.  The beans add nitrogen (fertiliser) to the soil for the benefit of the corn and zucchini plants. Win-win-win.

3. Pretty up your patch

Nasturtiums are easy to grow and come in a range of different flower colours (yellow, orange and red).  They make a great spillover plant in a pot next to your veggie patch.  Plus, the flowers and leaves are edible and are attractive (slightly peppery) additions to salads. Chamomile plants provide pretty ground cover plus you can also use the flowers for tea – just pick, dry and add water!

4. Did someone say Borage?

Borage (aka star flower, bee bush) is a top companion plant in the garden.  It grows well next to strawberry plants and is said to make them grow stronger, healthier and produce tastier fruit! Bees love their edible violet flowers, and they make a delicious and pretty garnish (cucumber taste).

5. Natural insect repellents

Pyrethrum plants on the borders of your veggie patch can help repel insect pests, aphids and spider mites.  You can also dry, ground and mix the flowers with water to make insecticide. Adding land cress to your patch can help deter larvae of Diamond Back Moth and Large Cabbage Moth from eating your edibles.

Grow it Local

Connect with other local growers, share and showcase what you grow and know with the launch of Grow it Local this month in the eastern suburbs; online and face-to-face.

A celebration of backyard, balcony, community and window-sill farmers, this initiative has been conceived by the team behind award-winning Garage Sale Trail. Foundation partners include the Myer Foundation, with Waverley, Randwick and Woollahra Councils.

More info:

Put your patch on the map and start sharing at www.growitlocal.com. Join in the Weekend Walkaround on Nov 24-25 to check other local patches or show off your own.   

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.