Spring is here…it’s time to grow!
By Cath Manuel
With Spring upon us it’s a wonderful time of year to head outside and grow beautiful crops of herbs, vegetables and flowers.It’s also a great time to start a garden therapy program for residents to enjoy a range of gardening activities and help to grow fresh food for use in the kitchen.
Before growing your spring plants, it’s best to prepare the soil in gardens to ensure your garden thrives through this season and into summer.
Start with the Soil
The best way to ensure your garden not only thrives but produces nutrient-rich food is by having healthy garden soil. Healthy soil leads to healthy food and healthy bodies! Before planting a garden add a few ‘ingredients’ to the soil to help feed the plants. These include compost (make your own, it’s easy!), rotted or old animal manure, worm castings (from a worm farm), slow release organic fertilisers and crushed rock minerals. These ingredients will help to build healthy soil and provide nutrients for plants to absorb.
Follow these simple methods to feed your soil here – https://soiltosupper.com/5-easy-ways-to-feed-your-garden-and-grow-more-food/
In the Kitchen Garden
The kitchen garden will grow many herbs, vegetables and edible flowers to use in your kitchen. This garden is situated close to kitchens in a sunny location and will be accessed as fresh ingredients are needed.
Try growing these plants through spring…
- assorted lettuce, spring onions, silverbeet, beans, celery or cucumber
- potted lemon or lime trees
- fresh herbs of parsley, chives, basil, dill, tarragon, chervil or mint and stevia in containers
- edible flowers to grow are nasturtium, borage, calendula and native violets
In the Therapeutic Garden
A gardening space for everyone to enjoy is called a therapeutic or communal garden. This garden is enjoyed by many people and is the location for many gardening activities and is a great place for social interaction. Through a lifestyle program, many larger crops, including fruit trees, sensory shrubs, herbs and larger vegetables can be grown.
For spring try growing pumpkins, sweet potato, tomatoes, capsicum, zucchini or eggplant, plus a range of herbs and flowers.
TIP – when choosing plants to grow each season ask the chefs or kitchen staff what foods they would like grown onsite to use in meals.
Here’s a few extra ideas for growing food… https://soiltosupper.com/grow-food-in-any-home/
Growing companion plants helps to create a healthy eco-system and support the growth of plants, so allow nature to help your garden thrive. Companion plants assist in the growth of others by attracting beneficial insects, repelling pests, improving soil, providing nutrients, shade, or support. They are part of a biological pest control program and reduce the need for chemical sprays, over watering and unnatural weed control. They are certain plants, when grown together that have a beneficial effect on one another.
Plants to grow together are;
- Tomatoes, Eggplant or Capsicum – basil, parsley, oregano, geraniums, marigold, borage, chives.
- Lettuce – broccoli, dill, onions, beans, carrots, thyme, nasturtium, alyssum.
- Pumpkin, Cucumber, Zucchini/Squash, Watermelon – sunflowers, nasturtiums, lettuce, radish and calendula.
- Fruit trees – alliums (onion family) nasturtium, marigold, tansy, lemon balm, borage.
Three top companions are:
Marigolds – As well as being a great plant for deterring pests in the garden, most are also edible so try growing edible Marigolds and sow seeds through all garden spaces. They are a sunny, happy flower and suitable to grow in all garden spaces.
Chives – as well as increasing the flavour of tomatoes and carrots, chives help to protect roses from black spot fungal disease, repel aphids and will help to repel borers around fruit trees. Also it’s a lovely little plant to grow as a border in any garden.
Nasturtiums – repel squash bug and cucumber beetles, so plant them all through areas growing zucchini, pumpkin, cucumber and melons. They also help to suppress weeds, reduce nematodes in the soil and attract bees to the garden to help with pollination. Flowers, buds and leaves are edible, so an all-round good plant to grow, and one of my favourites!
Activities to Enjoy
To enjoy the lovely warm weather of spring, head outside and enjoy time digging new plants, turning over soil and pulling a few weeds. Also this month enjoy sowing seeds to grow new spring plants, plant vegetable, herb or flowers seedlings into pots or garden beds, set up a compost bin to reduce waste and create fresh compost for gardens and plant sensory plants throughout gardens for everyone to enjoy.
Find a few extra ideas in this article… https://soiltosupper.com/7-stunning-sensory-plants/
And for people with dementia… https://soiltosupper.com/gardening-for-dementia-wellbeing/
Things to be keep in mind…
- As weather warms up provide residents with hats, water, shade and somewhere comfortable to rest during garden time.
- Include a few garden maintenance jobs in your gardening program. Try watering, weeding, pruning and raking garden areas…residents will love this!
- Follow organic growing methods to ensure activities are safe for all gardeners and environmentally friendly.
- Set activities that all residents can be involved in as gardening is suitable for all abilities.
- If you’re growing food for kitchen use you’ll need to update your food safety plan to include foods grown onsite
Gardening has many benefits for our health and wellbeing, plus you get to harvest delicious foods!
So head outdoors this month, soak up the warmer weather and harvest some good health along the way.
Cath Manuel is a Horticultural Consultant specialising in Therapeutic and Kitchen Gardens. Cath is the Founder and Director of Soil to Supper which provides services and programs through the Soil to Supper Community. She is also host of The Wellbeing Garden Podcast Program. Cath has many years’ experience in the horticulture industry and has a great passion for sharing her knowledge to inspire people of all ages and abilities to enjoy gardening activities and grow fresh food. She shares her knowledge through programs, consultations, events and various media publications. Cath holds a Diploma in Horticulture, Certificate in Permaculture Design and Horticultural Therapy.