Food cultivation

There are several ways to grow your own food and save money. These ways include growing from scraps, seeds or cuttings; growing on your own land, indoors, on your balcony, roof, or in a community garden.

Grow food from scraps

First up is to grow food from food scraps. This is the cheapest way, involving no additional cost.  There are several great articles online on how to grow food from scraps, use a search engine of your choice to investigate. This author has experimented and has found that food that grows the fastest is as follows (in decreasing order):

  • Spinach
  • Celery
  • Lettuce (make sure that it gets plenty of sunlight and water)
  • Bok choi
  • Carrot tops (carrots will not grow, only the leaves which can be used as a garnish in salads. The plant will in time bear seeds which can be used to grow carrot plants with the edible taproot)

Essentially, what you do is you cut off the root or base of the plant. You can place it in water (enough to leave some of the plant exposed but not too much to drown it) or soil (I prefer this as it involves less work) and put in an appropriate amount of sunlight, which depends on the plant. When growing pineapples care needs to be taken to make sure that all the flesh is removed so that it will not rot and kill the plant.

Grow plants from seeds

Plants can be grown from seeds too. However, the plant that grows from seeds may not bear fruit that is tasty. The seeds can be obtained by saving them by taking them from scraps, or from buying them. Places to buy seeds include online, at local nurseries and major department stores such as Bunnings in Australia. Pumpkin seeds grow so well that they will grow if you put them in compost. Carrot seeds grow well. I also bought sunflower seeds, corn seeds and eggplant seeds but have had no luck with them. Fruit seeds will take a long time to produce a plant that will bear fruit, plus the fruit may not be tasty, so if you prefer to get fruit quickly and be tasty then buying a grafted tree is a better option. You can still cultivate fruit trees from seed as well if you like.

Other seeds that shoot quite quickly include seeds from apples, citrus, watermelons and capsicums. Passionfruit seeds seem to take a long time to shoot (indeed I am yet to find ones that have done so). Seeds can be scarified to quicken their growth. Scarifying means that the hard outer coating and translucent inner coating of the seed is scraped off. When scarifying, take care not to destroy the seed, especially the tip at which the shoot grows from. Some seeds can be scarified easily by peeling with your fingers or fingernails and some (such as passionfruits and banana seeds) have very tough outer coatings and so are difficult to scarify.

Another good way to grow any seed is to place it in a container, put some toilet or tissue paper over it and spray enough to make it damp but not drenched. The seeds should grow independent of how much light they get and some people on the internet say they will grow best in the fridge but I have not tried this. The seeds can be planted when the sprouts have got to the point where if they get any longer they could snap easily. When sowing the seeds, make sure that the soil is loose and moist and to place them at an appropriate depth and distance apart. If you just sow them and scatter a light amount of soil over them they may not grow and if you place them too deep they may not grow either.

If seeds are wet (such as tomato seeds or capsicum seeds) then they may need to be placed in water so that the flesh clinging to them can ferment and come off.

Grow plants from cuttings

Growing plants from cuttings can be a fast, effective way of getting tasty fruit that grows on trees but is more expensive than the former two methods. The cuttings can be bought so that they are disease-resistant, drought-resistant and so on. When growing plants from cuttings they often need a root stock to grow, but the ones bought typically already have this.

Location to grow plants

Where you grow your plants simply depends on what available land you have access to. If you live in a detached dwelling, then you may have a backyard, front yard or “nature strip” to grow your food. If you live in a multi-unit residential building (such as an apartment) then access to land may be more limited. However, many apartments still have land. Plants can be grown in pot plants indoors, on a balcony or rooftop. Some rooftops even have soil deep enough to grow plants. Dwarf varieties of some plants can be obtained for indoor use. Indoor plants are also good for improving indoor environmental quality.

Composting or using a worm farm is a good way to close the loop on the biodegradable materials you use by putting them back into the soil and making it more fertile, which can then be used to grow food or other plants.

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