Just a follow up on from last week’s post where I asked people to let me know how much backyard food production is happening in their neighbourhood, which has led me to put some tips together on how we could spread the word about the joys of the productive backyard.

The straw poll turned up a really mixed bag with lots of people in some areas growing some food and none in others, extensive production in the smallest of spaces yet large gardens with no production at all.

It was very interesting. So why am I interested in how much people are growing their own food?

Well apart from the obvious things like:

  • I really enjoy it and want to share that joy.
  • I love the taste and freshness of home grown food and think it is healthier for us.
  • It is also great for the environment.

summer vegetable crop leeks broccoli veggie patch garlic spinach carrots harvesting homesteading

However, I think the real advantage of backyard food production is that it develops and maintains vital skills in the ability to grow and supply some of our own food which is extremely important for increasing the food security of the population.

Historically the average Australian backyard supplied a significant amount of the families weekly fresh fruit and vegetables, but with the introduction of free standing supermarkets in the 60s, the increase in hours in paid employment within each household and the rise of high density urbanisation the amount of backyard produce has declined significantly.
There was a study completed in 2014 by the Australian Institute that indicated that 52% of Australian households are growing some kind of food at some time of the year- however the yields per household were very low and there was a high turnover of participation- that is people try growing some of their own food but then stop.

For those of us already growing our own and with some kind of productivity in our backyards or balconies we don’t need convincing of the advantages of fresh home grown food but I would like to challenge you to spread the word.

Now whilst most articles on this subject indicate that people grow food for the following reasons:

  • Healthier food
  • Better for the environment
  • Saves money
  • Enjoy the physical and mental health that gardening bring

In my experience what nearly always converts someone from a non-producer to a producer is the taste, freshness and convenience of having food growing so close to home.
So I thought I would share with you some of the things I have done to encourage my fellow citizens to start producing backyard food.
The most convincing lure is to share some of your produce from your backyard. Hand around some of your best tasting produce to friends, neighbour’s, work colleagues and extended family. It could be a freshly dug carrot, a bunch of fresh herbs, crisp apple or the freshest and best tasting egg. It doesn’t matter as long as it makes them go “WOW that was great”. This will often get the conversation going.

From here I talk to them about:

  • How I grown my own – i.e. easy no dig system – no weeding.
  • How much time it takes – i.e. less than 2 hours a week in the veggie garden.
  • What you find the easiest to grow in – i.e.Broccoli
  • What I think is the best value for effort- i.e. mixed leaf lettuce
  • Be honest about your advice.

If after this little rave they are still willing to talk to me about home grown food, I will often pot up a few perennial herbs such thyme rosemary and oregano and present them with the pot with some simple care instruction on how to plant and care for them in the garden.

I always enquire regularly as to how they are going and if they are having success, if yes then I encourage them to venture out and plant up a small plot or several pots of their favourite greens such as mixed leafed lettuce and silver beet. I will always give them some growing tips, as local knowledge is always best and also talk about what I am planting at the moment and how I am looking after each crop.

I often share a punnet of seedlings with people and talk about successive planting to ensure continual harvest. One of the greatest turn offs for backyard producers is the boom and bust cycle of production. If you can convince people, this is easily overcome then they may just be willing to try and grow their own food.

Always share with them good websites or social media sites that will have the easiest to follow help guides and tips.

If close enough to the person the next present I buy them is based on backyard food production- books, seeds tools etc

You will find that once someone has had their first crop of anything they will be filled with pride at their success and busting to try and grow more. Once they are at this point they are hooked and from there in it is just encouraging, swapping stories and sharing produce.
For any one reading this that isn’t productive, you are probably wanting to grow something but don’t know where to start- my biggest suggestion is just do it – start small with something really easy and build on your knowledge and skill from there. Read, experiment but mostly just do it!

For those of you wanting to influence your family friends and neighbours I hope these tips will help you to go out and encourage more people to participate in the joy of home grown food.

What we need is more productive backyards.

Together we can change the world one garden at a time!

Good Luck Kathy