A group of people stand together in a garden.

The gardening workshops in Whitlam are open to all Canberra residents.

15 February 2024

The Suburban Land Agency, in partnership with Fiona Buining of Ainslie Urban Farm, is delivering a series of gardening workshops called Growing Food Through the Seasons.

The workshops cover range of gardening basics and focuses on getting the best from Canberra’s unique growing climate. They will teach participants when and what to plant for a bountiful supply of backyard produce year-round.

You might think that you could pop out to a nursery, buy whatever vegetable is in season, plant them and enjoy your homegrown veggies soon.

As it turns out, you’d be mistaken.

“A big misconception is around when you plant things,” Fiona said.

“And then the other misconception is how long things take to grow. Most things take a long time. If you’re planting a savoy cabbage in Canberra, you need to plant it in December to harvest it in winter.”

These common misunderstandings about growing your own vegetables is one of the reasons that Fiona and the Suburban Land Agency are delivering these workshops at the Innovation Precinct at the Suburban Land Agency’s Display Village in Whitlam.

If you’re interested in learning more about growing your own food, visit the Suburban Land Agency website to find out more about the workshops.

In the meantime, here are some of Fiona’s top tips for beginner gardeners:

Start with greens

“The reason leafy greens are good is that they grow more or less year round,” Fiona said.

Some of the leafy green vegetables that Fiona suggests for first time growers include:

  • lettuce
  • rocket
  • mizuna
  • mustard greens
  • kale (baby and regular)
  • English spinach
  • rainbow chard.

If you’re looking for something nutritious that also looks nice in your garden, tat soi is a good option.

“It’s a pretty Asian green that you can get in purple and green,” Fiona said.

“It grows into this beautiful rosette that almost looks too good to pick.”

Use your balcony

Canberrans living in apartments and townhouses can also grow their own food. Instead of a backyard, Fiona suggests using the space on your balcony.

“Grow bags are great for apartments and people with balconies. They’re absorbent, so when you water, the bag itself absorbs some of the water. You get a lot less of that dripping and running over that you would get with pots,” Fiona said.

A budget-friendly alternative is a polystyrene box. Fiona says they’re an ideal depth for growing greens and tend to keep plants cooler than black plastic pots.

“My tip for people with no balcony or outdoor growing space is to have a go at growing sprouts on your benchtop,” Fiona said.

“Sprouts are great because they’re fresh, they’re full of minerals and vitamins and enzymes, and you can grow them in the dark.”

Start today

“People love starting a veggie garden in spring and summer,” Fiona said.

“There’s something about the energy of spring and summer but actually, any time is ideal.”

According to Fiona, there are things that you can plant in every month of the year in Canberra. Leafy greens, in particular, can be planted in any month.

“Any time is good. When you’re inspired is the right time to do it. Don’t put it off,” Fiona said.

Consider a verge garden

If you have a verge (also known as a nature strip) out the front of your home, you could use it to plant vegetables. There are specific rules around what you can and can’t do with nature strips, so be sure to check out the City Services guide.

“You can start a verge garden that can be a one-to-two-hour project,” Fiona said.

“You don’t even have to dig. You can mow or cut the grass by hand, lay down newspaper, make sure it’s overlapping, put some compost or potting mix on top, plant the seedlings into the mounds, cover it with mulch, bingo.”

The next Growing Food Through the Seasons Workshop is on Saturday 2 March. Workshops will be held on the first Saturday of every month (except for July) in 2024.

To register your interest and find out more about the workshops, visit the Suburban Land Agency website

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