GROW FOOD slow food Have your garden and eat it too. A practical guide to organic gardening in the sub-tropics with step-by-step instructions and delicious seasonal recipes. Come with me too on some of my travels in Australia, Europe, Asia and beyond.

WHO IS RELATED TO WHOM and why understanding this will make you a better gardener.

I LIVE ON A SMALL SUBURBAN BLOCK but, at the last count, we had over seventy edible plants throughout the garden with about 500kg of produce last year. I never spray any chemicals – it’s against my religion – anyone can join by the way! I only have to watch and listen to the birds, bees, butterflies, lizards and frogs to know that they are happy and keeping things in balance for us. Of course, there is a lot of composting going on!

I DO HAVE A COUPLE OF DESIGNATED KITCHEN GARDEN BEDS because somethings are easier to grow that way – like lettuce will not grow behind and under everything else – they would not get enough light – and broad beans needs the support of each other as they grow, HOWEVER, I do have flowers and herbs all around to help them out and make me happy too. DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFORE YOU PLANT your favourite food to check out their specific requirements and find out WHAT FAMILY THEY ARE IN? Read on ………..

CROP ROTATION is important, but if you know the family a plant comes from it MAKES IT A LOT EASIER TO UNDERSTAND what it’s all about. Basically, EACH FAMILY WILL TAKE DIFFERENT THINGS OUT OF THE SOIL – AND PUT DIFFERENT THINGS BACK – and BE PRONE TO DIFFERENT PESTS AND DISEASES. So, doesn’t it make sense NOT TO PUT A PARTICULAR PLANT IN THE SAME SPOT TWICE or A PLANT FROM THE SAME FAMILY in successive seasons THIS IS CROP ROTATION.

COMPANION PLANTING There are whole libraries of books written on this topic and a lot of MYTH and MYSTERY but if YOU START BY GETTING A GRASP OF PLANT FAMILIES, the mystery will start to reveal itself. COMPANION PLANTING is really just about LETTING NATURE BE YOUR GUIDE and trying to copy her. In NATURE do you: find things planted in straight lines, only one type of plant for acres and acres, everything the same height and same shape, no flowers, no fragrant aromas wafting on the breeze, no birds and insects flitting about?

MIX IT UP. PUT DIFFERENT PLANTS FROM DIFFERENT FAMILIES IN THE SAME BED – CROP ROTATION SORTED. Let some of those plants flower to build up beneficial insects and pollinators IN YOUR PATCH – they love flowering coriander, parsley and rocket. Then save some seeds from these for next season to take advantage of the resistance they are building to disease and adaptation to their environment – they will get better year after year. INTERPLANT WITH STRONG SMELLING HERBS to deter pests – like basil and dill. INTERPLANT WITH FLOWERS because you will love them and so will the bees and BENEFICIAL INSECTS – try cosmos, zinnias, sunflowers, marigolds – COMPANION PLANTING SORTED.

MY PATCH with lots of families in bed together – many edible and all lovely – tamarillo tree, dahlia, French tarragon, cosmos, gardenia, turmeric, golden oregano, blue iris, Mexican sage and cat’s whiskers. A productive garden can’t help but be beautiful!

AMARYLLIDACEAE

The Onion Tribe likes the soil to be a little more alkaline than other vegetables and prefer to be planted as seedlings – not seeds.

  • Chives
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Leek
  • Shallot
  • Spring Onions

APIACEAE

The Carrot Chums do not like being transplanted so grow from seed and thin out to strongest seedling. Carrots like an ‘old’ bed of free draining soil – so grow after a hungry crop from the CABBAGE PATCH or TOMATO TROUP.

  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Celeriac
  • Coriander
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Parsley
  • Parsnip

ASTERACEAE

The Lettuce Lovies are all in the large daisy family and prefer to be planted as seedlings.

  • Artichoke
  • Chicory
  • Endive
  • Lettuce
  • Radicchio
  • Salsify
  • Tarragon
  • Yacon

BRASSICACEAE

The Cabbage Patch Family are heavy feeders and best planted in a bed where a LEGUME has been planted before them.

  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Horseradish
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mizuna
  • Mustard greens
  • Nasturtium
  • Radish
  • Rocket
  • Swede
  • Turnip
  • Watercress

CHENOPODIACEAE

The Beetroot Brothers does not get attacked by the caterpillar of the cabbage white butterfly so my TOP TIP is to plant crops from this family in between BRASSICAS to confuse the critters and ensure you a constant food supply.

  • Amaranth
  • Beetroot
  • Chard
  • Quinoa
  • Silverbeet
  • Spinach
  • Warrigal greens

CONVOLVULACEAE

Sweet Potato needs a large are to run and allow the edible underground tubers to develop, but it needs to be contained because it can be invasive.

  • Sweet potato
  • Water spinach kang kung

FABACEAE

The Legume Ladies are an important family of food plants because they can fix nitrogen on to their roots and enrich the soil in the process AND their harvest contains vegetable protein – they feed the world.

  • Broad bean
  • Chickpea
  • Fenugreek
  • French bean
  • Lentil
  • Lima bean
  • Peas
  • Runner bean
  • Snake bean
  • Snow pea
  • Soya bean
  • Winged bean
  • Yam bean Jicama

MALVACEAE

  • Hibiscus
  • Okra
  • Rosella

POACEAE

This family of over a 1,000 species is the most significant food plant on the planet – including,; barley, rice, oats, wheat, millet and many others in this large ‘grass’ family. However, for most food gardeners you will only plant one – sweetcorn. Enrich the soil first because they are heavy feeders.

  • Sugarcane
  • Sweetcorn

SOLANACEAE

The tomato troupe are a large and important global food family that require a rich and slightly acid soil. Because of this, it is best not to plant members of this family in the same bed together. They are also prone to soil pathogens so don’t plant them in the same spot year after year. Normally grown as seedlings.

  • Capsicum
  • Chilli
  • Eggplant/Aubergine
  • Lantern Berry/Cape Gooseberry
  • Potato
  • Tamarillo
  • Tomato

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS Click on these links.

  1. DO MARIGOLDS DETER SOIL PESTS?
  2. WHY ARE MY TOMATOES DOING SO BADLY WHEN THEY DID SO WELL IN THE SAME SPOT LAST YEAR?
  3. HOW DO I STOP CATERPILLARS FROM EATING MY CABBAGES?
  4. WHY DO THEY TELL YOU TO PLANT CABBAGES AND TOMATOES IN A BED WHERE YOU HAVE HAD PEAS OR BEANS?
  5. WHAT ARE YOUR TOP TIPS FOR STARTING A FOOD GARDEN?
  6. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ANNUALS AND PERENNIALS AND WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME TO PLANT THEM?