January is upon us and that means almost a month of kids at home (if you have any), warm weather, little to no rain, and plenty of produce ready to harvest.
This is a great opportunity to do both gardening and cooking activities, perhaps alone or perhaps sharing the experience with others.
Few things are more satisfying than growing something yourself and then preparing that product in your own kitchen at home. Tomatoes and basil immediately come to mind.
You don’t need a large plot to grow either – even a pot on a patio with good sun and regular watering will give you a prolific harvest.
A few all-time favorites include bruschetta and pesto – immediate reminders of summer.
A great activity to try out (solo or with young helpers) is kokedama.
In Japanese, “moss ball” is a fun and easy to make creation.
We made them in elementary school and planted them with edibles, although there are a range of plants that work well.
Herbs are preferred, especially thyme, as its clumping shape and small leaves ensure it won’t outgrow its ball; and rosemary, as it is very forgiving if you forget to water!
You can hang your kokedama near your kitchen for easy access.
Google how to make one and you’ll find plenty of easy-to-follow videos.
What to plant in January?
Beans, broccoli, carrots, cucumber, eggplant, chilli, shade lettuce, arugula and silver beet.
This is your last chance to get late fruiting tomato varieties.
I also like to put in a few sweet potato cuttings because they love heat and will grow just as well in three warm months as they do in six cooler conditions.
Beware – their green vines are prolific and will spread far and wide if given room.
They make great living mulch for beds that can be difficult to cover, and root crops like potato also help break up the soil below, giving the soil the air and microbacterial activity it needs so much. need.
Their leaves are also edible – heart-shaped being the tastiest variety.
I suggest planting in half a wine barrel because the vine can be controlled and harvesting is easy – you know exactly where all those little bits of potato are, saving years of unwanted vines popping up all over the place.
In last month’s December article, I couldn’t mention that all of the children graduating from the vegetable garden program in 2021 – 240 of them – received a mouse melon seedling surprise for their parting gift. .
Many thanks to the Certificate II Horticulture students from Tafe Margaret River who germinated these seeds and potted them all.
These prolific heat-loving vines are now (hopefully) in the backyards of the Margaret River region producing their delicious cucamelons, a cucumber the size of a 10c chunk.
Luckily for you, we sprouted a lot more mousemelons than we needed, and those extras will go on sale at the MRPS Roadside Honesty Stall on Forrest Road in January.
A tip to help some of our more particular young eaters is to grow your own fruits and vegetables and involve your youngsters in the whole process – from growing to preparing.
I had personal experience of the success of this process – my young son didn’t want to eat tomatoes until we grew our own cherry tomatoes in the garden.
He helped plant the seedlings, helped tend them, and then picked them straight from the vine.
To my delight, they went from vine to mouth.
Now 18, he’s continued this trend all his life, eating both store-bought and home-grown varieties.
If you have a picky eater in your life, maybe planting a mouse melon can help.
Tip number six is about the experience of growing and preparing your own food and involving others in the process.
It doesn’t have to be a lonely pursuit (unless you want to!), and the benefits – whether it’s better health or better nutrition – can last a lifetime.
Good growth and preparation to all.
Terri Sharpe is the Coordinator and Garden Specialist of the Margaret River Primary School Vegetable Garden Program and a Horticulture Lecturer at TAFE Margaret River. His column focuses on tips for a productive edible garden – what and when to plant, when to harvest, disease and pest control, and general advice on what works (and doesn’t) here in the Margaret River region. .