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How to grow your own food… realistically

Do you ever wistfully think: ‘I’d love to have the time to grow my own herbs/fruit/vegetables’? It’s really a no-brainer – fresh ingredients taste better, they’re cheaper and you know exactly what’s going onto them. You may have even tried, but it ended fruitlessly (literally) and left you feeling like the horticultural equivalent of a mass murderer. I fall into that category: I can’t even grow basil or mint. But this is all about to change, Goers, and we’re inviting you on this homegrown odyssey with us.

The background

I met Active Nutrition’s Vivienne Salu (accredited practising dietitian who looks after the Townsville Fire, amongst other athletes) at a Business in Heels networking event recently and she made an impression instantly – practical, good sense of humour and a no-fluff way of approaching things. Viv, along with Sarah and Lauren from Business in Heels, had painstakingly spent an afternoon potting seedlings in cool retro mugs that guests could take home as keepsakes. I grabbed a pawpaw (the one in our garden had spontaneously died – this time I think it actually wasn’t my fault, but the jury is still out); commenting to Viv that it might not survive the week.

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The paw paw that I have been nurturing on my kitchen window – it’s like Jack and the Beanstalk!

This prompted her to give me some tips about where to put it and how much water to give it and a bit of reassurance (this killing everything business starts to knock your confidence after a while) and – lo and behold – more than a month on it’s thriving.

It may sounds strange, but this really pleased me. So I went to see Viv again – this time at her dietitian’s office in Pimlico. She showed me around the edible garden that she was cultivating out the back. It has everything from green beans and basil to passionfruit and pawpaw, plus lots of colourful flowers (for pollination purposes).

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Viv in her edible garden out the back of her Pimlico office.

At that point she sent me away with my next project: To keep some basil cuttings alive in water until they grow roots, then transfer them into a small pot (at which point, still keeping it alive). This involves changing the water daily so that it doesn’t go all slimy. It’s still alive and the thumbs are starting to feel ever so slightly greener.

So what now?

This got the brain thinking – surely I can’t be the only green-fingered Gumby out there. Surely other people would benefit from this valuable knowledge and mentorship. We put it to Viv about the prospect of her coaching a small group of Goers and helping us all to get started. She kindly agreed to donate her time, and now TheGo Grower’s Group has started to germinate; fittingly in the same week as International Permaculture Day (Sunday, May 3).

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Things that you will learn

We will be working closely with Viv and a group that she’s a member of – Permaculture Townsville. This local group educates the community about local food production; provides support for fellow gardeners by sharing plants, ideas and even labour in the form of working bees; and swaps food.

In terms of starting the journey of growing your own food, here are some important things to remember:

  • Few people can grow it all because we all have different soil, different amounts of sun in our yards, and varying amounts of time we can spend nurturing. Hence the benefits of swapping food – you can specialise in growing something, and trade it for other products.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed – just move from one step to the next – if your end game is to have a whole veggie garden, you need to start with herbs first.
  • You need to nurture a garden and it’s finding the time to do that – make it easier for yourself by putting plants in places where you will see them daily.
  • If things are dying on you all the time, it’s not a priority for you – you need to make room and be realistic with what you take on.

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TheGo Grower’s Group

If this has inspired you to embark on your own growing journey – or terrified you – we are inviting you to join a brand new initiative: TheGo Grower’s Group. It will be all about starting off slow, getting all the advice you need, and building your confidence up to eventually grow whatever you want to. And eat it.

This is how it will work:

Saturday, May 2 – 2pm

This first meeting will be at Viv’s office at 55 Fulham Road. Permaculture Townsville will be doing a Permablitz on the garden from 10am-2pm, so ThGo Growers’ Group group can come at 2pm, see the fruits of Permaculture Townsville’s labour, get some advice, and tour Viv’s garden. Viv will explain everything you need to know to get started with your own growing journey. You’ll then get sent home with a ‘growing project’ that you can work on until we next meet up.

Sunday, May 31 – TIME TBC

The next meeting will be at Eco-Fiesta. We’ll discuss how we are going, what we’ve learnt in the first few weeks, and have a look at what Permaculture Townsville has on offer at its stall so see what can be grown. You’ll then get your second ‘project’ – something a bit harder, but still very do-able.

July – DATE and TIME TBC

We’ll meet up at a members’ house and discuss how we are going with Project 2 and who needs help. The member will benefit from direct advice on their yard, plus the rest of the group can learn from the discussion. This session is about establishing what can be grown and where – don’t despair if you can’t grow it all because you can swap your produce with others.

Register here

If you’d like to be involved, please fill out this form. Please note the group is limited to 10 places so first in, best… gardening gloves.

The first TheGo Grower's Group is currently booked out. Send us an email at [email protected] to be added to the waiting list.

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Carly Lubicz

Carly Lubicz

Carly Lubicz is combining two of her great loves — writing and getting active. Previously working as a journalist, sub-editor, and editor in newspapers and magazines; she is editor and co-founder of TheGo Townsville. She stays active with the staples of road cycling and yoga, but has recently discovered triathlon. And become addicted (apart from the swimming part). She also has a Cert III in Fitness and is passionate about improving mental health through physical activity.

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