12 Tips for growing your own food
So you want to start growing your own food. I am proud of you already! Many people start with a lot of enthusiasm and find that it is not as simple as it looks and get demotivated and give up. We have all been there.
Let us start with some basic plant info: a plant needs air, sun, soil and water to grow. So before you even start, make sure you have these available. And patience, lots and lots of patience.
And here are a few tips, lessons we learned the hard way, to amplify your chance of success to the max.
- Manage your expectations: Planting is planning!
It takes time to get results. Read or look up information of how long a seed should take to germinate and how long it takes before the plant can bear fruit. Find out if a plant can even bear fruit in the tropics, some plants need winters to be able to fruit.
- Pick the right spot
Your plants have their sun hour needs. Make sure watering the plants is not a cumbersome task; if it is a lot of hassle you might give up. Be close to water, but not too close, like under a rain gutter or in an area
that floods. Make sure that if you have pets, your garden can be protected. If you have a lot of wind, make shelters for your more vulnerable plants.
- Prepare your soil
Good soil is the key to success. Soil physically grounds your plants and provides the plants with all the nutrients through their roots. Empty, poor soil leads to weak and struggling plants. Cover you soil with organic material to keep the temperature stable and avoid too much evaporation on warm days. Thank you very mulch.
- Use the right seeds
Not everything grows everywhere in the world. You don’t like to eat everything. So think of what you like and source your seeds responsibly. Swap with other growers. Use non-GMO, open pollinated seeds and help the bees. Avoid species that are invasive. You do not want to be the one that brought the next Neem tree to the island.
- Document what/when you sow
Pro-tip: Trust me, you will not remember what and where you planted. And by putting it on your calendar, you can make sure that things are growing according to plan. If germination time is two weeks and already two months have passed, you might want to sow again.
- Be patient (see point 1)
It will take some time and practice to get results. No, the seeds that you planted three hours ago did not come up yet. And that flower has not turned into a shimaruku yet.
- Have good water management
It is better to err on the side of too little. Too much love water will kill your plants! A thirsty plant you can bring back from the brink of death, but once drowned and rotting roots, there is no coming back.
- Know your enemies
If you know what you are dealing with, you will know how to deal with it. Not all pest and diseases manifest in the same way. And not all are treated the same. Remember there are also beneficial insects in your garden, so treat threats in a safe way for you and them.
- Be proactive with pest control
It will not go away by itself. So when you signal something off, immediately take action. Take pictures and remove whatever is not right and seek advice.
- Don’t get too attached
This is the hardest one: Sometimes you do everything right, and still have no success. Be sad about it for a bit. But then come back with the lessons learned and do it again.
- Celebrate your wins!
Yes, you can make a 1 cherry tomato salad. It is your own, home grown harvest! Enjoy it any way you like.
- Save your seeds
Seeds of plants that have grown in your garden, have proven to withstand the local climate. Not only will you not have to buy seeds again, you will make many friends swapping your successful seeds with fellow gardeners.
Cindy Eman, an environmental economist, that has been growing vegetables for over 20 years now, came back to her island in 2019 and started her own consultancy and project management company in 2020. Yu di Tera manages several community gardens and green classrooms all over the island, of which Hòfinan Ser’i Otrobanda has made the top 100 sustainable projects list of the Dutch newspaper Trouw for the second time in a row this year. since Jan 2022, she is the Regenerative Asset manager of Kolektivo Curacao.