Kids & Gardening; Creating Healthy Habits

Posted on 14 March 2016
Kids & Gardening; Creating Healthy Habits
You may have seen our recent post on Facebook & Instagram regarding the health status of our children in Australia in 2016. Currently we have 1/4 of all kids overweight or obese, & we have unprecedented rates of illnesses such as asthma & allergies. Rates of these conditions have risen steadily over the past century, & what science is telling us is that the food our children eat plays a large factor.

According to statistics, if we continue to allow these trends to prosper, then we may be approaching a generation that will have trouble reproducing.

There are numerous factors that come into play when it comes to illness, such as the microbiome & genetic influences, however in today's story we'll focus on food, & we'll give you tips on how you can begin creating healthy habits with your kids.

Create an Urban Food Garden for your kids to be involved with.

One of the greatest ways you can inspire a respect for nature's food supply in your children is to encourage them to be involved in your home garden. By fostering an interest, need & passion for growing their own food, children are far more likely to develop integral food skills & healthy eating habits which will serve them for the rest of their life. Access to fresh fruit & vegetables due to pricing, location & seasonal availability are known barriers which prevent children consuming them; all these barriers are overcome with a home garden.

Children naturally enjoy time outdoors anyway, according to prominent health experts this has numerous benefits for their immune system, so encouraging play time to be spent amongst the garden is an easy alternative to indoor distractions. Whilst outdoors, your children will be exposed to sunlight from which they can create vitamin D, will get fresh air which we know is important, & if barefoot they'll absorb valuable antioxidant free electrons from the ground.

Showing your kids the process from ground to table can be a fantastic experience. You may wish to grow kid-friendly produce such as berries, oranges, sweet potatoes & avocados these can be eaten fresh, or can be incorporated into various meals which the kids will enjoy even more knowing they participated in providing the ingredients.

However you choose to include your kids in your gardening regime at home, make it fun & lighthearted. Don't be militant about schedules & rules, but rather encourage your kids to discover these on their own so that they truly enjoy the experience of being amongst your garden.

Don't be overzealous with your kids about their food choices - allow them to independently make decisions.

Dr Brett Hill, an Adelaide chiropractor, writes in Nourish Without Nagging that adults shouldn't take an approach that involves chastising their kids for making poor food choices, but rather encourages them to make connections between what they eat & how they feel. Naturally, when kids consume processed foods their immune systems are suppressed, their moods & energy levels can become erratic, & fostering the acknowledgement of these results is one of the best ways to build healthy food habits with your kids.

Your children's health is one of the most powerful things you can give to them & as parents we are in the important position of fostering its growth until they become independent. By emphasising the powerful value of growing your own food & encouraging your kids to discover healthy food habits could well be the difference between disease & wellness in the future.

So go on, get out there & get planting with the kids!

 

5 Foods To Grow This Winter

Posted on 14 March 2016
5 Foods To Grow This Winter
As the weather starts cooling down & the intensity of the sun decreases, the time to turnover the garden grows near. It's around this time that you might be wondering which fruit & veg would be best to grow this season in today's article we give you 5 ideas on some of the most productive & healthy winter fruit & veg.

1: Broccoli

This cruciferous vegetable is the age-old go to when it comes to 'healthy' & its rightly so. Broccoli contains significant amounts of calcium, vitamin K, vitamin C, folic acid & is even a good source of protein. Arguably the most powerful health benefit of broccoli are it's anti-cancerous properties broccoli, & other cruciferous vegetables, contain powerful phytochemical which are known to support the immune system & have the potential to fend off cancer.

In mild-winter regions, start seeds indoors in late summer and set them in the garden in autumn for winter harvest.

2: Kale

Yes another cruciferous vegetable, this green, popular paleo buzz food, has potent health properties. It contains high amounts of B vitamins, vitamins C, K & A & loads of fibre. It is rich in blood-building chlorophyll & contains loads of antioxidant compounds. Similar to broccoli, it may even be anti-cancerous.

Plant kale 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost for fall and winter harvests, and continue planting throughout the fall in zones 8, 9, and 10. Kale grows best in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade as well.

3: Oranges

You'd be forgiven for thinking that oranges are available year-round with their constant supply in the supermarket, yet this classic winter fruit is as delectable as any amongst the cold weather. We love the fact that when the immune supporting vitamin D from the sun is low in the winter months the immune-supportive vitamin C fruits come out to help. Beyond just containing high amounts of vitamin C, oranges have loads of fibre & B vitamins, & also have valuable minerals & trace elements for optimal cellular functioning.

Choose a sunny, spacious spot, with enough room for your plant to grow its branches. Use a deep, sandy loam-type soil if possible although a loamy soil that is well-drained will also do the trick. Dig a hole that's wide and deep enough to accommodate the entire root system of your tree.

4: Leeks

Leeks, a classic Allium plant, are an awesome addition to any dish. We love them in bone broth or chopped finely in a salad. Besides having high amounts of minerals such as iron, magnesium & manganese, leek's most powerful benefit seems to be in it's prebiotic properties. Probiotics are specific forms of fibre which foster the growth of probiotic microbes within your gastrointestinal system. It has been shown that prebiotics, when fermented by beneficial microbes, produce highly anti-inflammatory chemicals which work wonders on our entire bodies!

You can grow leeks from seed before the frost, or keep the roots of your store-bought organic leeks & simply plant these shallowly in your garden & water away!

5: Blueberries

An absolute stunning food to be eaten throughout the winter, blueberries are rich in polyphenols which protect your DNA from oxidative damage. Their strong colour adds a wonderful aesthetic to your garden & breakfast plate! When planting your blueberry bush, pick a nice, sunny spot & remember that it'll need an organically rich, acidic & well-drained soil experts recommend adding a peat moss when planting to help them establish roots.

Just because its cold, it doesn't mean you can't continue to provide nourishing foods for you & the family! If you're in particularly cold places you can take advantage of Urban Food Garden's expert consultants by giving us a call today!

Posted in: Gardening Tips  

Bugs, Pests & Parasites - How To Protect Your Plants

Posted on 15 February 2016
Bugs, Pests & Parasites - How To Protect Your Plants
We've all been there. You walk amongst your urban food garden & your heart sinks as you see your kale crop has been devoured overnight It's a tragedy. But before you jump for the chemical sprays to protect your plants, have a think about the safer & more natural ways you can stop the bugs feasting on your plants. We'll go through some of them today.

1: Natural Sprays

All natural sprays should be used within 2 days for maximum potency.

Garlic: Chop 10 cloves & add 1 litre of water. Allow the garlic to infuse into the water overnight, then strain out the cloves spray this over affected plants. Interestingly, the extract of garlic allicin has been used in the UK in large scale strawberry growing, as shared by biochemist Peter Josling in a podcast interview.

Basil: Chop 2 cups of fresh basil leaves then, in a bowl, pour 1 litre of hot water over the top. Allow to cool & strain the basil leaves out before spraying over affected garden areas.

Chilli: Mix 1 cup of dried or 2-3 cups of fresh chilli with 1 litre of water. Allow to stand for 4 hours; then strain out the chilli. Add in another litre of water to dilute, then spray affected areas in garden. This particular mixture should keep for a few weeks. Contact with spray may cause severe blistering.

2: Plant Strategically

Companion planting: Naturally, certain pests like certain plants. By avoiding any 'monoculture styled' areas in your garden & ensuring variety, you'll create pest barriers & can more easily isolate any problems which do occur.

Specific plants: Plants like Marigold/Calendula are well known for deterring common pests. When we create a colourful, abundant garden we also attract bugs like lady beetles which can actually feed on the unwanted pests in your garden! Plants like basil, lavender, lemongrass, mint & rosemary also are known to repel unwanted pests, so plant these strategically around your main crop.

Planting flowers such as nasturtiums, petunias & geraniums will also create an aromatic defence system against many different pesky pests.

According to Mother Nature Network:

  • Bay leaves: Repel flies. When you grow this plant, you won't have to rely on the dried leaves from stores to add flavor to roasts and soups. Just pick the leaves as you need them.
  • Chives: Repel carrot flies, Japanese beetle and aphids.
  • Dill: Repels aphids, squash bugs, spider mites, cabbage loopers and tomato hornworms.
  • Fennel: Repels aphids, slugs and snails.
  • Lemon balm: Repels mosquitoes.
  • Oregano: Repels many pests.
  • Parsley: Repels asparagus beetles.
  • Thyme: Repels whiteflies, cabbage loopers, cabbage maggots, corn earworms, whiteflies, tomato hornworms and small whites.

3: Compost

When you have rich, biodiverse soil you have healthy plants with strong defence mechanisms. This is because the microbes in your soil actually 'fix' the nutrition into a bioavailable form for your plants to absorb, meaning they'll be able to bolster their internal defences against pests which might be after a quick snack or nest!

One of the best ways to ensure the richness of your soil is to compost regularly. For tips on how you can begin composting, check out our blog post here.

 

There is a certain touch of pride that comes with self-sufficiency in the garden & that includes pest control. Why use toxic chemical sprays & nasty chemicals when mother nature has provided us with so many well-equipped pest controls? You've just gotta' know how to use them.

Need help controlling your pests & establishing an organic, edible garden? Give us a call!

Posted in: Gardening Tips  

Top 5 Healing Herbs To Grow In Your Garden

Posted on 13 February 2016
Top 5 Healing Herbs To Grow In Your Garden

In many traditional cultures, food is far more than mere fuel to get work done it actually represents a source of medicine, too. Just a couple centuries ago even in western culture food was used therapeutically on a regular basis, & now in the 21st century we are seeing a resurgence of that age old adage: let thy food be thy medicine & medicine be thy food (Hippocrates).

Fresh herbs have a vibrational frequency that can bring vibrance into a meal, & energy into a human. Let's look at the top 5 herbs you can start growing in your urban food garden for better health.

1: Basil

There are 3 main types of basil, sweet, bush & purple. The fresh aroma of a basil plant is something to be sought after & its chemistry with thyme & rosemary amongst a slow-cooked or raw dish is delectable.

5 grams of basil contains almost 30% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K, & this powerhouse herb also contains significant amounts of vitamin c, iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, and potassium. Unsurprisingly, basil also has antibacterial properties and contains DNA-protecting flavonoids. In India the Tulsi plant (Holy Basil) is grown regularly & mixed with honey as a therapeutic treat it can also be consumed as a tea.

Basil plants are easy to maintain indoors and out we grow perennial varieties & they replenish every summer through autumn. Snip off budding heads whenever they appear to keep your bush full.

2: Chamomile

People are used to having chamomile come in the form a tea-bag, but this beautiful, self-seeding plant lights up gardens with white & yellow flowers. These flowers can be picked & added to smoothies & salads, as well as herbal tea preparations. The flavour is cooling & has a hint of vanilla.

Chamomile can be used for

  • helping calm the nervous system & encourage sleep

  • digestive upsets

  • calming muscle spasms &

  • as an antibacterial drink.

Plant chamomile seeds or take flowers & shake them around your garden to disperse the highly active seeds. Each year they'll spring up for 1-2 months at a time, delivering you with a powerhouse of nutrition! You can dry the flowers to be used throughout heyear simply dry them in the oven; warm your oven to 140 degrees while placing a single layer of chamomile flowers on a baking sheet. Turn off the oven and pop in your pan for 20 minutes (you don't want them to actually bake). Remove the pan, cool the flowers, and store immediately in airtight bottles or zip-lock bags, away from sunlight.

3: Parsley

Parsley, a mediterranean herb is a chlorophyll rich nutrient powerhouse. Known typically as a powerful blood cleanser & detoxifier, parsley can be added to salads, smoothies & soups, & can be easily grown in the backyard.

  • Parsley is rich in many vital vitamins, including Vitamin C,  B 12, K and A.

  • It helps flush out excess fluid from the body, thus supporting kidney function.

  • Regular use of parsley may help manage your blood pressure. It is high in folic acid which is good for the heart muscle.

  • Parsley has significant anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Parsley may reduce muscle stiffness and support digestion.

  • Studies indicate that parsley essential oil may have a role in inhibiting cancerous tumors. In fact, scientists have billed it a 'chemoprotective' food.

Plant parsley throughout your garden sometimes seeds can take 3 weeks to sprout so water them regularly. Parsley is frost tolerant & can handle the summer heat when watered. We have parsley spread throughout the garden all from one plant.

4: Coriander

Coriander (cilantro) is a potent source of fiber, manganese, iron and magnesium. Additionally, the leaves are rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin K and even protein! Some benefits of coriander are;

  • Coriander can potentially balance the ratio of HDL & LDL (& VLDL) cholesterol within the blood.

  • It is a digestive tonic, encouraging healthy peristalsis (bowel movements).

  • It may be a diabetic intervention as coriander can stimulate the secretion of insulin & assist in maintaining balanced blood sugar.

  • Coriander contains significant amounts of vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting & bone health.

  • Coriander is a potent anti-inflammatory herb.

  • According to Mike Adams of Natural News coriander is a potent detoxify & heavy metal cleanser, which can be beneficial when someone is exposed to toxins (in the case off a mercury filling removal).

Some interesting history resides around coriander. The ancient Chinese believed coriander bestowed immortality whilst the Egyptians stored it's seeds in their tombs. Even the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, recommended coriander as a therapeutic agent.

According to seed giant Yates the easiest way to maintain a good supply of fresh coriander is to plant seeds every few weeks from summer though until the end of autumn. Take a break over winter and begin sowing again in early spring. That way, if your coriander does go to seed, you'll have fresh plants coming on.

5: Rosemary

One of the most common herbs in the world, Rosemary is easy to grow, tastes delicious, & contains some serious medicinal qualities. Rosemary has a warm, bitter, and somewhat astringent taste that gives wonderful flavor to all manner of dishes, especially Italian cultural cuisine.

Some of the most interesting and unique health benefits of rosemary include its ability to boost memory, improve mood, reduce inflammation, relieve pain, protect the immune system, stimulate circulation, detoxify the body, protect the body from bacterial infections, prevent premature aging, and heal skin conditions. The medicinal qualities may lie in its oil, the sticky wax you may feel when you pick it fresh.

Use rosemary liberally in your meals to harness it's health benefits. Rosemary can be grown easily from a sprig. Simply pick a rosemary sprig off a health plant, plant them in some healthy soil & water regularly until fresh sprigs appear. You'll have a rosemary plant in no time.

 

Need some help incorporating herb growing in your organic edible garden? Give us a call today!

Posted in: Edible Plants  

5 Steps To Creating Your Own Compost

Posted on 12 February 2016
5 Steps To Creating Your Own Compost

Compost. Far from being an invention of the humble green thumb, it's actually one of nature's most well-designed systems for keeping the earth healthy. A stark example of effective composting is in a rainforest; leaves & debris fall to the ground, microbes within the soil digest & breakdown that material to produce a finer material we might call soil, now gleaming with bioavailable nutrition for the very plants which dropped the leaves to devour in their quest for growth.

It's a simple explanation of a not-so-simple process; the takeaway? Composting is essential for the health of your soil. Let's look at various steps you can take to start composting to improve the biodiversity & potential of your urban food garden.

1: Open Composting

Pick a pot in your garden & start a pile of compost. It's literally that simple. You may choose to square off the area with some old planks or leftover pallet wood, but doing this is one of the easiest ways to create a workable, healthy compost. Disadvantages to open composting is that your upper layers will naturally breakdown slower than your lower layers, as you add fresh compost to the heap. Removing the lower, inner areas of compost can be a little difficult, so if you're up to it, just move the pile to a new spot when you're ready to use the area for new plants. The nutrients released from the open compost heap will make for wondrous soil beneath.

2: Build A 3-Bay-Compost-System

Gardening Australia's Sophie Thompson championed this idea in an episode of Gardening Australia, the premise being that you create 3 separate bays for your compost.

Add a significant amount of compost material to the first bay & give it 2-3 months to begin breaking down then move it to the second bay. This allows you to start the process again on the first bay with fresh compost without delaying the initial batch. After another 2-3 months, shuffle both piles down one more time to create remove for a further fresh batch of compost. This efficient, open-composting system is a perfect way to maximise your composting potential & of course to regularly feed your garden the nutrition it needs.

3: Create Heat

By having a large enough pile you'll be able to create some heat within the inner parts of your compost. This is essential because without adequate temperatures, the beneficial microbes within your compost will struggle to breakdown the plant matter. If you live in harsh cold temperatures, you can make the most of any sunshine by using a 'hot-box'; a simple compost bucket, flipped upside down to create a sauna-like effect on the compost, maximising the microbial potential of your heap.

4: Allow natural composting to occur

Fruit trees, flowers & plants will naturally drop lifeless parts of themselves to the soil beneath. By allowing this process to occur, for instance leaving the rotting oranges to the microbes in the soil beneath your orange tree, is a very natural & simple way to improve biodiversity in the soil.

5: The power of earthworms

Earthworms constantly move through the soil, processing organic matter through their bodies. This serves to break up the soil and increase beneficial microbial activity, increasing nutrient availability to plants, crumb structure, water holding capacity and allows better penetration of plant roots, water and oxygen into the soil.

Encouraging your earthworms! Check your earthworm population in the cooler, wetter time of the year by simply searching through the soil. If you have too few, or none at all, Introduce some. You can feed them by allowing leaf litter to remain and mulch the surface. Bury your kitchen scraps in holes 10-20 cm deep throughout the garden; over time this will provide enormous benefits. Keep the soil moist and keep digging to an absolute minimum & avoid using toxic chemicals in the soil.

Needless to say, creating compost is your way of ensuring your soil's health for years to come. According to the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative, creating microbial & nutrient-rich soil will be a key player in the future of the world's eco-systems, so get composting!

Posted in: Gardening Tips  

Urban Food Garden, Your Way To A Healthy Future

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