Home & Garden
The easiest foods to grow at home during quarantine
First, don't panic. There's no shortage of food
As alarming as it has been to see bare shelves in the supermarket, food producers and reports confirm there's plenty of food to go around. Unfortunately, news of the coronavirus has scared us into panic-buying and hoarding. Sometimes we can't find the basic foods we want, such as pantry staples like flour and rice. Then again, some of us are avoiding going into the stores at all, unsure how to protect ourselves from this invisible enemy. All this has led to a bump in buying seeds and plants and searching for gardening tips online, so we can grow our own foods at home. The good news is that many fruits and veggies are easy to grow, even for beginners, and they'll thrive whether you're gardening in a backyard plot or in containers on your patio, porch or apartment balcony.
Grow beans in a snap
You might be surprised to know you don’t need a big garden to grow green beans. Bush beans are space-savers, but you can also grow beans vertically, by choosing pole varieties and training their vines onto a trellis, fence, or other support. Full sun, regular waterings and moderately rich soil will pay off in a plentiful harvest, and beans don’t need much fertiliser, although they’ll benefit from a side-dressing of compost in mid-season if you didn’t work a lot of compost into the soil before you planted. Check your seed packet to know approximately when your variety will be ready to harvest, and keep the plants picked so they’ll keep producing. Freeze your green beans to enjoy them all year long.
Raise crunchy radishes
Many gardeners love fresh radishes for that crunch that you get when you bite into them – but these simple root veggies are good for more than eating. Because the seeds sprout quickly – often within a week – you can use them in the garden to mark the rows of other crops that don’t come up as fast. Simply sow the seeds outdoors about 1-2cm deep as the temperature cools. Wait ten days and plant again for a continuous crop. They’ll thrive in a sunny spot that has loose soil amended with organic matter. Thin the seedlings to 5cm apart, so their roots won’t be crowded, and keep the plants evenly moist. Some varieties are ready to harvest just three weeks after planting.
Like zucchini, cucumbers are prolific and easy to grow. Just give them a spot with moist, fertile soil and lots of sunshine. Start the seeds a couple of centimetres deep into the ground. They’ll sprout in a few days. Keep them happy with regular waterings and, if you didn’t work a lot of organic matter into the soil before you planted, side-dress them with a balanced, soluble fertiliser when the fruits set. The cucumbers are ready to harvest when they’re still small and the skins are tender. To keep a steady supply for the table, make successive plantings. If you’re short on space, train vining cucumber varieties onto a support like a fence or trellis, or plant a bush variety in a container or raised bed. Use your cukes in salsas, salads, gazpacho and smoothies or turn them into pickles.
Plant tasty tomatoes
The hardest thing about growing tomatoes might be choosing your favourite kind. There are cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, heirlooms with rich flavours, Romas for stews, pasta and sauces, and hearty beefsteaks. Gardeners in cool regions may want to start with transplants to save time over growing tomatoes from seeds. The plants need full sun and soil that drains easily. For best results, your soil should contain lots of compost and be slightly acidic, with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8. As the plants grow, apply a fertiliser recommended for tomatoes as directed on the label. This raised garden bed with an automatic watering system makes it easy to grow compact or patio-type tomatoes, even in a small space.
Sow lettuce for salads
Plant prolific zucchinis
Grow a bagful of potatoes
Grow chillies for fiery flavour
Use scissors to snip off your chillies when they’re the size you want. Chillies don’t just add heat and flavour to your foods. They also contain capsaicin, which is thought to act as an antioxidant to help fight infection and prevent some types of heart disease.
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