All the images in this article come from three separate properties over the past few weeks during the holiday season.
Fortunately for me, most of our friends and family are avid food growers so whenever we get together there's always plenty of interesting information to share about different food crops to grow in the backyard.
To me, there's nothing unsurprising about people being interested (or even fascinated) about growing food at home. I mean, food is not just vital for our survival but it also it shapes our lives in so many different ways such as: the centre point for celebrations, upholding or showcasing certain traditions, there's the cultural aspects, medicinal, the healthy living, and even spiritual aspects connected to the food we consume and that's to name just a few!
Furthermore, you don't have to be totally "into" food growing to enjoy and appreciate a vegetable garden because I have seen loads of people who don't actually grow anything themselves become quite engaged/motivated by a wonder through the patch.
The picture (above) shows how this party at my Cousins place gravitated outside and into the vegetable garden. Friends and relatives with drinks in hand strolling around the garden beds inspecting the food crops is really a natural thing to do.
On occasions like this there are numerous conversation starters and even if you're not chatting about food gardening it's always nice being outside in one.
A backyard (or front yard) vegetable garden needn't be elaborate either, in fact, a simple square raised bed one sleeper high and wide is all that's required in most cases. I started with one square raised garden bed and now have evolved my vegetable garden into a collection of about 15 or so raised beds made up of several sizes and constructed out of various materials.
The images (directly above and below) are of my Brother In-Law harvesting corn from his newly built vegetable garden. They have started with three raised beds and currently have one filled with herbs and in the other two beds they have several vegetable crops growing in season.
Sunflowers (pictured below) do look great in the vegetable patch and are awesome attractants for bees or other pollinating insects. And yes… in Australia they can also attract cockatoos, which are not always welcome guests in the garden; however, the benefits of growing this wonderful flowering plant outweigh the risks I think…
Produce (like the harvested corn) is amazing when cooked shortly after harvesting. The Braai or wood fired BBQ (in the image below) adds a delightful smoky taste to corn on the cob and I totally recommend it!
Then there's the ornamental value of food plants that can be just as spectacular as non-food plants grown for show only. For example, the Dragon Fruit vine beginning to bud (in the picture below) will bring amazement at the huge, beautiful flowers it produces before growing a large edible fruit. You can read more about Dragon Fruit here.
Likewise, a few onions hung up to cure in the sun on last seasons pea trellis (image below) can show the patience and practicality of food gardening.
Small lady finger bananas (shown below) home-grown in the backyard and ripened on the plant to get maximum sugar absorption into the fruit are to die for… much better than those green picked chalky tasting varieties in the supermarket!
Can you see the red parrot in the image below? He's sitting above my turmeric crop and probably looking to steal a few of our ripe mouse melons growing on the trellis or perhaps he wants to nibble on the kale behind him – whatever – because if your vegetable garden is attracting the birds, other animals, and humans around you then believe me you're doing something right!
Your vegetable garden is not just a beautiful place for a party to impress your friends and relatives (as much as it will) and it isn't even just a place to grow produce but on face value that's what it does… Nope, it's also somewhere to draw inspiration, a place to marvel at the wonders of the food we consume, and a sanctuary for us to satisfy our soul through labour and creativity.
Food gardening – get into it!