COMING home to dinner could be as easy as a stroll in your garden.
For those who are not gifted with a "green thumb", nationally accredited permaculture trainer Tim Lang has created a business to help transform derelict garden beds into flavoursome feasts.
From composting to companion planting, crop rotation to soil fertility, garden design and layout to environmental tips, Tim and his team at Dinner Garden are the "go-to" for all things green and growing.
Through his work, Tim aims to help ordinary Australians design, cultivate and maintain their own beautiful, functional and abundant gardens and landscapes.
"So many people think there's some sort of magic and mystery to gardening, but all they need is to be shown and guided," he said.
"That is where I come in.
"I see myself as a personal trainer for the garden."
And with his beautiful garden blossoming with seasonal flavours such as passionfruit, strawberries, pineapples, broccoli, cabbage, beetroot, turmeric and lemongrass, Tim certainly knows what he is doing.
Tim said he encouraged clients to use native plants and keep their gardens pesticide-free and organic.
The popularity of reality TV cooking shows such as MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules had made Australia a foodie nation where more people appreciated fresh, nutritional and tasty food, Tim said.
He believes this increased desire for healthy eating habits has enticed people to grow their own produce.
"Now it's not just the greenies but everyone," he said.
"People are coming to understand how satisfying it is to throw a dinner party where they can tell their guests it has been prepared using ingredients grown in their very own garden. There's really nothing quite like it."
Tim said gardening was not only extremely satisfying but also aided physical and mental health.
"It gets people out of the house and doing physical activity," he said. "It's also good fun, relaxing and mentally calming.
"It's a lifestyle."
Tim said that although a few initial costs were involved, maintaining a dinner garden was inexpensive and, in fact, a great money-saver.
"Food's not getting any cheaper," he said.
"So, when people grow their own produce, there are real savings to be had."
Tim's two key factors to gardening are fertile soil and timing.
"Once you have the soil right and know what will grow in what weather and season, it's easy," he said.
Tim said integrating animals such as chickens and frogs into gardens was another important aspect of permaculture and he encouraged those with the space and facilities to do so.
While anyone could start growing their own food, Tim emphasised that a garden required commitment.
"It's a lifestyle choice and the commitment will vary depending on the scale of the garden," he said.
"It's an ongoing process that needs continuous care."
Tim's Top Composting Tips
- My daily kitchen wastes go to the chickens or into the worm farm.
- I make larger amounts of compost several times a year especially around the winter solstice, ready to use in preparation for spring planting and because the large heap makes the best compost.
- Quality compost should not have any offensive smells and should be moist not wet and hold together if squeezed and then brake apart easily in the hand.
- My best compost is made in batches starting with about a cubic meter of materials stacked in a loose pile/heap roughly the shape of a mountain or inverted cone.
- It's really important to get the ratio of highly carboniferous material (dry grass, hay) to highly Nitrogenous material (vegetable waste, cow or chook manure and fresh green plant prunings/weeds/lawn clippings) right. I aim for about 70% carbon to 30% nitrogen. getting this right can be a bit of a dark art so practice makes perfect. Sometimes I'll add, blood and bone to up the nitrogen or comfrey leaves and bit of molasses to kick start the process.
- The next important ratio is moisture and air, as the heap is loose water tends to run through it at first, but it is important that all material in the heap is wet, so I water the layers as I go.
- I mention layers because thats how I make compost just like a lasagna, a layer of carbon then a layer of manure then a layer of green prunings often pigeon pea bush or green weeds then another layer of hay and then repeat the pattern until I have this huge heap. I always cover the heap with a layer of hay or hessian potato sacks to maintain constant even moisture and keep the gasses in.
- A compost heap like this if made correctly should be streaming hot in a couple of days. If I want my compost in a hurry I will turn this heap a couple of times allowing it heat up between turns. But mostly I leave the heap to do its thing slowly over a couple of months and transform into dark chocolatey crumbly gold for gardens.