Across Australia, and indeed around the world the typical cottage garden or fastidiously manicured lawn is being ditched for something truly remarkable. In the place of pruned and tamed rose bushes runner beans climb latticed frames and instead of ornamental seasonal bloomers pots are filled with tomato plants, strawberries and herbs. Even the neatly trimmed lawn has been replaced by hardy leafy green vegetables.

So why have so many weekend gardeners chosen to take the edible (f you will pardon the terrible pun) garden path?

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Why go edible?

With the slow and lamentable demise of many independent grocers, particularly in Australia which is held in the grip of a supermarket chain duopoly, it can be hard to source fresh local produce. Sourcing your vegetables and fruit locally means that your dietary habits have a smaller carbon footprint due to the reduced time in transit and also potentially reducing storage time and any refrigeration, freezing or processing that may require. A vegetable patch is an ideal way to cut out the environmental damage caused by your food being transported around the country or even the world to get to you. Plus there is an immense sense of satisfaction that comes from growing your own food, not to mention the reduced financial costs and ability to control the variety of vegetables available to you.

What are heirloom vegetables?

Heirloom vegetables are varieties of a vegetable that have been painstakingly bred, sometimes through multiple generations of gardeners, to have certain properties. Take carrots for example; your standard supermarket carrot is long and chunky, with the occasional spindly Dutch carrot bunch thrown in for variety. But heirloom carrots offer such options and the tiny round, and fast growing “Paris Market” or the charming sweet yet spicy “Purple Dragon” which are not only novel in appearance delighting young and old gardeners alike, but they also provide a different taste or texture. These vegetables have been organically altered over time to create disease resistant and diverse species that can flourish in a variety of climates and garden types.

What are the benefits of sourcing organic plants for your garden?

Organic seeds, seedlings and plants are those that have not been chemically altered by any sort of unnatural process. That means that the entire production process can be seen to be natural by consumer standards. This can include the propagation process and any pesticides used.

How do I know if the seeds or seedlings I am about to purchase are organic?

There are many independent bodies that provide organic certification to products including plants and seeds. Some of these certification bodies are more independent and thorough with their screening and certification process than others. While an organic certification logo is a good sign it is not always the whole story. Some certifications are obtained by the company simply buying the right to display the logo. So if buying organic is important to you always check which regulatory and certification bodies are the most reliable by checking with your consumer ombudsman, agricultural or environmental regulatory service.

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