Do you have big dreams and sustainable homestead goals to grow food and create your dream self-sufficient lifestyle but it feels so far off? You may be renting or in an apartment. Today, I’m going to share 10 actionable steps to help you achieve your sustainable homestead goals no matter how far away they feel. This is the path I have been on and I think this may help or inspire you too.
Are you ready? because your dream life starts now!
Click to watch the video 👇
I was listening to a podcast the other day and they were talking about you are where you are for a reason and that is because you still have more to learn. If I got /my big break and had 100s or 1000s of people flocking to join my garden-to-plate membership would I cope? the answer is probably not! My systems have been built on a small scale and I still have lots more work to do before reaching that level (goals!). Hopefully one day I will be able to help 100s and 1000s of people grow food so I’m continuously working on improving my systems.
The same with getting your dream homestead, if you suddenly found yourself dropped in the middle of an off-grid property would you know exactly what to do? Would you know how to improve your soil, plant trees, care for animals, or afford a house, infrastructure, and the bills that come along with it? or would it be an overwhelming chaotic mess?
There are so many small steps you can start taking today and these are the 10 stages I have been working through to bring my dreams to life. so hopefully they help and inspire you too!
10 ACTIONABLE STEPS to start your Sustainable Homestead Goals now
1. What are your goals?
Write them down. Where do you want to live? What lifestyle do you want to achieve? How do you want your days to look?
The great thing about having clear goals is that decisions along the way become easier (great for people like me that struggle with decision-making!) Does this align with my goals or not? Start at the end and work backward. Will this change along the way? Probably but at least it will give you a direction to start working towards and not be stuck doing nothing.
2. Make a vision board
I like to do this every year and I use Canva and put together a collage type of document. I then have mine as my screen savers on my phone and computer for constant reminders but you could just print out some images and put them on the fridge or the wall. I am a real visual person so this works for me.
3. Pay off debts
Ditch after pay and all that. Don’t buy things you don’t need with money you don’t have. That has always been part of my mentality so I have never financed furniture or anything like that…Hence why my house looks a little bare 😅 I prioritize money in other ways.
One of the hardest things I did was prioritize paying off my student loan. It took me a few years and I set up automatic payments to come out after each pay. If I was still buying coffees and let’s be honest probably plants…then I would increase my repayments a bit because I obviously still had disposable income. ..and repeat. As a student, I knew how to live off the minimum. Lifestyle creep is inevitable but if your dreams are big and solid you can do it!
Hard now and easy later!
Something I found so useful was the debtfree charts. You can choose a relevant one and divide the amount into sections. Each time you pay one down you can highlight it. For a visual person like me, this worked a treat. I just wanted to pay one more line . These also work great for savings too.
4. Start savings
Once you have your debts out of the way start saving. You know what you are capable of paying after paying off your debts so switch to a savings mode. Don’t get into the continuous reward stage. Remind yourself of the goals you are working towards.
5. Start growing food
This can be started from day one. You don’t need all the gear or all the nice raised garden beds, that will come. Start with what you have. Keep an eye on marketplace there are so many free pots and random things that you will be able to turn into gardens. Both my compost bins were free and I even got a free fruit tree recently.
If you dream of creating these thriving edible gardens that produce a whole lot of food then the only way there is through it. There’s no quick fix. you have so much to learn and you will learn faster by doing.
So get seeds in the soil and start growing.
6. Learn learn learn
We are so lucky to have incredible resources at our fingertips. Watch YouTube, listen to podcasts, invest in the skills you want to have, and visit community gardens. Learn to love the process because continuous learning is so important!
7. Take action
Take what you have learned and put it into practice. Grow cuttings, and plant fruit trees in pots, if you plan to have a homestead in the same state then you can be growing your future plants and trees in containers to eventually take with you. Or even sell at a higher price to add to your savings.
8. Surround yourself with Like-minded People and Communities.
This is a great way to stay motivated and learn so much. Not just about how to grow food or raise chickens but just about their outlook on life and values. People are so generous with their time and resources. Offer to help someone in their garden, this is a great way to learn and you may even receive cuttings or seeds from special plants.
9. Start working on Financing the Dream.
We all need to make money its just part of the world we live in. Does your current job and career align with the sustainable homestead goals or lifestyle you are working towards? It may do, you may already love your job but it also more than likely does not. Start a side business or grow your hobby with the direct intention of it becoming your career. Keep coming back to that lifestyle you set out in stage 1. If you want to have time to go on adventures or spend days in the garden then make sure what your working towards actually allows for that.
Do you dream of starting a flower farm? What can you do now? Start social media and grow a following. It’s free and it’s a real actionable step toward that goal. If you need some ideas check out this video on 100 ways to make an income from your property. I guarantee if one of those things excites you, there is an actionable step you can take today to make progress.
10. Re-evaluate and check in with yourself.
This is really the stage I am at now. I have been working on the last 9 steps for the last 10 years and it’s important to make sure my sustainable homestead goals and visions are still aligned. Don’t be afraid to pivot. Maybe after growing food or doing cut flowers your are unsure if that really fits anymore. For me, annuals just aren’t really it ( I LOVE PERENNIALS) and I’m actually unsure about all the 100s of animals I initially wanted. Animals are a lot of work and commitment I kind of want the freedom to come and go more often.
My dream is still real and I would love to have land to rewild and have my dream homestead but lots of things have changed. I also want to be able to travel and explore more. So I’m creating new visions that I can’t wait to share with you along the way.
Sometimes it will be really tough. But find joy in the journey, IN THE INBETWEEN, the learning!. and absolutely celebrate the small wins! because they are aligned to stage 1 so they will all add up to be something incredible.
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Do you have areas that get very hot full sun and nothing seems to survive? These 22 heat-tolerant edible plants to grow in HOT full-sun locations will help you grow productive edible gardens. I’ve been growing food here in Perth, Australia for the last 10 years, and let me tell you, it was a big change and learning curve coming from the lush green of new Zealand.
Today, I’m sharing some plant ideas to plant in those super hot locations but keep reading to the end because it’s not just about what you plant but also when and how! Bonus tips on that, so you can turn your hot barren wasteland into productive edible gardens.
Click to WATCH 22 heat-tolerant edible plants
22 Heat-tolerant Edible Plants
Attracts bees 🐝 Has healing properties and is great for skin and hair care. Flavour enhancing culinary herb🌿 When I first moved here I wondered why so many houses had Rosemary hedges out the front – and it’s because it thrives on neglect and our poor sandy soils. Rosemary is a great heat-tolerant addition to your edible garden. Try making your own Rosemary Salt.
2. Strawberry Guava
Strawberry/cherry and lemon cherry guavas are really hardy, low-maintenance fruit trees, that produce bucketloads of fruit!
Another powerhouse perennial that survives on neglect – they grow super fast so you can use these as a nanny plant or a pioneer plant. If you have a barren hot area you could plant a Mulberry to get quick shade established and later on remove it or heavily prune if it gets too big. Mulberry also loses leaves in winter to let light in.
Lavender is drought tolerant – a great pollinator plant with many medicinal (calming and sleep) and culinary uses. In my garden (which will be different with climates and varieties) Lavender flowers at the same time as my Feijoas so I have it planted in between them to attract pollinators and increase my Feijoa harvests.
5. Feijoa / Pineapple Guava
If you have been following me on Instagram or subscribed to my YouTube you will have guessed this plant would make the list 😂 Low maintenance, super hardy, and produced plenty of food! Feijoas do taste better when they get 50 chill hours a year so they aren’t optimally grown here in Perth but they do grow well and are drought-tolerant. They are evergreen and super bushy so can be grown as an edible hedge. They are known to have fire retardant qualities which is very handy for hot dry climates. If you are looking to purchase a Feijoa, choose a named variety (such as Duffy, White Goose, Mammoth plus more) as these will perform better and produce fruit faster than generic seedling plants.
Passionfruit is an edible vine that can be used to cover a fence, structure or grown over an arbor to create shade. This can help cool your garden down and provide delicious fruit. Passionfruit flowers can also be used to make calming teas to aid in sleep and anxiety. NOTE: Avoid planting a grafted variety the grafts takeover and become invasive,hard to get rid of, and don’t produce good fruits.
Citrus like full sun and once established can thrive in hot environments. Avoid planting new trees before or during the hot summer so that they have time to get their roots established before the added stress of summer.
8. Lemon Verbena
A fragrant lemony scent that is similar to lemongrass. Lemon Verbena is great in teas, baking, and all the things!
A hardy fruiting tree that thrives in hot environments.
Loquats are hardy fruit trees that thrive in hot conditions. Loquats can be a pest plant because they grow so easily and birds spread the seeds so check with your local area.
11. Lilly Pilly
Part of the Syzygium genus is a great dense evergreen hedging plant with bright pink fruits. The fruits are edible and can be made into jams, sauces, and even sparking wine!
12. NZ Spinach / Warrigal Greens
NZ Spinach unlike most spinach can be grown over summer. Although not technically spinach it can be used just as you would use spinach. NZ Spinach grows as a tick edible ground cover to protect the soil and provide nutritious greens.
13. Malabar Spinach
Malabar spinach grows as a climbing vine and can be used to grow up structures and provide shade in summer. With succulent-type leaves, the Malabar Spinach does well in hot conditions but does not like frosts.
Quince is a hardy fruiting tree that thrives in hot conditions. Quince is great for making preserves such as jams, jelly, and chutney.
Zinnia is an edible flower that thrives in hot dry conditions. Zinnia has vibrant flowers in a huge range of colours. The great thing about Zinnia is that it produces nectar so it attracts a diverse range of pollinators to the garden such as bees, hoverflies, butterflies, and small birds. Zinnia is susceptible to powdery mildew so great for dry summers.
I love growing Sunflowers because they attract a huge amount of pollinators to the garden and you can pretty much eat the whole plant! I use the petals fresh in a salad or press to use on baking as garnishes. The seeds can be used on top of salads, to make oil, or to make spreads and the leaves are also edible. Sunflower stems can even be made into flour! Sunflowers also help remove toxins from the soil so they are a fantastic addition to a hot full-sun garden.
Figs are hardy edible plants that can easily be grown from cuttings. Figs are great for hot locations and the fruit can be used for jams, relish, baking, and just enjoyed fresh!
Olives grow well in hot conditions and also in pots and containers. They are beautiful-looking plants with their slim silvery leaves. Olives can be used to make oils and delicious preserves. Olive leaves also have many medicinal qualities.
Grapes are great for growing over structures to provide shade to your garden and help other plants grow. Grapes are deciduous so they lose their leaves in winter to let light in and have full leaf coverage in summer to protect from the harsh midday sun. Grape plants have so many uses from fresh delicious table grapes to jams, preserves, and wine! grape leaves also have many uses in the kitchen.
Hollyhocks are an edible flowers that can grow up to 10 feet tall! They attract 100 of pollinators to the garden and their height acts as a flag inviting them in. The leaves are also edible and can be cooked to make wraps. Hollyhocks are an annual so they will need to be planted again each year but are so worth it! They can be susceptible to powdery mildew.
Thyme is a hardy herb that thrives in hot conditions. Thyme is very versatile in the kitchen and pairs well with tomato dishes, on pizza, and roast veggies. Thyme also produces masses of tiny white flowers that attracts an array of beneficial insects and pollinators. Thyme creeps over the ground so it makes a great edible ground cover plant.
22. Macadamia Nut
Macadamia nut trees can take a long time to start producing (5-7 years) but are really hardy and nuts are great additions to a homestead to make flour and milk from.
8 Tips for Successfully growing heat-tolerant edible plants
Many of these heat-tolerant plants listed are perennials and the reason perennials are so good for hot environments is that they have established roots and have time to get used to their environment. Annuals such as lettuce and tomatoes are planted new and have shallow roots so are more vulnerable to overheating.
Below are some tips to help you get your plants established and thriving through hot periods.
Focus on good soil with plenty of organic matter
Mulch, much, mulch
Have water available nearby
Avoid planting in hot weather (always check the forecast)
Provide temporary protection such as shade cloth or umbrellas during hot periods.
Grow nanny plants or pioneer plants (quick-growing trees that provide dappled shade in summer eg: grapes, mulberry, and deciduous fruit trees)
Plant new trees in pots until after the summer heat has passed
Plant densely – allow other plants to protect and shade each other and the soil.
Gift-giving doesn’t need to be expensive, stressful, or hard! These sustainable DIY gift ideas will have you inspired to create more gifts from your garden – all year round! Whether you are visiting a friend or trying to find a Birthday, Mother/fathers day, or Christmas gift there’s something for all occasions in this gift guide.
Click to watch my gift guide ideas below
My thoughts around gift giving
I don’t always buy or give gifts for special occasions…It can seem strange at first to skip out on gift-giving. We may feel guilty, awkward, or just like a bad friend or partner! But if nothing is popping up as the perfect gift idea then I don’t waste money on consuming more “stuff” that they may not even like.
BUT….what I do is.. make more homemade gifts myself! It’s much more personalised and can spark inspiration in others. If you gift produce or create gifts from your garden you may even inspire the receiver to reconnect with their own garden. I also give small gifts from my garden each time I visit friends and family. In short, my gift-giving is sporadic and you may receive an amazing gift from me, regular handmade gifts, or nothing at all. But if I find the perfect idea later in the year I just gift it then. Who doesn’t love a surprise gift?
Garden to Gift Ideas
These gift ideas can be used all year round to create personalised gifts from your garden. The great thing is, they are free/low cost, low waste, and easy to put together for last-minute (oops I forgot ) gift ideas.
—- GET CREATIVE —-
1. Framed Art
Pressed flowers make beautiful garden art ideas. Mixed with small illustrations or paintings. TIP: Choose small frames as nearly everything looks cute in a small frame… You could also get second-hand frames and paint them for an extra thrifty option.
2. DIY Colouring in Book
Draw basic outline illustrations and create a custom colouring books for kids. They don’t need to be professional artworks just choose objects that they love and use their name to make them feel special. Choose themes such as Farm, Beach, Woodland, Food Forest, and Veggie patch!
Framed photos or prints make great gifts! They are low-cost and can be easily personalised. Close-ups from the garden, scenic landscapes, and photos of friends and family. I love getting printed photographs because it is something I rarely do anymore. In this digital age, we rarely take the time to sort through our hundreds of photos so sometimes it’s nice to do.
4. Custom Clothingand Plant Dye
DIY Jackets are a fun way to get creative and make custom gifts. Denim jackets can always be found at secondhand shops and upcycled. I love making jackets for significant events like weddings and first birthdays. They make great keepsakes too. Paint flowers from your garden or sew fabric patches. Get extra creative and make your own natural plant dyes from the garden.
5. Homemade Jam, Chutney & Sauces
Homemade preserves make such great gifts! Especially if they are made from delicious fruit and vegetables grown in your home garden. Create fun, custom labels easily using Canva templates. You can also create DIY tags and notes using leaves and small bundles of herbs and flowers.
Dehydrated fruit is one of my go-to garden to gift ideas! I make large batches and always have enough on hand to either pop in a recycled jar or cut up and mix with dried flowers for a tea blend or a cocktail garnish blend. Dried citrus can be used in teas, cocktails, cakes, and baking. Also, incredible in mulled wine! Try chocolate-dipped for something extra special!
8. Flavoured Sugar and Salts
Herbal sugars and salts are such a fun and easy way to incorporate produce from your garden in a unique way. Simply blitz herbs and mix through salt and allow to fully dry. Dried edible flowers, herbs and citrus can be added to sugar to create flavoured sugars. Try Mint sugar in a hot chocolate!
Tea blends make incredible gifts from the garden. See the list and mix and match to make your favourite blends. Dry herbs and flowers fully first either air dry or in a low-temperature oven or dehydrator (30-40 degrees Celcius). Dried fruit, herbs, and flowers also make great cocktail garnishes. Add to a nice jar and create a DIY Label.
—-GET BAKING —-
10. Bake Bread
Homemade bread is so delicious and makes a great gift idea. Baking great bread is not a skill everyone possesses so if you do, share the love and make a sourdough loaf or even a Garden Foccacia using herbs and fresh ingredients from your garden. Wrap it in brown paper with a note and place a small bundle of herbs or flowers. Done!
11. Sweet Treats
Who doesn’t love sweet treats? Homemade cookies, cakes and slices always make great gifts. Get creative and use edible flowers, herbs and fruit from your garden to create something special!
12. Savoury snacks
Savoury snacks are an entertainer’s dream. Try some botanical crackers for a great way to use herbs from your garden. Other delicious snacks could be scrolls, scones, slices, quiche or flavoured nuts.
—-GET GROWING —-
13. Cuttings and Seedlings
Take extra cuttings and pot them up to have extra gifts on hand at all times! Cuttings such as Sweet potato, mint, rosemary, fig and mulberry are easy to get striking. Check out my Cuttings Ebook for more ideas. If you have extra plants pop up in the garden, (hello volunteers!) simply pot them up to give as gifts.
14. Plant Extra Seeds
It’s always a good idea to plant extra seeds in case something happens to your others. I do this in stages so I plant extra seeds 3-4 weeks after my first lot. That means if my seeds have made it to the garden as seedlings but get eaten or damaged I have replacements already on the way. However, if I don’t need the backs up then I have plenty to gift to friends and family.
15. Edible Bouquets
I love picking wild vegetable and herb flowers that have gone to seed, herbs and edible flowers to create beautiful edible bunches to gift. There are so many great reasons to do this!
They smell amazing
Look beautiful and a little wild
Don’t cost anything!
Can be used to flavour meals and tea
Can be regrown in their own garden.
The great thing about keeping herbs such as Mint, Rosemary, Basil and Lavender in jars of water is that they will send off roots! Let your gift receiver know what they can replant.
16. Fresh Produce
Extra produce makes incredible gifts! This can be vegetables, herbs, flowers or fruit you have grown in your garden. Pop in a basket or box and deliver to your friends and family. The great thing about gifting produce from your garden is they get to try different things that may not be at the supermarket. You may also inspire them to reconnect with where their food comes from and start growing their own. You really don’t know how much you can inspire and make a change by simply gifting some homegrown produce.
17. Gifting Seeds
Once your gardens get established you will have plenty of seeds to start harvesting. Pop some in a brown envelope with a note of what they are, when you harvested them and who they were from. Seeds are great gifts because they bring with them so much inspiration and potential!
If you found these gift ideas helpful please share this post with others and help to inspire more people to create their own Homemade Garden to Gifts.
Worms are an amazing addition to a self-sufficient homestead as they turn scraps into nutrient-rich organic fertilizer to help you grow more food. Creating a sustainable lifestyle is all about taking small steps and changes to close the loop and nurture thriving ecosystems. You don’t have to do it all at once and I highly recommend starting small, mastering a manageable garden, and then start adding layers one by one. If you overwhelm yourself and don’t have habits and systems in place it won’t be sustainable long term and you can end up with unproductive chaos.
Click to watcha warm farm tour
Tips for setting up a backyard worm farm
1. Source a Worm Farm or Home for your Worms
There are many options for backyard worm systems from kit-set to DIY. You will also more than likely be able to pick up a second-hand worm farm so keep an eye out on your local listings and marketplace. Be mindful of your local climate and do a little research. In Perth, Australia, we have extremely hot summers that reach over 40 degrees. Cool shady locations are a must for worms. If you do live in a hot climate there are some great DIY options using old fridges and freezers to offer more protection. This is something I will be creating very soon!
2. Choose a Location
Choose a location for your worms that is out of direct sunlight and is well protected. On the flip side if you get snow or cold temperatures you would need to make sure you can bring your worm farm somewhere warmer.
The other important consideration to make is to keep it close and convenient. Worms like to be fed a little and often so you don’t want them down the back of your property where they may get forgotten about. Permaculture zone 1-2 would be great or have them located on a path that you frequent regularly. For example: on the way to the chicken coop or the washing line. Having things in convenient locations is the absolute key to being consistent and having systems in place that easily become habits means you don’t even have to think about it just becomes part of everyday life.
3. Source Composting Worms
There are many times of worms in your garden and they all play different roles so it’s important to get the right worms for your worm farm to make sure they are happy and thriving. Tiger worms are a popular type of worm for this system and can be purchased at many plant nurseries or hardware stores that sell worm farms. You may also be able to get set up with worms from friends that have their own form farms established.
4. What to Feed your worms
Feed your worms little and often! Be consistent.
What to feed: Coffee grinds, tea leaves, vegetable scraps, egg shells, banana peels, shredded paper or cardboard, dried leaves, greens, vacuum dust, and hair. The more variety the better as this will help keep a balanced pH. Add a little sprinkle of soil when you feed as the grit can help the worms break down the scraps. Keep the food scraps in smaller pieces if possible.
What to avoid feeding your Worms?
Avoid citrus, garlic, or the onion family as this will create an acidic environment that will harm the worms. No meat – as this can create bad bacteria and attract rats and other unwanted pests.
5. Water your Worms
Worms like a moist environment of around 70% moisture, so it’s important to give your worms a regular drink. Keep a damp sheet of cardboard, hessian sack, or newspaper on top of the food scraps to retain moisture and regulate temperatures. This also acts as a slow-releasing food source.
6. How to care for Worms when you go on Holiday
If you are going away for a few weeks your worms should be fine if you get them prepared. Flush water from the top tray, add plenty of food and some slow-release food such as pea straw, hay, and place some layers of wet newspaper or cardboard on top. This will help keep the worms nice and moist. If you are worried or going away for longer ask someone to stop by and feed your worms.
How to harvest the Worm Tea and Worm Castings?
The by-products of worms are both castings and worm tea. Castings are the worm poo which is your food scraps converted into soil. Add scoops of worm castings to your garden beds to feed and enrich the soil. Warm castings are quite concentrated so it’s best to mix this through with other soil first.
Once the worm bin starts to fill up with worm castings and the worms start trying to get out it may be time to change the bins over. Depending on the size of your worm farm and the population of worms this can be done 2-4 times a year. The active worm bin should be in the top layer so it is time to move this down and place an empty bin on top. Lift out as much of the uneaten food as possible and add it to the empty tub. Put in some fresh food and bedding and pour water over the top to moisten it all down. The worms will start to come up to the top layer to access the food and leave the bin of castings behind.
This may take a while for the worms to move up depending on how much uneaten food is left behind and how dense the population of worms is.
If you don’t have multiple layers in your worm farm another way to harvest the castings is to tip it all out onto some cardboard. The worms don’t like sunlight so they will move to the bottom of the pile and you can harvest off the top layer before putting the worms back in.
Worm tea can be watered down 10:1, especially on young seedlings but we also use a much more concentrated version of 50:50 on fruit trees. Just be careful when using it around young plants as they will be more sensitive, that’s when I would water it down more. Like with everything in the garden, when you are unsure or just starting out do sections and test it out first.
Use the worm tea within a month or two as you want to ensure the living organisms stay alive as that is the key to healthy soil!
If you have extra worm concentrate, bottle it up for gifts or this could be a great little side hustle for kids to sell.
It’s no secret in Australia and New Zealand that the price of lettuce has lost the plot.. $7.50 – $12 for a whole lettuce or $7 a bag 150gram mixed leaves. Now, obviously, this varies from place to place but these 18 substitutes for lettuce will allow you to have salad and sandwich greens all year round! You may already have some of these growing in your garden.
Many of these 18 lettuce substitutes have more nutrients and multiple uses so you can get more out of the food you grow. Lettuce is often used in sandwiches and salads so for today’s lettuce alternatives I will share which ones are best for these two main uses.
Calendula is an edible flower and the leaves are also edible. Calendula leaves do have quite a strong flavour but you can add a few of these to your salads or sandwiches. Calendula flowers also have many healing qualities as well as attract pollinators to the garden. An amazing multi-use plant to add to your edible garden.
Nasturtiums thrive well in most soil types and you will often see them spilling out onto the street from gardens or popping up in the wild. They have quite a weed-like growth because they are so easy to grow and self-seed. The whole plant is edible including the leaves, flowers, and seed pods. Nasturtium leaves are great for salads and are also the perfect size and shape to add to sandwiches. With a natural peppery flavour, Nasturtiums are a great substitute for lettuce.
3. Baby Beetroot Leaves
Baby Beetroot leaves can be harvested a few off each plant to use in salads and sandwiches. Beetroot leaves can have beautiful red veins or be entirely red depending on the variety. A beautiful and nutritious substitute for lettuce.
4. Rocket / Arugula
Rocket or Arugula is a popular substitute for Lettuce. Rocket has a distinct peppery taste and is delicious in salads, sandwiches and served on top of pizzas. Rocket grows quickly so if you plant both Rocket and Lettuce seeds you will have Rocket ready to eat while you wait for the lettuce to get established.
Kale is a popular substitute for lettuce and can be grown all year round in many climates. Kale comes in many varieties some are better than others for salads and sandwiches. My favourite is the Tuscan Kale as it has a softer texture. Choose the smaller leaves and chop Kale up finely to add to salads and sandwiches.
Purslane is an edible weed that has succulent-like leaves. Purslane thrives in dry climates and is often popping up in my gardens in Perth. Purslane is a great addition to salads and sandwiches as an alternative to lettuce.
7. Sweet Violet
Sweet violets are known for their delicate purple or white flowers and beautiful fragrant scent. The sweet violet leaves are also edible and can be added to salads and sandwiches. They do have a bitter flavour so it can be a good idea to mix a few with other greens.
8. Rainbow Chard
Rainbow chard is a fantastic versatile green to grow during the colder months of the year. Baby rainbow chard leaves can be picked and used in salads and sandwiches. Larger leaves contain more oxalic acid so it is recommended to blanch them first.
Celery is a fresh, crunchy and hydrating vegetable just like lettuce. Celery leaves and stalks can be used in both salads and sandwiches.
Cabbage is a great all-around vegetable that has many culinary uses. Finely sliced cabbage is a deliciously fresh and crunchy substitute for lettuce. A little bit of Cabbage goes a long way so it is a very economical vegetable.
11. Asian Greens/ Bok Choy, Tatsoi, Choy Sum
Asian greens such as Bok Choy are great additions to your edible garden because they grow fast, can be harvested multiple times from each plant and are versatile in the kitchen. Use the softy leafy ends in salads and sandwiches and the thicker stems in soups or stir-fries.
12. Dandelion Greens
Dandelions are another edible weed. Choose young dandelion greens to add to salads and sandwiches as a substitute for lettuce. Always make sure you identify weeds correctly and only forage from places you know have not been sprayed with chemicals.
13. Sweet Potato Leaves
Sweet Potato Leaves are abundant green in the garden. Use the young leaves in a salad or blanch or stirfry the larger leaves.
Spinach is another popular substitute for lettuce and is a versatile plant to have in the garden. Baby spinach leaves are best for raw salads or sandwiches due to the oxalic acid contained in the plant.
Chickweed (Stellaria media) is an edible weed that grows in abundance during winter. Chickweed has small delicate leaves and flowers and loves to grow in moist shady spots during winter. Chickweed has a mild fresh flavour similar to sprouts and makes a delicious lettuce substitute. Chickweed is also a popular feed for chickens.
16. Carrot & Radish Tops
Carrot tops and Radish tops can be finely sliced to add to salads. The younger leaves will be more tender than the older larger ones. Finely slice and drizzle with salad dressing. They can also be wilted down in the pan to soften first. The tops also go great in a Garden Pesto to dress your salads.
Watercress grows in abundance during the winter months and is a great substitute for lettuce. Watercress does have a strong peppery flavour so it can be good to mix a little with other more mild greens and a dressing. Watercress is also good for soups and stir-fries. Watercress can be foraged but always ensure you have a safe source with no chemicals contaminating it.
Parsley is a common herb that is often under-utilized. Parsley can be delicious chopped up fine in a salad or added to a sandwich! Flat leaf parsley is my favourite variety for this.
Sustainable Living Alternatives
The great thing about growing food is you have access to so many parts of the plant that are often discarded. Learning what parts of the plant are edible and how to use them can help you double your food supply overnight!
There are many more options than this so let me know in the comments if you use any of these or if you use other plants as lettuce substitutes in your garden. That will help others that find this post and are looking for more ways to expand their food source.
Of course, grab yourself some lettuce seeds too, and get your own little salad bar growing. I like to grow mixed loose leaf varieties and then I pick one or two leaves of each plant. Combined with other greens from your garden you can make your salad greens go a whole lot further.
NOTE: It’s important to note that some greens from the garden do contain higher levels of oxalic acid than others. This can block the absorption of some nutrients. Oxalic acid is reduced by cooking which is why many leafy greens such as spinach and chard are cooked first. This is mainly only a problem if you eat a lot of that plant. So by chopping up a little from each and choosing the younger leaves you can reduce the amount of oxalic acid consumed.
10 Sustainable Gardening hacks to ensure your garden is quickand easy to maintain for sustainable long-term growth. Do you want to grow an edible garden and harvest delicious organic food straight from your own backyard but… you don’t have enough time in the day? Whether you are a busy parent or your spare time is already devoted to hobbies, sports, growing your business, or other priorities and you want to ensure your garden is easy to maintain for sustainable long-term growth, then these Sustainable Gardening Hacks are perfect for you!
Lazy gardening is actually an amazing thing! It means you are working smarter, not harder, and have systems in place to work with nature to get abundant harvests.
So let’s not waste any time and get straight into it…
1. Plant Perennials
Perennial plants are ones that you plant once and they will continue to give you harvests for many years to come. They are the ultimate hack for sustainable gardening! So this is probably my number one tip for lazy or time-poor gardeners.
Perennials are plants such as Fruit Trees, Berries, Bananas, Sweet Potatoes, Rhubarb, Artichoke, and Asparagus. Aromatics such as Ginger and Tumeric, and Herbs such as Rosemary, Lemon Verbena, and Mint. These you plant once and each year they will produce more and more food. There are also many perennial versions of our much-loved annuals such as Perennial Basil, and Perpetual Spinach. This year I have added Egyptian Walking Onions, more Berries, Fruit Trees, Asparagus and Artichoke.
I am converting more and more of my gardens to perennials because not only does that mean I have more time to spend developing new gardens or pouring hours into creating more gardening content but, Perennial Plants also allow a seamless transition and continuous supply of food. Perennials will either produce all year round or they will have certain times of the year when they are fruiting or producing. If you want to really level it up you can plan out when your perennials are ready and ripe and plan to fill in the gaps with other perennials that will be productive during these gaps in the season. For example, my citrus are ready in winter, then over summer I have berries, and in autumn I have Feijoas. My plan is to have a continuous supply of fruit all year round so I will continue to select plants that are ready during the gaps.
2. Chop and Drop
This is a technique of mulching and composting that I use in my urban food forest. Any time I trim my plants or remove any annuals I simply chop up the leaves and branches and drop them around the garden allowing the plant matter to break down and feed my plants. This is very easy to do and I don’t have to move plant material anywhere. It protects the soil from the sun, suppresses weeds and it feeds my soil to help grow more and more food! It’s a win-win situation and saves a lot of time. Fruit trees also love the fungal properties that rotting sticks and branches provide.
This technique works best with a food forest situation rather than a veggie patch, as it would be much harder to spread the plant matter and not cover small seedlings. This may also attract slaters or woodlice which will help break down the plant matter but these little critters are not something you want in your veggie patch.
3. Direct Sow Seeds
This is my favourite way to plant seeds. No, it’s not the most effective, but it saves a lot of time. I find direct sowing seeds straight into the garden can take a bit longer for them to germinate because it might not be the right soil temperatures but once they pop up they will usually be stronger plants. Sowing in seed trays means you can control the conditions and bring them inside which will encourage them to pop up sooner but you need to baby them and care for them. Harden them off by taking them outside so they can get used to outside temperatures before you plant them in the garden. They are just more fiddly and do require more attention. So where I can I go with the survival of the fittest approach and plant a few extra seeds.
4. Grow Soil
If you are time-poor and only have small amounts of time to allocate to your gardens, I would definitely put a big chunk of that into improving your soil and creating soil-improving systems. This will go a long way in creating sustainable gardens. Healthy nutrient-rich soil means your plants will grow faster, they will be stronger and more resilient and they will not succumb to pests and diseases as easily. If your soil is poor and lacks nutrients you will end up spending more time trying to keep your plants alive, more time watering and more time babying your plants.
Following on from growing soil – keeping your gardens well mulched is a great system to help build soil for sustainable gardens. Mulch will start to break down over time and feed your soil. Mulching also helps keep moisture in so your gardens won’t need as much watering and they help suppress weeds. Weeds are not friends with time-poor or lazy gardeners. So having a thick layer of mulch will help reduce the time needed for weeding and also the weeds that do grow will be so much easier to pull out.
6. Make it Close and Convenient
Choosing a location for your garden can be a make or break for the time-poor or lazy gardener. If you decide to grow your veggie patch or garden down the back of your property or behind the shed, it may start off okay whilst you are full of enthusiasm and feeling inspired, but eventually it will be out of sight and out of mind…. this happens to me all the time and my property is just a suburban block. I plant all my low-maintenance plants such as perennials and fruit trees all in the outer parts of my property and the annuals or plants that require more attention or regular harvesting, within view of my kitchen. In permaculture, we call these zones and it makes so much sense. When it’s raining, dark or you have had a long day, traipsing out to the veggie patch might not be high on the list. But, if you have your gardens close to your house and within view, you might notice something that needs harvesting or attention, and your garden will naturally receive more love and attention because of that. Therefore it will be more productive.
Even If this means you start off with small container gardens and once you master that move on to larger more permanent spaces.
7. Grow Wild
Creating diversity and growing lots of plants all together will not only do amazing things for the number of beneficial insects in your garden, but it can also be a lot more low maintenance. Conventional gardens with neat edges, straight rows, and symmetrical layouts will take a lot more time to maintain. By creating a garden that is a little wilder it will look lush and have less room for weeds to take up home. Even if you do get some weeds they blend in and don’t look too messy and hey, some of them may even be edible or provide flowers for the bees. Edible ground covers are great for this.
8. Let Plants go to Seed
If you let some of your plants go to flower and seed you will have plants popping up all on their own next season. This is another way you can create sustainable garden systems. The great thing about self-sown seeds is that they stay dormant in the soil until they get the right conditions to grow and then they shoot up. With absolutely no effort on your behalf. I have lettuce, tomatoes, basil, and edible flowers pop up nearly every year. Free FOOD! This technique can be amazing but it can also be a little wild at times. It’s important to try to contain the seeds on your property. I let a celery plant go to seed once and I had celery popping up in everywhere!
9. Easy Watering
Watering can take up a lot of time, especially during the warmer months. And if you run out of time or can’t be bothered then you could lose your plants after just one day in the peak of summer (especially if you live here in Perth!). Thinking about watering and creating sustainable watering systems will go such a long way to savingtime in the garden.
Some great tips are to install automatic timers and drip lines. Another is to ensure you have a hose nearby to your gardens and make it a retractable hose! Nothing puts you off watering than thinking about unraveling and putting away a hose. A retractable hose can be out and back in seconds and it has honestly been a game-changer for me in my garden!
Mulching will also help with water retention.
10. Get the Plant Selection Right
Selecting the right plants will go a long way toward creating a low-maintenance sustainable garden. We talked about choosing perennials earlier but there are also other plant selection criteria than can really help you grow an abundant garden with less effort.
Choose local or native plants. Plants that thrive in your local area will be much more adapted to the conditions and will be easier to grow. Native edible plants are often interesting and unique additions to your garden. They will also attract your local pollinators and wildlife which is a bonus!
Choose low-maintenance plants. Some plants require more care and upkeep than others. And some will have a lot more pests and diseases than others. This will vary from place to place.
Tomatoes – require staking and tying and are susceptible to pests and diseases. I often grow cherry tomatoes as I find them a lot easier to grow.
Stone fruit – Trees such as Nectarines, Peaches, and Plums have soft skin and can be vulnerable to many pests and diseases. Birds, fruit flies, rats, bats, etc. They may require netting or individually bagging fruit to ensure you get a harvest. I have chosen citrus as they have thicker skins and I find them a little more hardy and low maintenance. I have a lot of citrus for that reason such as Lemon, Lime, Blood Orange, Finger Limes, Blood Limes, Kumquat, and Lemonade.
Herbs and fragrant plants such as Lemon Verbena, Rosemary, and Ginger are often left alone by pests and are easy to grow.
This is where it is a great idea to visit small local nurseries where you can get helpful advice on what grows well in your local climate.
WATCH Sustainable Gardening HACKS for Time-Poor Gardeners