A Garden for the Birds
Homegrown Citrus

Thrifty Gardening

With the additional financial pressures that life is bringing, many are turning to gardening as a way to provide at least some ease. Although gardening, like any endeavour, can end up being expensive if you don’t pay attention to your spending. Any savings made by growing your own food or even being a little more entrepreneurial and selling your produce could take a long time to balance out if you spent a small fortune in getting established or maintaining your garden. The best way to avoid wasting money is by planning your garden, your crops and setting goals. Start small and grow from there as gardens have a habit of evolving as if by magic as you meet other who garden, save seeds from each harvest and learn what it is that your truly need to be successful and more importantly, the horticultural extravagances you really can do without.

Thrifty Gardening

Build a Thrifty Garden
Your garden will cost as much as you are able or willing to spend on it. I caught up with local home and garden blogger, Jen Jones of Pickles Patch and asked her for tips on building a garden for less. “Start with water. Are you using tank water or are you using council supplied water and what ways can you use water in your garden more effectively?” Jen also suggested that if you can’t afford a water tank, to use barrels under drainpipes to catch run off. To build a garden, take advantage of things that others are throwing out. “Save building materials and pots from landfill by using them to create garden beds” she said, and she is a big fan of composting to build the soil. “I cannot stress enough how important composting is. It reduces the waste coming out of your house and creates valuable soil for your garden.” Other ways Jen suggested to save money include seed saving and sharing cuttings. Any money you are going to spend, is best directed towards investing in good tools. You can find Pickles Patch on Facebook for lots of gardening and home inspiration: facebook.com/Piccklespatch

What to Grow
If you are seeking ways to save money on grocery bills, then take a good hard look at what your family eats and focus in on growing a few of the staples in abundance to start with. You can’t go past root crops like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and leafy greens like silverbeet and lettuce. These are allrounders that can be used in a huge variety of dishes. Clara Rosa of Clara’s Mini Urban Farm and President of Permaculture Central Coast grows a verge garden, for herself and to share with neighbours. It is filled with lots of produce, primarily herbs. Who hasn’t purchased $4 scraggly bunches of dill, rosemary or parsley and watched them turn to slime? Growing your own saves money and waste. Clara says that the good news is herbs are probably the easiest plants of all to grow. Following Clara’s lead, you can save hundreds of dollars a year and boost the flavour of all your dishes. As she explained, “Even if you live in a townhouse or apartment, you can bunch a few pots together and still grow herbs.” For more wonderful insight into gardening more sustainably check out Clara’s Blog: facebook.com/ClarasUrbanMinifarm and for permaculture on The Coast: www.permaculturecc.org.au

Thrifty Garden Practice
Once you are established, the most important piece of advice I think I can share is to plan what you are going to grow. Plant in line with the season because that way you do not have to invest in resources or infrastructure to keep your crops warm or to cool them down. Grow what is suitable for your environment by having your soil tested and improving it with rich organic matter that you create yourself, like compost. Work with your zone. Here on the Central Coast we enjoy what is known as a ‘warm temperate’ zone so look out for plants that are known and recommended to grow well here.

Swapping Your Produce
Once you obtain a harvest, a great way to find free food sources and help others is by swapping your excesses for things you are not growing. There are bunches of produce swaps on the Central Coast and around the world. Usually held in community gardens but also elsewhere. These are amazing places for inspiration, gardening tips and friendship. There is a private Central Coast Produce Swap Group on Facebook. It’s a place for people on the Central Coast, who grow chemical free produce, to swap and share with others. Handy when you can't get to your local produce swap, and you can also find or list local swaps. Central Coast Produce Swap Group: facebook.com/groups/400030077022113. Two popular swaps I have found are: Long Jetty Produce Swap and it is held on the first Saturday of the month 10 - 11am at the Bateau Bay Community Garden and the Woy Woy Produce Swap which happens on the last Sunday of the month at Woy Woy Peninsular Community Garden. There are sure to be more so join the group, keep an eye on this page or ask around. 

Share your Gardening News and Events - [email protected] or call 0408105864

Mingara Orchid Club Orchid Fair and Show - 24th and 25th June
This is a spectacular and free event for the community, providing a fabulous festival of exotic and native Australian Orchid displays. It is one of Australia's biggest orchid shows with lots of vendors also selling orchids and products. Mingara Recreation Club, Mingara Drive, Tumbi Umbi Saturday 9am-4pm, Sunday 9am - 3pm. 
Pete Little and Cheralyn Darcey of Coastfm’s Gardening Gang will also be broadcasting live from the orchid fair Saturday 8am - 10am. More information: coastfm.org.au and mingara.com.au





Green Teams- Bird walk and Talk - Saturday 24th June
Join CEN's Green Teams and local bird expert Kaye Pointer leads a walk and talk, identifying local birds and learning about some of the local food sources and nesting habitat. Morning tea provided after the walk (Please note any dietary requirements in the comments section when booking.) Venue: Ourumbah Creek Landcare Site. Bookings are essential Ph: 4349 4491 or email: [email protected]. Please wear appropriate clothing, covered footwear and hat. Bring binoculars (if you have them) & a bottle of water. This event is funded by Central Coast Council, through their Community Development Grants program, as part of the CEN’s Green Team project. Saturday 24th June, 9am-11 am. More information: cen.org.au

Kincumber Produce Swap - Sunday 25th June
A produce swap works by having a set time and place for backyard growers to bring their excess food to share with other growers. It is a very casual affair, and nobody keeps score. By bringing your produce you are saying that you are happy for other swappers to take what they need because it is excess to your needs. It is simply a way of sharing your food with the fellow growers in your neighbourhood. 3 - 4pm at 20-22 Kincumber St, Kincumber

winter: temperate areas
You can plant the following now: Culinary herbs, artichokes, broad beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, cress, garlic, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, onions, peas, shallots, spring onions, silverbeet, spinach, ageratum, alyssum, calendula, candytuft, Canterbury bells, carnation, cineraria, columbine, cornflower, delphinium, dianthus, everlasting daisy, forget-me-not, foxglove, godetia, gypsophila, hollyhock, honesty, larkspur, linaria, lobelia, nigella, pansy, poppy, primula, snapdragon, statice, stock, sweet pea, viola, wallflower

Cheralyn with Roses

She also writes the weekly 'DOWN IN THE GARDEN' page for the Coast News Newspaper and this originally appeared in The Coast News.