DIY Isolation Gardening for Beginners

Written by Deakin Community Garden

There is no doubt that isolation is boring us all to death. Most of us have exhausted all the shows Netflix has to offer and bought more unnecessary houseplants than are currently on the market. What else is there left to do? Well, with spring currently upon us, now is a better time than any to begin your veggie garden journey.

Before completing a click-and-collect Bunnings order for your new garden bed, veggies, soil, and so on, make sure you do a little research on what your new veggie garden will require. Here is a list to help you get started.

Where do I plant my veggies?
The sunniest spot is the best. A little shade is okay. But it does depend on the plant. However, most veggies, especially spring veggies, like lots of sun. If you’re not sure you have an appropriately sunny spot in your backyard, or for those without a backyard, a window ledge garden is a perfect alternative. As the warmer months set in, a north or south facing window would be a perfectly sunny spot for your veggies. Make sure it’s not on a west facing window during mid-summer, or you might have some very crispy plants.

What soil do I need?
This question doesn’t always have a simple answer. If you’re wanting to get technical, many different plants require different soil conditions (mineral quantity, pH level, etc.). But a general and easy rule to follow is to obtain soft soil, which is any soil that doesn’t contain large chunks of bark: this will help if you’re planting root veggies, such as carrots. Alternatively, if you’ve already got a plot with soil ready to go, you can just work the soil until it is chunk-free.

It will also greatly benefit your plants if you buy some sort of compost or fertiliser, like worm castings. However, most store-bought veggie soil is soft enough and already contains all the nutrients your plants will need.

Do I have an appropriate water source?
It’s super helpful to have a tap with a hose nearby, especially in warmer months. This is crucial to consider if your veggie garden is large and permanently in one spot. In cooler months, the rain will water your garden for you. When it gets a little warmer in spring, your garden will need water every few days. During those crazy hot summer days, you’ll need to make sure to give your garden a good water every day.
If you’re going with the trendy window ledge garden, it’ll need a water every one to two weeks in winter, and a few times a week in summer.

What do I plant my veggies in?
If you don’t want to anger your landlord by digging up half of your backyard to pursue your dreams of becoming a carrot farmer, then don’t worry, there are less destructive ways forward. If you want to go big, there are some decently priced raised garden beds around that could work for you. If you have a lot of spare pots lying around, you could get creative and have your veggies in a little arrangement like the one pictured below.

Some other options include inside window ledge herb gardens or planting herbs in macramé hanging baskets.

One of our favourite ideas is creating Kokedama balls like the one pictured below: we’ve used Ivy for this one, but you can easily chuck in some parsley or coriander instead. You can hang the Kokedamas in your kitchen for convenient access while you’re cooking.

There are many Kokedama tutorials on the web. Deakin Community Garden has one here on our Facebook page.

Now that you know the gardening basics, here is a fun little tutorial to begin your gardening journey:

DIY Eggshell Plants
Eggshell plants are an awesome DIY project to try if you’re not quite ready to renovate your backyard into a veggie garden.

Eggshell plants are equal parts cute, sustainable, cost-effective, and nourishing for your plants. Calcium is an important mineral for most plants, and as you water your eggshell babies, calcium from the eggshell will seep into the soil and help your veggies grow big and strong.
By using eggshells rather than purchasing seedlings in plastic pots, you’re reducing your carbon footprint and recycling organic material back into your backyard’s ecosystem.

What you need:
* Eggshells
* Egg carton
* Seeds
* Soil

Step 1 – Collecting Eggshells:

There is no rush in collecting your eggshells, so no need to cook all the eggs at once. We collected our shells over a week, so we weren’t wasting any eggs. When cracking the egg, make sure you try and crack it as central as possible, leaving you with two halves. Instead of halves, you could also make a 2-3 cm hole in the top of the egg to create a more dome-like structure that looks super cool when the seedlings begin to grow out the top. Once you’ve got an empty eggshell or two halves, rinse them out and place them back in the carton.

Step 2 – Soil up your eggshells:
Once you’ve got all your eggshells, you’re ready to plant. Fill with a bit of soil; some nice potting mix would be ideal, but if you’re not the type to have spare potting mix lying around, then don’t worry. The quantity of soil needed is small enough that you could probably borrow some from your garden or another plant pot. Place enough soil in the eggshells that it is deep enough for roots to form, around 3 cm or deeper. Keep in mind that soil needs to stay loose to allow oxygen in for roots to establish. Leaving a half centimetre gap between the soil and rim of the eggshell will help keep the soil light and well oxygenated.

Step 3 – Adding seeds:
It is time to add seeds! These plants will eventually need a bigger pot or a spot in your garden so keep that in mind when choosing what seeds to plant. If you don’t have much space, you may want to just choose some herbs which can be planted in pots. It’s also good to consider the time of year that is best to plant particular seeds. It will be spring by the time the seedlings need to be replanted and close to summer by the time they produce fruit or veggies. Things like tomatoes, fennel, lettuce, rocket, strawberries, capsicum, and thyme are great to grow inside from seed first while it’s still cold outside.
Another thing to consider is the size of the seeds. Bigger seeds will produce fairly large seedlings (such as snow peas and pumpkin), and they may not work as well.

Place a few seeds on top of the soil of each eggshell, as shown in the picture below. Gently push the seeds down until covered by a thin layer of soil. Place more soil on top if needed.

Step 4 – Watch your seeds grow:
Gently give your eggshell seeds a water after planting and place in a warm, bright position such as a windowsill. Water every one to two days.

After a few weeks, you should begin to see tiny green sprouts emerging from the soil. When your seedlings are around 3-4cm in height, consider planting them in the garden or in a larger pot. If the weather is still cold, keep them in a pot inside until the spring weather warms up. When planting the seedlings, you do not need to remove them from the eggshell. Just gently crack the bottom of the eggshell and place it in the soil with the plant so it can continue to provide nutrients.

Remember, gardening is something you learn from as you go. No one is a perfect gardener. There is plenty of reliable support, such as gardening blogs, YouTube tutorials, Webinars, and FB groups. Make sure to follow Deakin Community Garden’s socials for more information, cool gardening DIYs, tips and tricks, and to connect with likeminded people within a supportive community during your isolation gardening journey.
Instagram: @deakincommunitygarden
Facebook: Deakin Community Garden- Burwood
Happy gardening!

Deakin Community Garden was established in 2016 and is passionate about sharing gardening and food-related experiences with the community. Located on the Burwood campus behind buildings S and R, Deakin Community Garden holds various events and workshops all throughout the year, including working bees, food shares, gardening DIYs, and more. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved, grab some fresh grown produce, meet new people, and learn more about gardening, sustainability, and healthy living

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