Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could grow enough veg in your garden to feed your family?
Wouldn’t it be great to grow anything at all really? I’ll admit I’m more the black-thumb type but I am totally inspired by people like Francesca, who tends to her own vegetable garden and clearly reaps a whole lot of benefits.
I’ve been hearing friends rave on about Cikka’s vegetable garden and I’ve been dying to check it out for myself. She asked me round last week and I literally jumped at the opportunity of a show around.
We chatted over coffee for a while but then things got seriously exciting as Cikka put on her gardening boots and gloves and we made our way to the garden …
Francesca, for those readers that don’t know you, can you please tell us a bit about yourself …
I’m a working mother and wife with two kids, Amelia (age 5) and Rafel (age 3). I’m fortunate to work from home and benefit from flexibility whilst enjoying both my work and family. I’ve been working within iGaming for the past decade and enjoy it very much, I meet many people and interact with lots of different cultures, this has given me the opportunity to remain in touch with the working environment as well as enjoy my family life.
Who and what inspired you to start your own vegetable garden?
Growing up we had a garden at home and I must admit the garden was my excuse to run away from my books during the study days. I always like to try and do things myself, I like to give things a shot and growing my own vegetables was something I dreamt of doing and got lucky enough to give it a go once I had access to my very own garden!
Do you go down the organic route? If yes, is it hard to sustain?
Sadly not totally organic, I buy ‘baby’ plants and plant them into the soil, I’ve tried a few organic seeds but they haven’t always been successful. However once I plant the baby plant into the soil I do not apply pesticide or chemicals to the plant, I try pairing the plant with another plant to help them grow better together. I have carrots grow beside fennel for example, I found out they like each other and grow well together. And of course I remove snails daily from all the vegetables, pesky snails!
Tell us about the personal satisfaction you get from harvesting your own produce?
This is truly the reason why I carry on planting new plants – most days, when I’m planning on what to cook for the family, I immediately think of what I can pick from the garden. Having grown the crop myself gives me, my husband and my kids lots of satisfaction.
The million dollar question is; would you say the vegetables you grow at home taste better?
Yes, but of course I’m biased, I grew them myself 😉
What other benefits do you identify with?
The garden and growing our own veg has brought the family together, we spend many hours weekly just pottering around the garden. My kids are great help, Amelia loves to plant new crops and carefully places the plant ‘friends’ beside each other, giving them names too. My son is happy digging up holes and pulling out weeds. In fact a fun crop is potatoes, the kids love digging for potatoes, once the plant is fully grown, they have a ball digging them up. (I got to witness this digging for potatoes … the whole process is indeed quite special)
Can you give us some tips on how to get started?
I would suggest allocating a spot, it doesn’t have to be very big, even 5mx8m will do and then dig up three horizontal rows and maybe plant four plants per row, so for example 4 cherry tomatoes, 4 spinach plants, 4 green pepper plants. Keep in mind that the tomatoes tend to bush and grow quite a little bit, in fact they will need a bamboo stick to keep them upright and away from overgrowing into the row of veg beside them.
What would you say are the easiest vegetables to grow here in Malta?
Easiest veg would probably be potatoes, tomatoes and marrows.
So, can you tell us what’s growing in your garden at the moment?
At the moment, I have ful (broad beans) of course (another easy crop actually), potatoes, carrots, spinach, fennel, brussels sprouts, tomatoes, red lettuce and romaine lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower and aubergines. Oh and those trees are olive trees. We have two rows of trees, seven produce edible olives and six produce olives for olive oil. At Christmas time last year we made small jars of olives and gifted them to family and friends.
Wow and of course all your herbs too. I can spot at least 5 varieties over there …
Yes, of course. At the moment we have mint, lavender, thyme, rosemary, coriander, oregano, chamomile, basil and sage. You have to keep your eye on the mint as it tends to take over so I’m constantly cutting it and thinking up new ways to use it. The oregano is not as bushy in winter so I cut as much as I can in the summer time, dry it and use it to flavour olive oil or to sprinkle on homemade pizza.
There’s quite a few gardening tools here, what has been your latest gardening purchase?
The Plant Dome (I actually spotted a fellow gardener using these on Instagram) – I wish I had found glass domes but I only found them in plastic. These save me so much hassle. They mimic the “glasshouse” effect and also cover the plant and in this way, the snails don’t get to my spinach or my strawberries first!
Keeping the snails away!
And finally, your most memorable achievement as a vegetable grower?
Each and every crop is memorable – honestly it is fantastic and rewarding to grow your own food. This has encouraged us as a family to be more appreciative of the hard work that goes into growing food and also encourages us to recycle our waste which in turn becomes compost for our garden. The idea alone of being somewhat sustainable is fantastic!
Dear readers, I did NOT want to leave! I was having so much fun, but sadly I had to rush home in time for Mila’s arrival. I did not leave empty handed though, Cikka put together a basket of goodies for me which I was so appreciative of and I can certainly vouch for the delicious taste of her veg.
Thank you for inviting me Cikka and well done, you are an inspiration to us all!