Growing your own food not only eliminates the inconvenience of having to grocery shop each week, it provides you with more nutritious and delicious ingredients and reignites your creativity in the kitchen, as Cath Manuel from Soil to Supper explains.

What are the benefits of growing your own food?

There are many benefits to our physical health and also benefits to our emotional wellbeing from gardening and connecting with nature. When we grow some of our food we access nutrient-packed healthy foods that are seasonally grown and full of vitality, so that’s great for our health and wellness. Growing food saves money long term and also saves time as you can head outside to pick foods as you need them. You’re also caring for the earth when growing food, as sustainable methods are followed.

For people with limited space, what do you recommend growing?

In small areas, a lot of food can be grown with good planning. Pots and containers are the most common way where herbs, leafy greens, small fruit trees or shrubs and flowers can be grown. Hanging baskets are also a great way to grow herbs and vertical wall gardens are becoming popular in small spaces. Another great way to grow is with microgreens – chefs use these to garnish meals and they’re easy to grow and taste delicious.

what are the best ingredients to start planting now?

In summer, I think about salads, barbeques and outdoor dining. Common foods to grow now are lettuce, rocket, tomatoes, basil, cucumber, capsicum and eggplant. These are all great companion plants and can be grown together in healthy, rich soil that’s been prepared a few weeks before growing. Establishing healthy soil is the key to growing healthy food, so start from the ground up.

How do you avoid having your herbs, fruit and veggies being eaten by pests?

Grow companion plants to help deter the bad bugs and encourage the beneficial ones, that’s why it’s good to mix plants together in the garden or pots. Also, encourage biodiversity in the garden, this attracts birds, frogs, spiders and other helpful critters to the garden to help keep everything in balance.

What ingredients grow best in our climate all year round?

In our subtropical climate, there are a few plants that grow well year round, especially if they are in a sunny location all through winter. Try rocket, assorted lettuce, sorrel and Asian greens like bok choy. Many herbs also grow year round like parsley, chives, rosemary, oregano, thyme and mint. Perennial plants, which I call forever plants, grow all year round and are great for harvesting as needed. Also, try sweet potato if you have a square metre garden bed.

What is your favourite ingredient to grow?

I add parsley to most foods I eat and love freshly squeezed lime juice in mineral water and also when cooking Asian meals; chillies are also a favourite, as I love spicy foods!

what is your go-to recipe using these ingredients?

I love cooking nasi goreng as it’s an easy dish to make and everyone loves it. I use a variety of seasonal ingredients and always have fresh chilli, limes and herbs ready to harvest.