When vegetable gardening with a view to reducing waste, you should focus on trying to grow the items in your shopping trolley which you cannot avoid getting packaged. In Australia, this is usually herbs, cherry tomatoes, berries, grapes and loose leaf salad greens. These are all crops that can be grown in all Australian climate zones, and are a great place to start your waste reducing, vegetable gardening journey. But in addition to this, there may be purchases that you regularly make which you could purchase plastic free, but are not able to. For our household, financial considerations are a high priority in every purchase decision. Sometimes you end up buying prepackaged because it’s cheaper. For example, onions in soft plastic red netting are often cheaper per kilo than loose onions. Take note of the purchases too, and assess whether growing those items is possible as well.
But it’s essential to only grow what you’ll eat, otherwise you’re just replacing plastic waste with food waste (even though it’s biodegradable). So after your next few weekly shops, assess what you buy from the fresh produce section that is packaged and make a note.
How much space you have to work with depends of course on whether you are renting or own your property, are living in an apartment, townhouse or house and what orientation your prospective vegetable garden has with the sun.
Working backwards, as a general rule fruits and legumes need full sun, whilst roots and leafy vegetables can survive in part shade. However, this can vary from plant to plant, and variety to variety.
Assess your space and decided whether you will plant. Remember that many vegetables can grow in pots and containers, so a patio is still a great spot for a vegetable garden. Ideally you want a position that faces north. This means it will get the maximum amount of sun over the course of the day.
The best orientation will always be a north facing plot. This means your garden bed will get full sun, all day, and will maximise your yield.
You don’t need a big budget to affect a productive vegetable garden. In fact a small budget may actually be more “zero waste friendly” as it will require you to reuse, upcycle or barter for items. In any event, it’s important to set a budget and decide what you’re prepared to focus your funds on purchasing. For example, if a vegetable garden that is aesthetically pleasing is a priority, you may need spend more on a garden bed that suits your vision than if you get joy from upcycling and repurposing items.