The Garden, Oh the Garden – Part 3a: Growing Organically?

You can tell when my husband has gone grocery shopping – home brand things everywhere. When I shop, I try and include some organic vegetables and fruits and other produce in the mix. I’m not sure why my husband ignores the good example I try to set. I suppose I shouldn’t complain. That I should be happy that doing the grocery shopping is one of the only chores he does.

I always thought that when back in Sydney, I would try and buy more organic things and I have tried to do that to a degree. I generally find it okay when something is even double the price of non-organic, but when potatoes and onions cost more than twice as much as standard ones, I do baulk and go for the non-organic variety.

I suppose first I should really state why I am bothering at all. For me personally, I believe that there would be health benefits to eating organic. Whether they have been scientifically proven or not, I don’t care about. I can see how eating organic is going to be worse.  Also, I went to a compsting workshop organised by my local Council where the presenter (Peter Rutherford) made a convincing argument about the acidification of our bodies, which can lead to many ailments including cancer and the fact that synthetic fertilizers and pesticides were contributing towards this.

Then there are the many environmental benefits in reducing or eliminating pesticide and synthetic fertilizer application on a wide scale: to the air we breathe, to the water that we drink, to the soil that sustains us and the diversity of life (biodiversity). Having said that, I like many have budget constraints. I know many people that are very ‘pro’ organic will always argue that in the past people were used to spending more of our pay packet (as a proportion) on food compared to now. I don’t know if that is true, but I do know that I have a lot of bills and if there are cheap ‘home brand’ alternatives, then it can be hard to resist saving money on food.

So what should I do? Maybe concentrate on foods that have been found to have a higher percentage of pesticide residues, so as to focus my ‘buy organic’ efforts.  What are these foods?

  1. Apples are the worst culprits – thankfully the Coles organic apples are not too expensive, so I buy those;
  2. Celery – quite a lot more expensive, so I haven’t bought organic yet;
  3. Strawberries – hard to find in local supermarkets or fruit shops;
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines
  7. Grapes
  8. Capsicum
  9. Potatoes
  10. Blueberries
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale

A lot of the fruit and vegetables on the ‘bad’ list are hard for me to find, unless I go searching for an organic shop and there aren’t any in my local area.

So this summer, as I have been a working bee in my garden, I decided to establish my own organic vegetable haven!  Firstly I observed over winter, where in my garden gets sun and one of the main areas was by the fence between my neighbor and I in my backyard. So I moved some plants I had recently planted and bought some planter beds from Bunnings (a local hardware store). They were not super cheap and are not so great in quality, but being hard pressed for time as I am, I bought them anyway. I bought six (two were from Aldi, which were much better in quality)  1.2m x 1.2 m wooden boxes.

I then bought some soil from Bexley Sand and Soil Company. It is supposed to have been accredited to Australian Standard 4419, but when I got the soil it was full of contaminants like plastic, glass and other organic waste. Obviously this soil is made from waste management companies and while theoretically I support this, the sight of plastic and other goodies did not fill my heart with joy. I had however bought too much soil, so had to use it all anyway and decided that I would add organic fertilizer like ‘Blood and Bone’, worm castings and worm juice from my worm farm to improve its productivity.

I also did my research about companion planting (where you plant vegetables and fruit that like to be near each other – like tomatoes and basil – to ward off insects and other nasties), so I had all my garden beds planned out!  For more information on plants that like to be near each other – go to:

So with my garden beds filled, the fun part began. Rather than buy small vegetable plants from nurseries, I decided to grow my own from seed and not any seed – organic seeds. I went online to Eden Seeds and went shopping!

Shopping online is so easy and I have to admit I kind of went nuts – I bought so many seeds and in hindsight – too many. I bought different varieties of some vegetables, rather than one.  I just couldn’t wait to get them in the ground.

Here is my list: marigolds, Nasturtium, okra, radish, Greek Oregano, Egyptian beetroot, little finger carrots, Carrots all seasons, cayenne peppers, Californian wanderer capsicum, white Lisbon shallots, Lebanese Zucchini, black zucchini, Waltham butternut pumpkin, sweet corn, button squash, cherry tomatoes, tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, Swede turnips, silverbeet, Lebanese cucumber, snowpea Oregon, beans, eggplant, coriander, cilantro, dill, leek, English spinach, Onion Gladalan, Red onion, iceberg lettuce, rocket, Cos lettuce, asparagus, lettuce lollo rosso, parsley, basil….phew! I know! That was a few hundred dollars worth of seeds alone.

What is my planter box ‘map’? in each box I have planted some marigold and nasturtium and the following:

Box 1: tomatoes, basil, capsicum, chillies, squash and snow peas;

Box 2: corn, beans, cucumbers and Lebanese zucchini;

Box 3: Black zucchini, pumpkin, eggplant and okra;

Box 4: sweded turnips, radish, beetroot, carrots, shallots

Box 5: silverbeet, English spinach, onions

Box 6: the different lettuces, rocket

In other pots I then planted seeds for my herbs. I also bought some strawberry plants and blueberries.

Now my house probably sounds like a garden of eden brimming with fruit…well I am having some successes and failures, which I’ll talk more about in my next post…until next time – happy gardening – hopefully organically!

My bany tomatoes

I decided to plant things into a tray first and then plant them in the ground/. Here are my corn and other vegetables enjoying the sun!
I decided to plant things into a tray first and then plant them in the ground/. Here are my corn and other vegetables enjoying the sun!

Jayden & Mahya 038

My garden beds, ready to go
My garden beds, ready to go

Wooden Toy Dilema



I have wood on my mind…several things have cropped up to cause this. No pun intended!

Firstly, I have been wanting to buy a little kitchen set up for my kids to create a ‘pretend play area’. My Montessori book tells me, why have pretend, when you can actually have your kids in the kitchen, where they want to be? Well it’s not really where I want them to be and apart from the odd times where I may get my son to help me prepare some food, I thought it best to give him a ‘pretend area’. It is also my way to trying to diversify his interests a little away from cars and trains and I have a daughter and niece who will enjoy playing with it also.

I tried E-Bay to no avail. My few forays into E-Bay have left me wary of buying other people’s crap, as I have done on a few occasions. I know many others beg to differ.

Research at the local toy store and elsewhere showed that these toy kitchens (I wanted wood, as Montessori also says that having beautifully crafted wooden toys is good for kids – they appreciate it apparently. Also I think it looks better than plastic) cost around $250 and up! This was not what I had in mind.

I had about given up the idea and was trying to think of ways to convert a bookshelf into this elusive oven, when Aldi had a toy sale extravaganza and what were they selling? All kinds of wooden toys for kids.  I was very excited and ordered my husband to buy all kinds of these wooden toys: oven and food accessories; dollhouse and spaceship.  But as I did this, I ignored the niggling voice in my head which was questioning where Aldi was sourcing its wood from. At these low prices for which the company prides itself, it surely could not have been sustainably managed forests.

Does this make me a bad Eco-mum? It probably does. Around the time of the purchase, I happened to watch a documentary about the Earth Liberation Front (for more info on them, go to ) and the fact that some of the guys in the group have gone to jail and are effectively in isolation.  After all, deforestation is a major environmental threat and issue. Trees provide habitat to many species, clean our air by absorbing carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas), stabilize soil and prevent erosion, provide us with fruit and other natural resources (like wood) and are beautiful.

Since, I have tried in vain to find where this brand ‘JacknJill’ source their wood from, but I haven’t found anything. I have also gone to the toy stores to see if the alternatives were more environmentally friendly, but they weren’t. I have however found a website that does sell the alternative at a price:

In the end, the price was too hard for me to ignore. I could have avoided the whole thing and not bought anything at all, but sometimes being a mum takes precedence over my moral conscience. I have however vowed to write to Aldi and voice my opinion. At least they should say where the wood comes from, maybe in time, the alternative won’t cost 5 to 6 times more.

Ay ay Naty

One of the challenges facing mothers and those with an inclination towards environmental protection is what to do about the nappy problem: cloth or disposable. I started this challenge with a clear idea in my mind. Cloth nappies it was going to be for my child. I never looked at the life cycle impacts of cloth vs nappies, but I figured millions of plastic nappies buried in landfills around the world could not be good.  I was so determined in this endeavour that I enlisted the help of my mum.  She could not persuade me otherwise, so when she came to stay with me after the birth of my son, I got her to trace down cloth nappies for me.

I was living in Abu Dhabi and I couldn’t find cloth nappies in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, so my mum, on a visit to Iran, hand made cloth nappies for me. She came back armed with two large bags full of cloth nappies – how happy I was. But soon after the birth of my son, I decided to give these nappies a go. Not so easy – on a newborn they are HUGE, especially as you have to put in a liner, the cloth nappy, then a plastic pair of undies over them. I started to use disposable nappies, but thought ‘hey my mum has gone to all this trouble, I will use the cloth ones during the day’. My son however was a TERRIBLE sleeper and a very colicky baby, so when he did sleep, the last thing I wanted was for the cloth nappy to get wet and cold and wake him up, so soon I was using the disposable nappies in the day too. Goodbye cloth nappies,  but they were so well made, 100% cotton, that they never went to waste. I still have them and use them as rags to clean up the kids etc.

Now 4 years later, my son is still in nappies at bedtime (I am yet to fully potty train him, but that is seriously another topic of discussion) and my daughter is in disposable nappies too!

Now however I have discovered Naty  (go the Swedes!). They cost me about $34.00 for 62 nappies which works out at about 55 cents per nappy. The other nappies she was using were about 33 cents per nappy – so clearly there is a price differential that needs to be considered.

What are the ‘eco’ claims of these nappies?

  • Made from GM free corn based film
  • Made of renewable natural materials
  • Chlorine free and fragrance free

How do they stack up? So far – good.  They do the main thing that nappies should do for a baby – absorb! They are also light and so far I’ve noticed that she doesn’t get rashes where she did in the past.

To manage the cost of the nappies – I will  try and see whether I can put her in pants sometimes during the day (though that is hard, as it is winter and my tile floors are cold) and by trying to not change her unless she really needs it!

Does anyone have any cloth nappy experiences? if so, how was it? are you convinced it is the only natural way to go?