"As fears of coronavirus intensify, Australian supermarket shelves have been stripped of dry goods – but it’s gardeners who are best preparedA year’s worth of dried pasta? A hundred cans of tuna? Fistfights over toilet paper? If you’ve been to a supermarket in the past week or so it’s clear that things are not normal.Earlier this year Australians were reeling from a summer of drought and fire, but we were still keeping it together. The national psyche was fortified by an outpouring of compassion and generosity at home and abroad.We held concerts, raised funds and banded together to help everyone and everything affected by the bushfires. Struggling farmers. Families who had lost everything. Koalas with bandaged paws.Where is that generosity and community spirit now?We joke about toilet paper hoarders filling their spare rooms with two-ply, but it’s a symptom of a bigger problem – we’re addicted to consumerism, and even the idea of not being able to buy whatever we want, whenever we want is enough to make us lose our bloody minds.Civilisation has been built on scarcity but the idea is so foreign to first-world modern life we don’t even know where to start. With all the world’s technology and knowledge at our fingertips, we’re planning to survive for months on pasta and toilet paper. People are panic-buying flour with no real idea what they’re going to do with it.My late grandmother lived through poverty, wars and military occupation – if you had asked her how to prepare for hard times, she’d grab a spade and start digging a vegetable garden.If things really get bad, the garden growers will be better prepared for the future than the bunker stockers.If you planted the likes of spinach, Asian greens, snow peas or cabbages this weekend you’d be knee deep in homegrown fresh produce within a month or two, and it could last you all through winter.Even if you don’t have a green thumb – or any actual space for a garden – it’s absurd that we are right now walking straight past overflowing baskets of fresh produce so that if the shops close we can live off cans of tuna.Make sauerkraut from all the cabbages that are in season right now. Get a few heads of cauliflower and fill a dozen jars with piccalilli. Stock your pantry with pickles and ferments.Want to go a little further? Cure a leg of pork. Install the rainwater tank you’ve been thinking about. Rewire the chicken coop. Compost. Set up a window box for herbs. Dry some apple slices in the sun.The supply chains that put food on our family tables are negotiated in multinational boardrooms and they are more fragile than we might realise.I’m not saying we all have to live off-grid in secluded mountain cabins, but shifting a little further toward self-sufficiency and rebuilding more robust, localised economies will reduce waste, save money, reduce our environmental impact, and help us to withstand not just one pandemic, but any other shocks to our systems that might be lurking on the horizon.There’s an often-shared cartoon by the Pulitzer prize-winning cartoonist Joel Pett where one attendee at a climate summit says to another, “What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?”Our financial systems are unlikely to collapse in the near future. In a while, things will be back to normal, just as they were after Sars, the global financial crisis and any of the other global challenges that we are confronted with from time to time.But if we used this as an opportunity to wean ourselves off the 24-hour, on-demand, one-click megastore way of life we’ve become addicted to, would that really be so bad?"
Autumn has arrived and thoughts on the Balcony are turning to planning the Autumn-Winter garden. Many would-be gardeners don't realise that living in a certain place actually determines the type of garden you will have and the plants that you will grow. Focussing on what plants grow best where you live wil help you create a healthy and productive container garden.