Healthier Homemade Ginger Beer

Healthier Homemade Ginger Beer

It’s perfectly fizzy, has an awesome kick of ginger and packed with probiotics. I promise you, you are going to want to try this homemade ginger beer!

The fizziness and the probiotics come from something called a ginger bug, a jar of lacto-fermented ginger. The ginger bug is made up of filtered water, fresh ginger and sugar. You feed a bit of fresh ginger and sugar every day to a jar until it starts bubbling away. The bubbling will tell you your ginger bug is active and full of the Lactobacillus bacteria, which is responsible for turning all the sugar in there to lactic acid, which in turn, is responsible for the probiotics and good digestive health.

This ginger bug will also carbonate your drink so it’s so fizzy and delicious without the need for any gadgets like a soda stream. This recipe is for a ginger beer, but this ginger bug can carbonate any fruit juice, or tea you like.

Ginger Bug

To make the ginger bug, start with pouring 500ml of filtered water into a sterilised glass jar. Add to it 2cm of freshly grated ginger and 2 teaspoons sugar. I just use plain cane sugar for this part. Cover the jar with a cloth and keep in a warm dark place.

Every day for the next 2-6 days (depending on how warm your home is), feed the jar another 2cm of ginger and 2 tsp of sugar. After about 4 days you might see it start to bubble and the ginger will rise to the top, though again depending on the heat of your home it may take longer.

Once your bug is bubbling and active* (put your ear by it, you should also be able to hear it bubble), then you can make your ginger beer base.

*After you have used your bug, top it up with water, ginger and sugar. Then you can store it in the fridge in a sealed jar until you next use it, but feed it once a week to keep it alive, 2cm ginger and 2 tsp sugar. If you want to use it again, take it out of the fridge and feed it at least 6 hours before you need it.

For this recipe, I filled two 750ml beer bottles.

In a saucepan, I combined 1.4 liters of filtered water, 1/3 cup – 1/2 cup of sugar (depending on how sweet you like it), a pinch of salt and 3cm fresh ginger, grated. I used coconut sugar in this step because it adds flavour and a gorgeous caramel colour. Warm this up to a simmer, until the sugar dissolves, then let it cool down.

I also added in 4 pieces of my dehydrated limes. Lime or lemon is definitely necessary for flavour but they don’t need to be dried. That’s just what I use because that’s what I’ve got. I add my limes in at the start when the liquid is warm so they can rehydrate quickly. If you are using fresh lemon or lime, add the juice of one lemon or lime, once the sugar water has cooled to room temperature.

Once your liquid has cooled, it can be strained and the grated ginger can be discarded. To this strained liquid, add in 1/3 cup of strained active ginger bug. Pour into the two bottles (use a funnel, or a jug with a spout) and seal them airtight.

Store in a cool dark place for 2-3 days, though I would check for carbonation after 2. If it’s fizzy you can put it in the refrigerator, if not, seal it back up and let it sit another day.

Once ready, serve chilled. Enjoy!


Getting ahead in the Garden- Starting Seedlings Indoors

Getting ahead in the Garden- Starting Seedlings Indoors

One of the best ways to get ahead in the vegetable garden and save money is to start your own seedlings inside, from scratch.

In the garden centre, the seedling punnets can be pretty expensive at $2-$3 for only 6 or so seedlings. A packet of seeds is that price but for 100 seeds! What you are really paying for is the time that was spent growing the seedlings.

A little preparation and planning now can mean a full vegetable garden for only a little money.

Spring Seedlings

I start some of my spring seedlings nice and early but I won’t physically plant most of the seedlings into the garden until mid/late October when the ground is much warmer. Even if the air feels warmer as the weather warms up, the cold ground takes a lot longer to warm.

In the meantime, while the weather is warming, my seedlings will get moved to bigger containers as they outgrow their starting ones, and a glasshouse when they get bigger. If you don’t have a glasshouse or much room in the sunniest spot of your house, then don’t plant too many seedlings all at once. Some seeds such as pumpkins and zucchini do muc better being direct sown in the garden when the soil has warmed up but as in my own garden I have a very short growing season because of lack of sun, I start mine earlier. Assess your own garden and space before deciding when to start.

Everything in the nightshade family such as tomatoes, eggplants, capsicum and, chili can all be started inside late winter/early spring as they need a long growing season. They can be transplanted to bigger pots as they grow and keep them in a sunny space.

If you have access to a glasshouse you can start cucurbits such as melons and cucumbers early spring too if they will end up in there. If you don’t have one of those, it would be best to wait 4-6 weeks before your last frost date before sowing those inside.

Depending on where you are situated and the chance of frost in your area, the date of planting in the garden may have to be pushed out later.

What you need:

  1. A warm and light space. Warmth is most important as the seed germinates, but light becomes vital when the seed pops through the soil. If your seedlings don’t get enough sunlight they’ll become thin and ‘leggy’ as they search for the sun. If you don’t have a sunny window, invest in a grow light like this one. They aren’t too expensive and the LED red and blue lights mimic the sun.
  2. Seed Trays- There are many different sorts you can get, including biodegradable ones like jiffy pellets that can be planted straight in the ground.
  3. Seed raising mix- If you’re not using jiffy pellets which include the soil, an organic seed raising mix will give your seeds a great start. If you’re on a tight budget you can make your own seed raising mix, here.
  4. Labels (for what you planted and the date)- As much as you think you’ll remember, trust me, you end up forgetting what you planted and where and when. Labels are essential!
  5. Watering- Something that waters gently, like a spray bottle, so the soil doesn’t move around too much and disturb the seed.
  6. Seeds- of course, you need seeds.

Soaking Seeds

This part isn’t compulsory but you can soak larger seeds, like beans and pumpkin before planting. It shaves off even more time as it will soften the protective seed coat and let the seedling emerge quicker. This is especially helpful if you’re starting your seedlings off later and you need to catch up on time!


Place them in a bowl of water for 8-12 hours. After soaking, take care when handling the seeds as they’ll be more delicate and plant them in your seed trays straight away.

Seed Trays

There are many different seed trays available, including using what you have at home.

A plastic container with a few holes punched at the bottom will work fine, but I definitely prefer biodegrading containers that can be planted in the garden without disturbing the seedling roots. This is especially important if you’re starting seedlings like beans, beetroot or artichokes inside which don’t transplant particularly well.

Biodegradable seed trays could include cups made from newspaper, egg cartons, cardboard boxes or Jiffy pellets They are little, compressed pellets made from peat. They expand as you add water and provide all the nutrients your growing seed needs until it is time to transplant in the garden. Once it is time, you can pop the whole thing in and it will decompose in the soil


To keep things extra warm, you can place your seedlings in mini greenhouses.

You can buy them like the one pictured above, or make your own.

D.I.Y Greenhouse

Place your seedling trays in a large container that can that has higher sides than the seedling trays. Cover that container with plastic wrap and punch a few holes in it for aeration. 

If you’re not using jiffy pellets which include the soil, fill your seed trays with seed raising mix and use a spray bottle to moisten the soil. Sprinkle your seeds over this moistened soil and gently press the seeds into the soil. You can add a small layer of soil over the top of the large seeds but for the smaller ones, you won’t need to cover them. Pressing them down will suffice.

Keep your soil moistened daily or as it dries out, but don’t wet it too much that it gets waterlogged.

Make sure to label what you have planted and include the date that you planted the seeds. This is so you can keep a record of how it is growing and know when it should be ready.

Transplanting and hardening off

As your seedlings emerge, the first set of leaves it grows are the seed leaves and aren’t considered the ‘true leaves’, the next set of leaves it grows however are. Once your seedling grows two sets of true leaves, you can start hardening it off to prepare it for life outside.

Place your seed trays outside on a calm day for 3-4 hours so they get used to the sunlight and outside temperatures. Decrease your watering to every second or third day. Slowly increase their exposure to cooler temperatures.

As the ground warms and there is no risk of frost anymore, your hardened plants can be transplanted. Don’t rush this step though, it’s not worth the risk transplanting them too soon only to lose them to a cold snap.

After transplanting your seedlings, water them well with Seasol to avoid transplant shock.

Happy Gardening!

Winter in the Garden- August To Do List

Winter in the Garden- August To Do List

Buds on deciduous trees are swelling, there’s an abundance of citrus and spring bulbs are standing tall ready to show their faces (or in many cases, they already have!)  August is just so close to spring that you can practically smell it.

What to sow this month from seed: broad beans, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, Chinese cabbages, onions, peas, rocket, lettuce, radishes, silverbeet, spinach

What to plant this month from seedlings: asparagus, onions, broccoli, cabbages, garlic, silverbeet, lettuce, Chinese cabbages, spinach, silverbeet

August in the Garden

Prepare garden beds for spring planting

With the wet winter weather nearly behind us, we can asses the damage it has done to the soil. The pounding of the rain will have compacted it as well as people stepping on it when it’s wet.

Take time this month to prepare your vegetable beds and return them to their former glory by adding organic matter to the soil in the form of things such as compost, aged and well-rotted manure, chopped seaweed,  leaf mould and lots of mulch to keep all those nutrients locked in there.

I like to collect as much as I can from my nearby beaches and forests in August, so I can lay it on thickly in all my empty spaces in the garden. By the time I plant spring seedlings (in October/November), it will be amazing soil.

Enjoy your citrus

Homegrown citrus is at its best right now. If you’re overloaded with fruit, there are an overload of recipes out there to make sure it’s all put to good use. Try middle eastern preserved lemons to add a citrus kick to roast chicken, salad dressing or pasta. Tui Garden Products has a great recipe on their website. You can find it here.

August in the Garden

Plant salad greens in containers

Things can still take a little longer to grow as the sun doesn’t stay up as long as it will in spring and summer. Growing salad greens such as rocket in containers mean you can place them in the sunniest spots and move them around if need be. They grow quickly and offer a ‘cut and come again’ harvest so you can be eating fresh salad greens as you please.

August in the Garden

Start a compost bin

If you haven’t got one already, setting up a compost bin will help you get rid of all the fallen leaves and plant debris as well as kitchen scraps, vacuum dust, pet hair, and newspaper. You don’t actually need a physical bin if you have room to make a compost heap do so, as the bins do fill up quickly.

A compost heap needs a mix of ‘brown layers’ and ‘green layers’. The brown provide the carbon and are things like twigs, dead leaves, straw, hay, cardboard, and newspaper. The green provide the nitrogen and are your fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings, eggshells etc.

You want to layer your compost like a lasagna. For each layer of brown, add a layer of green. Try to make sure no pieces are too big in your compost as they’ll take longer to break down. Then you wait as the worms do their thing and break it down for you. To speed things up, cover the compost to keep it warm (with a lid if it’s a bin or a burlap sack if it’s a heap) and turn it once a week.

Start seedlings inside

You can get well ahead in your spring planting by starting seedlings inside. Here’s some more info on starting seedlings inside.

Plant Fruit Trees 

It’s still a good time to plant deciduous fruit trees right now but do so before they start to blossom. Garden centers should have them on special now which is an added bonus.

Treat Leaf curl 

If your trees were affected by leaf curl, treat them now with an organic copper spray, do it before the buds on the trees burst. If you don’t, it’s most likely that your trees will get affected again by the fungal spores left over winter. If you had a thrip problem, use a horticultural oil* to smother over-wintering thrip eggs.

*If you are using a sulphur spray instead of copper to treat any tree diseases, do not use the horticultural oil.

Happy gardening!

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