There is nothing tastier than fresh produce and picking it from your own garden can be incredibly satisfying. It’s prime planting season across Australia at the moment, so here is a simple guide to starting your own vegetable garden.
If you are new to gardening, start small while you hone your skills. The most common mistake new gardeners make is planting too much too soon. Start with two or three crops and expand your garden as you learn along the way.
Before you start, there are a few things to consider.
Location, location, location!
For your vegetable garden to thrive, it’s important to put it in the right position. Consider your space and find a spot in the garden that receives good sun. Most vegetables need at least six hours of sun per day. The afternoon sun can be harsh in the Australian summer, so morning sun is preferred.
Also, consider how accessible your veggie patch will be. It should easy to get to so that you can easily keep an eye on it and harvest your bounty. If you can see your vegetable garden from the kitchen window – even better!
Choose a solution that fits your space
There are so many options available for growing your own vegetables these days. Even if you only have a small courtyard or balcony, it is possible to grow your own vegetables.
If you have a large yard, you may wish to prepare in-ground garden beds and plant directly into the ground.
Raised garden beds come in many different shapes and sizes. They are great for courtyards and balconies. They are also kinder on the body as you don’t have to spend as much time bending over when preparing or tending to your garden.
Wicking beds take a little bit of extra effort to set up but can yield excellent results if done correctly. Essentially, a wicking bed waters the plants from below drawing water from a reservoir in the base of the container. They are ideal for the drier South-Eastern parts of the country but can be used anywhere. You can purchase a wicking bed kit, or you can make your own from scratch.
For those with very limited space, don’t despair! Consider vertical gardens for growing compact greens, hanging baskets for strawberries and tomatoes and pots for herbs.
Make the best soil
A great vegetable garden starts with great soil. Be sure to add lots of organic matter, like compost, to boost the nutrient density of your soil. The roots will penetrate soft soil easier, so a loose, loamy soil is ideal.
Choose crops for your climate
Start with vegetables that are easy to grow in the climate that you live in. Talk to your local garden centre for advice on what grows well in your area.
Crops that are easy to grow in most areas of Australia include Asian greens, bush cherry tomatoes, peas, spinach, lettuce, capsicum, eggplants and a variety of herbs.
Consider planting some flowers or herbs as ‘good neighbours’ to your vegetables to create bio-diversity and attract beneficial insects.
Caring for your seedlings
Now your plants are in the ground, how do you give them the best chance of success? First and foremost, regular watering. The most effective method is deep soak watering with drip irrigation to ensure the roots have enough water. It’s a good idea to set up drip irrigation on a timer to water morning and night, so you don’t have to think about it too much.
Throughout the summer months, your plants may need protection from the sun and wind. Options include cheap garden umbrellas, an old bed sheet over a clothesline or a shade-cloth structure.
As the crops come on, you may need to protect them from birds, insects or other pests. Try a simple net or talk to your local garden centre about more specific insect control.
Continue to add nutrients to your vegetable garden to ensure abundant, tasty crops. Organic, liquid fertilisers are nutrient-dense and easy to apply. Add mulch in between planting crops to replenish nutrients and be sure to different crops.
It’s a good idea to visit your vegetable patch daily to inspect it for general health and also to check your crops. Make it part of your daily routine, perhaps over your morning cuppa. The habit will be good for your health as well as your plants.