Home-grown vegies fresh from the garden always taste better than supermarket produce. And once you’ve set up a garden bed or even a few pots on your balcony, growing your own can save you money.
The process can be a bit daunting for beginners, but it is all about planning and preparation. Put the plants into the right soil conditions in the right spot and they will do the rest!
Winter is a great time to get started. Establish garden beds now and you’ll be ready to plant in early spring, and harvesting a haul of produce by early summer.
The most critical starting point for your vegetable patch is deciding where to place your crop so it has the best chance of success. Pick an open position with several hours of direct sunlight each day but sheltered from the wind. The space also needs to be big enough to allow room for plants to grow but not such a big patch that it is hard to manage when it comes to watering and weeding.
Getting the soil right is the next thing to consider. Even if you have a suitable spot in the garden with soil that seems OK, it is good to give it a boost with some aged manure, compost and soil conditioner. You can buy these in bulk or in bags from garden centres.
If you have hard, rocky, sandy or clay soil, it might be a good idea to use raised beds and fill with bulk vegie-growing mix from a landscape supplies store. You can buy a raised bed kit from the hardware store to assemble yourself, or if you’re handy with a saw, it’s not difficult to build your own by bolting together timber sleepers.
Selecting which vegies to grow is the fun bit. It can be tempting to go crazy with lots of varieties, but think about what you use most, or special favourites that are hard to find in the shops. Focus on what is going to grow best in your area at this time of year – for early spring plantings, reliable favourites such as tomatoes, beans, lettuce and capsicums are a safe bet.
Follow the planting guide on the punnet labels or seed pack for how far to space plants and whether they need to be staked or have any other form of support.
Give seedlings a good dose of liquid fertiliser once they’re in the ground, and repeat this every couple of weeks. Depending on rainfall, it will be necessary to water regularly. Mulching with pea or lucerne straw will help conserve water and add some goodness to the soil as well.
It is important to keep an eye out for pests. There is plenty of information online on common problems and pests, but also check with the experts at your local garden centre if you have any questions.
Once you get started and are harvesting your own tasty produce, you’ll find the process addictive. And the more you grow, the better you’ll understand how to do it better.
Look for gardening clubs or produce sharing groups in your area to get more tips and to meet like-minded locals.