Starting a veggie garden isn’t just a great way to reduce your grocery bill; you’ll find your home grown produce will taste much better and you’ll know exactly where it came from. Plus, it’s a great excuse to spend some time outdoors on your own or with family.
Here are some tips to help you get started.
1. Where’s your sun?
The first thing to think about when planting a veggie garden is your garden’s orientation to sun and shade. The plants will want to face South, and most veggies need at least 6-8 hours of full sun – if they don’t get enough light they may perish or not bear as much. Have a look at where the shadows from trees and fences are being cast, and look for the spots with the most continuous light. If your area is shadier than sunlit, leafy vegetable such as spinach and lettuce will usually be okay.
2. Improve your soil
There’s a saying amongst gardeners; “you get out what you put in”. Success usually starts with the soil, and vegetables like moist, well-drained soil best. Always use compost – whether you have sandy or clay dirt. Compost will help to break up the soil, hold water longer for the plants to absorb and will help new roots to grow and promote a bigger plant (and vegetables!). It will also insulate the soil, helping it to keep cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Plants which are bedded in rich soil will also have a natural resistance to insect pests and plant diseases.
3. Get watering
Veggies will need plenty of water, particularly during summer. Water your garden early in the day to conserve moisture loss and help to prevent fungal disease which is spread by warmer temperatures. The most productive way to irrigate is by using soaker hoses and drip lines, which will deliver water slowly and give the roots time to absorb the moisture. If it’s been a long, hot spell, remember to water every day. As a general rule, most vegetable plants need an inch of water per week.
4. Be careful with pest control
The best way to keep pests at bay is to remove overripe produce – it’s an easy target for insects. While it can be frustrating seeing insects get to your plants, exercise patience when it comes to pest control. Healthy plants should be able to stand up to pest invasions, and by putting chemicals in the soil, you may kill beneficial animals, such as worms, too. That being said, there are ways to control pests safely if required – just visit your local garden shop.
If you’re short on space, there are still a number of ways to grow a thriving veggie garden. You can choose varieties of plants that take up less space, such as dwarf varieties (e.g. cherry tomatoes instead of standard tomatoes). If you don’t have the ground space, use above ground containers, such as planter boxes and pots. Containers are also a clever way to extend the growing season, as you can start to move them indoors at night when the cooler weather creeps in. Another solution is to use a vertical garden, picking plants that grow up, rather than out. The best vertical plants are anything that grows on a vine, such as tomatoes, snow peas and cucumbers. For a double whammy space saver, use hanging pots, vertically against a wall.
6. A little bit of love
Show your garden some love by spending time seeing what’s happening to your plants. If you’re really getting into it, keep a diary so you can learn year on year and improve your garden. The more attention you give your plants, the better they’ll be. And they’ll reward you with delicious bounty!