CHECK OUT THESE SUPER TIPS FOR YOUR VEGGIE GARDEN
Story and pictures The Gardener’s Grow To Eat magazine
1. DECORATE WITH VEG
Some vegetables, especially those with pretty leaves and stems like spinach “Bright Lights” or mustard, can be used creatively in an ornamental garden. When planning a garden design, don’t relegate the vegetables to the bottom of the garden. Leafy veg come in various colours, textures and patterns to create contrasting and dramatic scenes. Think blood sorrel, mizuna and tatsoi for bold, striking colour. Many vegetables make attractive bedding plants, and the quick-growing ones like lettuce are great space fillers. Interplanting your favourite flowers with onions or garlic is also a good pest deterrent.
2. EXTEND THE SEASON
There are some plants that will thrive in the heat and others that will quickly go to seed. Get to know your veg, and use some of these tips to extend the growing season:
• Pick and pick more. It’s important to continue picking vegetables so they won’t go to seed. Some vegetables, like squashes, beans, brinjals and peppers, will stop producing new yields if you ignore them.
• Keep up with watering. There is a fine line between overwatering and underwatering. As a rule, don’t allow the soil to dry out and stress your plants, and avoid watering in direct sunlight as this may shock your plants. Watering in the morning and evening is best.
• Give them enough sun. Root vegetables, peppers and tomatoes need at least five hours of sunlight a day, while delicate leafy vegetables like lettuce and spinach like partial shade and prefer afternoon sun. • Weed some more. As your plants get going and cover the soil, you may be tempted to stop weeding, but weeds compete for nutrients in the soil so carry on with the task to increase your vegetable yields.
3. REPURPOSE THE JUNK
Take a look at the pile of junk you may have accumulated over the years and see if there are any gems you can plant up with a herb or two. Make sure the rust has made some drainage holes, add some good-quality potting soil, compost, a handful of superphosphate or bonemeal, and a handful of organic fertiliser and you are ready to plant.
4. SPARE THE WEEDS FOR THE BEES
We know that some of you (and us) dream of a smooth, emerald-green lawn devoid of even a single weed. But a vast expanse of lawn is virtually a green desert for wildlife. Instead of mowing it compulsively every few days, leave it until it’s just a tiny bit unkempt and give dandelions the chance to flower. The bees and butterflies will thank you for this, especially in spring when they are a valuable source of pollen and nectar.
5. GARDEN INSIDE THE BOX
This variation of a raised garden can squeeze in a lot of healthy veg into a small space. Start harvesting regularly as it gets overcrowded and it will keep everything looking neat. Water regularly and feed every two weeks with a liquid plant food.
6. GET THE WATERING RIGHT
As well as ample sunshine, providing enough water at the right time ensures a good yield and good-quality crops. Daily attention should be paid to watering because growth is so rapid in spring.
Small seedlings need only a little water, but they need it more frequently because their roots are shallow (in the top 5cm of soil), and the soil dries out more quickly near the surface.
Larger plants need more water but at longer intervals. The roots of a plant are almost double the volume, lengthwise, of the leafy section above the ground.
7. MOVEABLE FRUIT AND VEG
If you find your vegetables and fruit trees are not getting enough sun, invest in a set of wheels for them so that you can move them out of the wind and blazing sun anytime you wish. This will help you to get the best out of them.
8. DON’T FORGET THE FLOWERS
Edible flowers continue to be popular, especially those that are also pollinator friendly. Bees and other pollinators increase the yield by pollinating crops like cucumbers, melons and squashes. The best blooms for the veggie garden include sweet alyssum, zinnias, cosmos, nasturtiums and calendula.
9. SOW SEED
Most veggies can be sown in situ, and this is much cheaper than buying seedlings. Pack and label left-over seed and keep it in a dark place for succession sowing later in the season. Even with the extra seeds for the grubs and the weather, it’s best to plant what and how much you will eat so that your whole garden is not overrun with one type of herb or vegetable.
Prepare the beds well before planting with lots of compost, superphosphate or bonemeal and organic fertiliser. Keep the soil moist during germination and thin out seedlings when they are big enough to gently handle. All the planting instructions will be on the seed packet – when to plant, how far apart and depth. Make a note of these and follow them – the experts know their stuff!
10. FERTILISE CONSISTENTLY
Keep a fertilising schedule for the best results. Keep a note of what is working and what isn’t. Include in your schedule a good dose of compost or worm castings. By keeping a schedule, you will find it easier to control feeding and not fall into the trap of over or under fertilising, both of which can