There is nothing like the taste and satisfaction of growing your own vegies. Not only are there the health benefits of growing your own produce for your family, you are also helping the planet by reducing your food miles. Kids love planting vegies and watching them grow, so it’s a great outdoor activity for the whole family. If you have never tried or would like a bit of a refresher this is a great place to start.
Where to Plant?
Give your vegie patch the sunniest spot in the garden with a minimum of five hours direct sunlight a day. Good drainage is preferable but you can always build up a garden on top of your soil or plant in pots.
Pick somewhere near the back or front door so you can easily harvest your vegetables and monitor it as you walk by daily. Dig up lawn area or tired ornamental beds if you have to get the ideal spot.
How Big an Area?
Organic Gardening expert Jackie French says to work out whatever lawn area you actually need, then plant up the rest! If you aren’t ready to go to that extreme, which is probably good if you’re just starting out, it’s best to start in a nice manageable size like 2-3m2. You can expand your vegie patch as your skills expand and you get more and more addicted to your fresh, home grown food.
How to set it up?
In a traditionally prepared vegie patch, you need to dig and turn over the soil, breaking up the ‘clods’ of earth into what’s called a fine tilth, or until it’s crumbly.
All vegie patches need a rich soil, so no matter what sort of soil you have, add some mushroom compost or cow manure and sprinkle round some potash, then dig it in.
Otherwise you can make a ‘No Dig’ Vegie Garden by creating an edge and filling in with manure and compost, mulch and newspaper. This method is a lot less hard work!
Mulch keeps the weeds down and the moisture in, and makes a huge difference! Mulch the soil before you plant then scrape the mulch aside for each seedling. This will save you time. Keep the mulch a little away from the new plants so they don’t rot. The best mulch to use for a vegie patch is pea straw or lucerne.
What to plant?
Plant something easy to grow and, more importantly, what you like to eat. Pick from our list of top 10 easy grow herbs and vegetables below, or you can refer to our easy-to-use monthly planting guide!
Top 10 easy grow herbs
Top 10 easy grow vegies
Help nature to control pests in your garden by also planting some beneficial insect attracting flowers like Alyssum, Foxglove, Phacelia, Echinacea, Bergamot, Poppies and Calendula. Include some Coriander and Dill which you can let go to seed and self-propagate in the garden. For more info, please see our Companion Planting Factsheet.
Sow seeds according to the depth and spacing advice on the packet. Seedling tags and our ‘shelftalkers’ (the little signs located in front of the seedlings in the nursery) tell you how far apart to plant your seedlings. Plant seedlings to the same depth as they were in the punnet and always plant into moist soil. Water your seedlings in with a seaweed fertiliser, encouraging new root growth and disease resistance.
Herbs and vegies grow very fast, so they need a good supply of water. More when it’s hot and windy and less when it’s cool. A good rule of thumb for a mulched garden with rich soil is every 1-2 days in the spring / summer and every 2-5 days in the autumn / winter. Add lots of ‘organic matter’ (composts and manures) to the soil. Organic soils grow the best produce with up to 75% less water than in non-organic soils.
When to Plant?
Plant at the right time for the best results! There are two ideal times of year for most herbs and veg. The first is spring, with planting beginning after the last frost, which is usually around late September. Autumn is the other main planting time, as soon as the sting goes out of summer, which is usually around mid-March. Each month in our ‘In Your Garden’ factsheet you will find a list of herbs, vegies and companion plants that can be planted from seeds and seedlings at that time of year. You will find the current month’s ‘In Your Garden’ on the front page of the website. Click here for our easy-to-use monthly planting guide!
If you have a lot of clay, add some gypsum as well as compost. If you are digging into heavy clay in less than a shovels depth, then make a ‘No Dig’ bed.
When pests and disease visit, don’t worry! Caught early, most problems are very simple to deal with. You are not alone!
Look for nearby signage to guide you when you purchase your plants and ask our staff about any common problems to expect before you go home. Observe your patch every day, if you notice something going wrong bring us in an infected piece to diagnose for you.
Armed with this know how, go forth and enjoy your home grown bounty!