Once you have tasted your own home grown veggies there will be no turning back! In times of crisis we begin to realise the importance of a certain level of self-sufficiency. For most people the easiest way to be more self sufficient is to grow your own food! It may seem a daunting task at first but as you follow the steps you will find that it’s something that feels very natural and fulfilling.
While everyone can see the practical advantages of growing your own food (healthier, saving money, less chemicals, convenient) there are so many other less obvious wins that come from having a garden. Working in your garden regularly can reduce stress and anxiety and is a great way to be creative and practice self discipline. You will also be helping to absorb C02 from the air you breathe and give the bees a new patch to find their pollen.
1. What to grow
There are several factors to consider when deciding what to plant. One being the time of year and your local climate. Take into account the amount of sun and space you have available and don’t forget.. what you and your family like to eat the most! My advice would be to choose a variety, and if you’re new to gardening, choose something that’s easy to grow. I’d suggest Leafy greens, root vegetables, cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli, strawberries, potatoes, green beans, Zucchini, Garlic, Onions, and Squash.
Don’t be afraid to explore and try out uncommon types and remember that you won’t succeed every time. Failure is an integral part of success, you will only improve by learning from your mistakes and trying new techniques.
2. Where to plant your garden
Depending on your own circumstances and what you would like to grow, this could be obvious or not so obvious. If you’re in a house with a small yard then you need only clear some space in the ground, think about lifting some pavers or some of your lawn if you need more space.
A great option for most people in small spaces is gardening in containers. You can use household items from plastic washing tubs, buckets, polystyrene boxes or regular pots, just make sure to put some drainage holes in the bottom. Use what you already have and recycle, it’s all a part of being more sustainable. If you’re thinking of planting a few different varieties you might consider buying some large planters or raised bed kits from your local gardening supplier. If you want to go full DIY mode, raised garden beds are pretty simple to make and there are numerous tutorials out there, you just need to source some wood and some tools.
Have a look at your space and observe what positions get the most sunlight. Most vegetables grow well with plenty of sun! Containers are great in this respect because you can move them according to what species of plant you’re growing and how much sunlight they need.
The soil that you plant your veggies in is so important! After all your plants will draw their nutrients from the soil. The better soil you have, the more nutritious and delicious your crops will be.
The safest option with soil is to buy specific types from your local gardening supplier, look for a premium multi-purpose type or something specific to what you’re trying to grow.
If you’re planting straight into the ground you might want to do some research on your specific soil type and even get a test kit to make sure you have a balanced base to start growing.
On top of soil it helps to have a layer of mulch which will improve your soil and protect your plants from drying out. You can buy many different varieties of mulch but old newspapers or (non-toxic) cardboard does the same job.
You will want to top up the nutrients in the soil once your plants have grown a little bit, the best way to do this is with compost (natural option) or store bought fertiliser.
You can start your veggie garden using seeds or you can buy transplants from a gardening store. Either method works, but if you’re starting from seeds you will be waiting longer and there’s a higher fail rate. There are different recommendations for each species but a good rule to remember is to plant your seedlings far enough apart. This varies from plant to plant but keep in mind how big the plant will be when it is fully grown. You do not want your plants to touch each other. Plant in damp soil and water after it’s been transplanted. Watering should be regular, you don’t want the soil to dry out completely but soil that is too wet can also cause problems. Wait until the soil is almost dry before watering again.
Don’t forget to add a layer of mulch on the surface of the garden after you have finished planting. Mulch will help the soil retain moisture and encourage the worms. Make sure the mulch does not touch the plants.
5. Companion Planting
This may be a new term for some, let me explain. There are some plants that grow better when they are planted next to other compatible plants, there are a few reasons why you might plant specific varieties next to each other. It could help to deter pests, enhance flavour, give growing support or provide nutrients. Learn about companion planting. Some well known combinations are corn, beans, and squash or try planting tomatoes, basil, and onions together. It’s also a great idea to have flowers around your veggie patch to attract pollinators like bees, butterflies and other insects.
6. Caring for your plants
Once you have done the planting, that’s the hardest part done! Now all it takes is patience, observation and regular watering. If you see any weeds, get rid of them (roots and all) as soon as you can. You don’t want any competition for your crops. Most fruits and vegetables will require some kind of fertiliser to turn out their best. Research what fertiliser is best for your specific needs. Compost is a great all rounder and is the safest and most natural option.
Pick your delicious, home-grown vegetables when they’re the right colour and are still tender for the best flavour. Picking the fruits young will also help encourage the plants to keep producing. If the seeds inside the fruits begin to mature that will slow down the production of the crop.
For leaf and lettuce crops cut them within 5cm of the ground to encourage new growth. For root vegetables they are best harvested fresh from the ground once they are the right size.
Everyone can have a garden, be it a single tomato plant on your window sill or a full scale kitchen garden. The most important step is to begin! One you’ve started you can continually add and grow your collection and your knowledge too!
If you’ve never experienced the joy of accomplishing more than you can imagine, plant a garden. – Robert Brault