There is nothing quite like picking your own vegies, just as you need them, fresh from your own garden. It’s incredibly rewarding to know exactly where they came from and the work that went into growing them. And, being able to share your bounty with family and friends is rather delightful, too. You don’t need a large space to start a garden either – whether you have a backyard, courtyard or balcony, as long the area gets sunlight, you can grow. Here’s how.
Most vegies need at least 6-8 hours to grow well. This means bright direct sunlight for most of the day and ideally, with shelter from the hot afternoon sun. If your garden receives less than 6 hours, you will still be able to grow certain vegies, like leafy greens or root vegies, but fruiting vegies like tomatoes, beans and corn won’t grow well. Always check plant labels for specific planting requirements.
Before you even think planting, you need to first look at your soil. For vegies, it needs to be moist, but well-draining, which means it needs to be able to hold onto water, but not too much otherwise this will lead to issues with root rot. If you find your soil is hard to dig into, it’s most likely made up of clay, which holds water well, but a little too well. Plants won’t last long in this. You can improve your soil by adding liquid gypsum and organic matter like bagged compost or aged manure. If it’s too hard to dig, consider using a raised garden bed or planting in pots.
When planting in raised garden beds, pots or troughs, ensure the containers have adequate drainage. This typically means the pot will have between 4-5 drainage holes to allow water to flow freely after watering. To plant, always use a premium quality potting mix. You’ll see the red tick on the soil bags to indicate it’s premium, versus the black tick which is a standard mix. The difference is a couple of dollars, but your plants will appreciate it.
“You don’t need a large space to start garden either – whether you have a backyard, courtyard or balcony, as long the area gets sunlight, you can grow.”
To encourage an abundance of vegies and fruits, regularly feed your plants with a specific vegie or fruit fertiliser. My go-to is a liquid fertiliser – I simply add a capful to my watering can once a fortnight and the plants love it! You may prefer some less laborious or time-consuming – there are pellets or granules which can be applied a handful of times throughout the season. Visit your local nursery to see what’s available and what best suits your growing needs.
Water regularly to keep the soil moist, especially on hot days. Ensure you water deeply and try to do it the morning or later afternoon. When watering, try to water as much of the soil as possible instead of the leaves as wet leaves can encourage fungal problems.
Pests and diseases
Even if you live on the top floor of an apartment block, your plants may eventually succumb to pests and diseases. Keep a close eye on your plants and if you notice anything strange, like leaves yellowing or small insects on the leaves, get it diagnosed – taking leaves or photos in to your local nursery will help – so you can treat efficiently and effectively. Sap-sucking insects like aphids, whitefly and scale are common insect pests. It’s important to treat them as soon as possible as they can reduce the overall vigour of your plants.
The time you’ve all been waiting for! The general rule is to pick often, and this will help encourage more leaves or fruits to develop. With vegies like lettuce, swiss chard and spring onion, you can begin to harvest leaves on the outside of the plant first – there is no need to wait until the plant fully matures.
Tip! If you find you constantly use a particularly vegie, sow successive plantings – usually 3-4 weeks after the initial planting – to ensure you have a steady supply throughout the season.
Once the season finishes, most plants will begin to wind down and die off. Remove plants and add them to the compost bin or green waste and prepare your soil for the next season.
What to grow now
Fruiting vegies: tomatoes, zucchinis, sweet corn, squash, okra, beans, eggplants and chillies
Leafy greens: spinach, lettuce, bok choy, swiss chard, rocket, basil, chives and most herbs
Root vegies: spring onions, carrot and radish