How to start your own veggie patch
A thriving home veggie garden has all sorts of benefits, including the satisfaction of growing your own food, the money saved, and the thrill of cooking and eating the freshest produce possible.
The challenge is in getting started. So, if you’re keen to cultivate a veggie patch of your very own, here’s where to begin.
Choose a sunny spot
Vegetable gardens need a sunny position, so choose the sunniest place available in your garden. A north or north-east facing position that enjoys 4-5 hours of direct sun a day is ideal.
Plan your crop
The first thing to do is select plants that you’ll actually eat. Think about the vegetables and herbs you use frequently, and then look at how easy or difficult growing your own might be (if you’re a novice gardener, it’s best to start with easy-to-grow options).
- Fast growing plants include lettuces, spinach and radishes
- Cherry tomatoes grow quicker than large tomatoes
- Climbing plants like beans work well in small spaces
- Some of the simplest plants to grow include mint, silverbeet, leafy greens, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, radishes, squash, cucumber and spring onions
- Herbs are a great option because they often last longer on the plant. That means you can pick what you need – large bunches from the supermarket often go to waste
- Same goes for lettuces and sprouts, which wilt quickly when bought from the store
- Choose plants that provide multiple crops. For example, beans will provide many crops over a single season, while cauliflower can only be picked once
- If you’re time poor, choose easy-to-grow plants like sorrel, rhubarb, leeks or Jerusalem artichokes, which thrive with little attention. These can even tolerate shade quite well if sunlight is limited
- If you’re concerned about waste, choose plants that can be easily stored and preserved – for example, via drying or pickling, or as jams or chutneys
This is a great opportunity to support a local business, like Plant Smith in Preston, who have seedlings available to order online.
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Timing your crop
Succession planting (when you stagger the planting of your seeds) ensures you will have veggies all year long. You can use a planting calendar to determine the best time to plant different things. For example, vegetables like tomatoes, eggplants and zucchini need warm soil, so plant them as the weather heats up, not as winter approaches.
Prep the soil
Prep the soil around a month before planting begins. This is done by turning it over with a shovel and adding around two kilograms of compost and a few handfuls of per square kilometre.
If you’ve got heavy, clay-based soil, you’ll need to work a clay-breaker like gypsum through before building it up with compost. Alternatively, if the soil quality is too poor to grow plants, consider creating a raised garden bed, which will provide a deep layer of fertile soil.
Avoid leaving bare soil, which makes it easy for weeds to grow in. Most plants can be around 30 centimetres apart. As they grow bigger, they can be pruned back so they don’t crowd each other. However, don’t rush to fill all the space immediately. Start with plants you know you’ll use frequently, then plant more as you find your feet.
Watering and fertilizer
Collected rainwater is a great option if you have room for a water tank. When watering, water the soil rather than the plant itself – that can lead to fungal diseases.
Vegetables need regular watering to grow quickly. Regular fertilisation is also crucial, and leafy vegetables in particular need liquid fertiliser every week or so during their growing period.
Recycling scraps and leaves in a composting bin is a great way to fertilize your vegetable garden. Contact your local council to get started – some will run free information sessions and workshops. If you have limited space, look into worm farms or bokashi buckets (which can even be kept indoors).
While setting up a vegetable garden can take some effort, doing the job properly will mean that you can enjoy a steady supply of delicious fresh produce for years to come.