Now, before you get planting your veggie garden, there are a number of basics that you need to know first – from soil preparation and planting, to seasons, weather, and watering habits. We’ll start from the very top and offer a few nifty tips along the way!
Firstly, you need to decide where you would like to place your veggie garden. Take a walk around your garden, look for a nice spot that has both shade and sunlight (depending on your plants' needs). Once you have found the perfect location, mark off where you want your beds to be.
Now it’s time to prepare your soil and pack it full of nutrients! This is a very important step, so keep reading. Dig out about 25cm of soil and put it aside (this is your topsoil), then dig out another 25cm of soil and keep it in a separate, second pile. Now, fill in the hole with organic material - such as manure, some dry leaves, cut grass, bone meal, wood chips, hay, etc. - and water it. Once that is done, you can replace the second batch of soil over the organic layer, then put the topsoil on top. To add more nutrients to the soil to feed your plants, top the soil with a thick layer of compost then rake it all neatly. And that’s the soil done!
Tip: For anything to grow, you need to have good quality soil that drains well. Too much water can drown your plants. To find out if you have the right soil, dig a 50cm hole, get the hosepipe and fill it with water. If there is still water at the bottom of the hole after about half an hour, then you have bad drainage. You can make the soil's drainage better by digging further into the hole and covering the bottom with some gravel and some soil.
With the soil prepared, you now need to decide what you would love to plant in your veggie garden. You can plant whatever you like, just make sure you plant them in the right season or else they will not take. A good time to start planting a number of different vegetables is in the second half of the year, around about July and August. And, if you are feeling a little nervous about starting your own veggie garden and just want to get a feel for it first then plant easy-growing plants, such as green beans, carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers, peas and onions. Once you have those down, you can try your hand at other veggies!
Tip: When it comes to planting seeds, be sure to plant seeds at least three times its width into the ground. Also, to protect your plants and growing veggies from birds and rodents, place a chicken wire “cage” around your beds.
To keep your veggie garden alive, you will definitely need to water it! Give it a good watering at least twice a week, or even three times a week if the weather has been extremely hot or if your soil is overly dry. If your plants wilt, then you may need to water them more often. Just be sure not to over-water your plants as you can end up drowning and killing them.
Tip: Soil must always feel damp, and if this is not, then put mulch over the soil. It will help stop moisture from evaporating.
Along with the hobby of maintaining a veggie garden, is the problem of having pesky little critters destroying and damaging your plants! There are several options you can use in order to keep your plants healthy and bug-free. It’s a little more expensive but you can use organic insecticides and set up snail traps to keep the slimy creatures out.
Tip: You don't need to splurge on insecticides, there are many homemade alternatives that you can whip up yourself.
When picking out fertiliser, your best bet is organic. But if you are looking to keep this hobby on a low budget, then you can easily just make your own fertiliser at home. All you will need is a plastic bag filled with manure. Fill an old dustbin or bucket with water, then place the bag in the water to soak and stew for about two weeks. After the two weeks, take the bag out of the water and store the fluid in the dustbin. When you need to fertilise your plants, use some of this fluid diluted with some water. It's that simple.
And now that you have all the tips and knowledge that you need, you can start growing your very own veggie garden! If you have any other tips or advice for fellow green thumbs, comment below! Happy gardening!
As the season moves forward, the growing cycle slowly starts to reset and everything that was once green now shrivels away. This is the perfect opportunity to prepare your grow areas for the next season. Mulching is a way to preserve your soil during the harsh winter ahead. Mulch also adds nutrients to the soil so choosing the right mulch is essential. Top choices would be manure, tree bark or grass clippings. Think of it as dressing your grow area in a newly knitted jersey of some sort. Make sure you remove all weeds and other no no's from the prospective mulching spots and dress in a thick layer of preferred mulch.
As the leaves turn from green to auburn to brown don't just rake them all up and toss them into the bin. Start a compost heap. This goes for all yard clippings as well. Empty the cut grass from your lawn mower's bin straight into your designated compost spot. Reclamation is priority number two when it comes to gardening. The idea is to lower our carbon footprint; not add to it.
Just because we grow a tad slower during colder days should not be an excuse to stop doing what we love. Plug in that grinder, grab your shovel and sharpen the bevel on your spade and shovel. Another top trick would be to remove all gunk and soil build up on the prongs of your garden forks. This makes a huge difference when spring shows itself in September.
Autumn is the best time to plant fruit trees. And with the massive drought we went through, fruit will become even more expensive the further we drift into the year. Dig a hole one and half shovels deep, mix in some compost, soil and bonemeal into the hole and plant a fruit tree. Just last week we planted two pomegranate trees and one fig tree. It's a lot easier and way cheaper than one would think. Just make sure you mulch the soil around the tree very well.
Carefully dig up and replant your basil, thyme, rosemary and so forth into small containers. These will adapt very well to in-house growing situations. Just make sure you place them on windowsills that receive ample light. There's no stopping your home made cooking now.
Bulbous plants can grow through cold times. Plant a couple of onions, leafy beets and potatoes in heavy manured areas. This trick is awesome because it allows you to add some cool ingredients to your veggie soups and stews.
When your garden's turned in for the winter it'll give you time to give that landscaper a call and revitalise your grow space completely. Why not add that koi pond or lay the paving for that garden path of yours? Let your imagination run wild.
Why not build a baby greenhouse? It's very simple and quite rewarding. Build it knee height - that should do it - and get a super leap on the growing season. Pop down to your local hardware and purchase PVC piping and piping joints and design and use this as your frame for the greenhouse. Grab some plastic wrap - the kind you used to cover your school books with - and staple that as cover to your frame. It's fairly simple and light weight. You can build this as small or as large to suit your specific growing needs.
This is the biggest setback when it comes to turning your apartment into a green wonderland. Don't let this make you despondent though. Plants do all their growing in the evening anyway. The first step would be to plan the growing area(s). If you live in an apartment with a balcony then you're scoring ground, but if you don't it's okay. Every windowsill in direct or partial sunlight will become the domain for your chlorophyll-collecting friends. The space utilised will decide which plants you can grow as well. It's best to think of ways to utilise the space you have. There is nothing stopping you from growing your own veggie patch in the comfort of your very own two bedroom apartment ... cherry tomatoes grow well under these circumstances. You'll just need to support the vines with wooden dowels.
Growing from a seed is one of the coolest things on earth. There's a certain type of joy that pops up as soon as the seedling sticks its head out of the growing medium. If you are keen on growing flowers, look for plants that will thrive in low light. Primrose, Forget-Me-Not and Lily of the Valley are all winners in this field. If you're more into growing for sustenance, then keep in mind that a kitchen windowsill is a perfect spot for herbs. Basil, parsley, mint, sage and rosemary are very easy to grow and maintain. When buying seeds, check the back of each packet for more information about how much sunlight each plant needs. Perhaps grow some strawberries. The plants can be used as decoration as well.
Pretty much anything that can hold liquid can be used... well, except for upcycled bottles of detergent or the like. The bottom of two litre soft drink bottles can be cut off and used. But, remember that the exterior will need to be spray painted or covered to stop light from shining on to the growing medium. This trick is to prevent mould and algae from growing in between the crevices on the inside of the container. Old yoghurt containers may be used as well - just wash the plastic well enough because potting soil and stale dairy don't mix.
Be sure to drill at least three drainage holes at the bottom of each container. Otherwise, the roots of your plants will rot. Always make sure you place a tray under these containers. You don't really want to soak your apartment up with filtered flora juices. Other than that, you can always go buy clay or ceramic pots from your local hardware store or nursery.
While you're at the nursery grab a bag of potting soil and some compost. Never use soil you had dug up from your garden, your neighbour's garden or any other garden. Because you are going full swing and growing from a seed, you want those babies to get the right nutrients from the get-go. Mix up two-thirds of potting soil with one-third of compost. Leave at least three fingers remaining shy from the container's lip. Steer clear of things such as bone meal because these tend to burn saplings.
This is the easiest step. On the back of your store-bought packet of seeds, it will indicate how far each seed needs to be planted from the next. This is fairly important, because having a bunch of plants right next to each other will lead to pretty much all of them dying out. The average seed needs to be planted about 25mm - about half an index finger - into the growing medium. After sticking the seed in the ground, cover and compress the hole lightly.
The first time around you want to water thoroughly. After that you just need to keep an eye on how dry or damp the potting soil/compost mix is. Over water and you will end up with yellow leaves. Under water and you will end up with nothing.
In the age of the internet, we have no excuse for not finding solutions to our problems. Do a search on container gardening and grab yourself some inspiration. Remember, if they can do it, so can you.
By Shawn Greyling