Tips On Growing Your Own Vegetable Garden

    Image credit: Eckards.

    According to Eckards Garden Pavilion, every garden or balcony has a spot for some herbs or veggies. Besides the cost savings, the taste is always better and it is so rewarding when you put a salad on the table that is truly home-made. It’s also the best way to introduce children to growing and teaching them where food comes from. Now is the time to start planting – you will start to harvest in 3 to 4 weeks.

    The best tip on growing your own veggies is to grow the produce your family will eat. Don’t grow pumpkins if only one person will eat it – it’s easier to maintain interest if the whole family can share in the spoils.

    What do veggies need?

    By giving the correct growing conditions, a plant is produced that is more disease-resistant. Plant in a sunny position with at least six hours sun a day in well drained soil with plenty of compost. Good healthy soil will ensure good, healthy plants, so this is probably the most important step you will take in growing your own vegetables.

    Apply a fertiliser like BioGanic at planting and again every six to eight weeks till harvest and feed flowering to fruit veggies with BioOcean. This will give you strong plants that are less susceptible to disease and as organic produce, have the best flavour. Feeding with an organic fertiliser is an ongoing process and regular applications are required for best results.

    Veggies and herbs grow with stronger structure when fed organically instead of being forced with a chemical fertiliser, which results in plants that have better colour and stronger flavour.

    Care and tips:
    – Water at least once a week in dry weather.
    – Plant at intervals to ensure a season long supply. This will help avoid an ‘all ripe at once’ situation.
    – Use a liquid organic fertiliser when growing veggies in containers.
    – Harvest spinach and lettuce leaf by leaf to ensure a summer long supply.
    – Consider the need for crop rotation. Crop rotation is simply not to grow the same vegetable in the same bed for two seasons in a row to try and prevent depletion of nutrients in the soil.
    – Don’t plant too many of the same vegetables. It won’t help if the tomatoes take over everywhere or you end up with only lettuce or basil. Mix your choice and plant new supplies every 3-4 weeks to ensure continued supply.
    – Plant seeds as well as seedlings to increase the selection. Seeds are a great way to introduce kids to gardening. Let them try radishes – they germinate in four days.

    Tomatoes

    Tomatoes do best in an area that gets full sun or at least eight hours of sun, or they will get spindly and produce very little mature fruit. They also produce well if you ensure a good soil at planting by adding liberal compost and organic pellets. Crop rotation is one of the best way to ensure better quality fruit, so we would recommend planting them in a different spot every year, alternating with non-related veggies such as beans or lettuce.

    Chillies

    Chillies come in all shapes, sizes and colours, ranging from tiny, extremely hot chillies to the larger fleshy peppers. This is the best time of the year to select as you can harvest almost immediately. Chillies will grow in some light shade but grow best in hot sunny spots in well-drained soil. Chillies do not need much water at all. Water them once or twice a week and keep them slightly dry between watering. Feed with an organic plant food, this will produce stronger plants with better flavour than plants that are forced with chemical fertilisers.

    Leafy greens

    Basil: one of the most popular green leafy herbs is one plant you don’t need green fingers to grow. They grow in semi-shade to sun and will grow in almost any soil conditions. The more you harvest, the more compact it grows.

    Lettuce: grows best where they do not get too much water onto the leaves. Summer lettuce is best grown as perpetual lettuce, where you cut leaves from the sides of a growing plant, leaving the centre to keep growing. Red leafed lettuce will need more sun than green leafed ones.

    Rocket: the delicious peppery taste of rocket makes it a wonderful addition to salads and stir fries. Grow rocket just as easily from seed or seedlings in semi-shade. If you let them come into flower, they often self-seed and if you let them grow in a slightly drier spot, they have a stronger taste.

    Parsley: requires a good amount of light and will do best when receiving around six hours of sun a day but will tolerate partial shade. Parsley likes a well drained and moisture retaining soil. You can harvest parsley by cutting the outermost stalks just above ground level. This will encourage further growth. Cutting near the top of the stalks will not encourage such vigorous growth.

    Time to sow

    Sowing seeds is not only the most economical way to grow your own veggies it is also a practical way to stagger planting so that the whole crop is not ready at the same time. Sowing veggies at a six week gap allows harvesting on the first batch while the next batch is just maturing and the next planting is only just starting to set fruit.

    Carrots: they are fun to grow and are a great way to teach children about plants and food growing. Try different varieties for something different. Nantes is a thinner variety of carrot that generally makes them sweeter and Chantenay Karoo is a thicker carrot, making them ideal for use in stews. Carrots will grow in semi-shade to sun in most soil conditions. However, they prefer a fine textured soil with sand and plenty of compost dug into it. Depending on the size of carrot to be grown, the soil needs to be loosened to a depth that will enable the carrots to grow down into the ground easily and all stones removed to prevent distortion and forked roots.

    Beans: there are two distinct varieties of beans, namely bush beans or runner beans. Runner beans climb so do need support but they also give a much bigger harvest. Plant Lazy Housewife against a wall or up a wigwam frame where they get full sun. One of the newer varieties is Timbavati – a bush bean that produces a high yield of very similar sized round beans.

    Mielies: plant mielies at the back of your veggie garden in maximum sun. Mielies can easily grow up to two metres high and can even be used as a screen. If fertilised well as young plants they need little to no feeding and produce a good crop even if you neglect to water them.

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