PLANNING YOUR FIRST VEGGIE GARDEN.
29 OCTOBER 2020
Planning a vegetable garden can be a bit like doing a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle. There are a lot of unique pieces, but they come together to build something beautiful. Luckily, we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know about planning your veggie garden.
Starting out is as easy as building a garden bed or raised free standing bed. From there, you’ll need to decide what to plant.
If you’ve never been a fan of beetroot, that’s not likely to change just because you grew it yourself. So, make sure to choose things you like to eat & most importantly will actually use! But be mindful that some veggies and herbs simply won’t be happy in your garden, so before you start planting get to know the sunny and shady spots in your garden.
Start with the veggies you eat the most, or ones that are hard to find or expensive. Common choices include:
• Tomatoes: some varieties such as cherry tomatoes can be expensive to buy often and are easy to grow yourself.
• Herbs: growing herbs like parsley or rosemary can save you money each year, since you won’t need to buy a whole bunch when you just need a pinch.
• Carrots and beans: these are ingredients in plenty of recipes, and are once again pretty easy to grow yourself.
Next you’ll need to evaluate how much sunlight and space your plants need, and whether your garden can deliver. Most veggies require 6-8 hours of sunlight per day. However some leafy greens like silverbeet or lettuce can do well in shadier spots. On the other hand cucumbers and squash will grow best with as much sun as possible. You’ll want to watch your garden for a few days before planning out where to plant different varieties.
Some veggies also require more space than others. Carrots can be spaced out about 5cm apart, while beetroot require about double the space. If you’re short on space, tomatoes and radishes are two great options.
Fruits, veggies and herbs are all great for keeping your belly full. But did you know planting non-edible species can help your garden thrive? These plants might not be at the top of your ingredient list, but they can lend a helping hand around the garden:
• Hardenbergia, nasturtiums, and convolvulus varieties: these ground-covering plants can help trap nutrients in soil and prevent erosion.
• Chamomile, yarrow, parsley, lemon balm: these tend to help boost growth for nearby plants, and can act as a great border for your garden. • Marigolds: this super-plant can kill pests.
• Lavender, echinacea, and sweet basil: these are just a few of the plants that can help attract bees to your garden. Bees can be huge helpers around the garden. They’re also nice to look at.
THE YEAR ROUND GARDEN.
Once you know what veggies you want to plant, you’ll need to work out when to plant them. With a bit of planning, you can harvest fresh, seasonal produce straight from your own garden all year round. To get it right, you’ll implement a crop rotation that’s been used by farmers for centuries.
What to plant: for a garden that will thrive during these seasons, you’ll plant some hot weather plants and replace them with heartier, produce for Winter. Here’s one example of a crop rotation for this period.
What to plant: your second space will feature a great set of veggies. Your first plant will consist of some great autumn produce, followed by lighter veggies that will be perfect for Spring. Here’s one example of a crop rotation for this period.
If you’re working with a big space, you can simply divide your garden in half. For those with small, courtyard gardens, consider using two different planter boxes. See how to build your own here.
BPFFL: BEST PLANT FRIENDS FOR LIFE.
Planting an array of herbs and veggies in your garden is a great way to keep your dinner plate looking colourful. But a diverse garden can also be a key to success. Some plants don’t do well next to each other because they crowd each other’s roots or hog sunlight, while others help each other grow to be their best selves (awwww). You might call these plants BFF’s, but it’s known in the gardening world as companion gardening.
Companion gardening should really be called smart planning. It’s the process of building a combination of plants with complementary needs so that everybody thrives. Let’s start with the basics of companion gardening:
Deep vs. shallow rooted plants - it’s best not to plant deep rooted plants next to each other, as it can turn into a competition for nutrients.
Height - planting herbs and veggies next to each other based on height may look pleasing to the eye, but they can also attract pests. Put plants of varying heights next to each other to make it harder for pests to easily jump from plant to plant, eating or destroying your whole garden in one go. Having a diverse garden can also confuse pests with many smells and tastes.
Shade vs sun lovers - some plants need more sunlight than others, and you may be able to strategically put plants near each other who can help each other out in this department.
Perennials versus annuals - strawberries are the most common perennial plant, which means they live for more than one year. It’s best to keep perennial plants away from annuals, which are planted each year.
Some common fruits, veggies and herbs make for excellent neighbours. These combos will set you up for success:
When it comes to starting your garden, you can either buy partially grown plants from Bunnings, or start from seeds. This can be a very cost-effective way to start a garden, but it of course adds an extra step into the process. You can grow seeds indoors or outdoors by following these steps: Germination: begin by filling a punnet with potting mix and planting your seeds - they should sit in the top fourth of the soil. Next, keep it in a sunny spot and water frequently. Step one: You’ll start to notice small seedling leaves popping out from the soil. Don’t do anything just yet, as these plants are still babies! Step two: Once the leaves get bigger and taller, remove a bit of excess soil from the punnet. Step three: After about six weeks, your seeds should be ready for planting. Put them straight into your garden or planter box. For the first two weeks, keep a close eye on them and water them frequently.
Choosing the right soil is key to a bountiful garden. Soil should be rich with the nutrients your garden needs to grow, like nitrogen and phosphorus. Start each planting season with a fresh bag of soil that’s easy to crumble and soft enough to dig through. Lookout for a veggie growing or organic blend. For extra nutrients, you can try adding compost material too. Once you’ve planted your perfect veggie patch, don’t forget to water! Generally, it’s best to water early in the morning, especially in the summer. If temperatures are too high, evaporation might steal most of the water, leaving your plants high and dry. On average, plants will require 2-3 centimetres of water per week. Be aware of any extra thirsty plants, such as melons. Veggies with shallow roots may not be able to retain water as long, so they may need to be watered more frequently. No matter the veggie or herb, dry soil is a sign that it’s time to water.
WELL, OFF YOU GO! WE CAN’T WAIT TO SEE YOUR BOUNTY.
Join our MyRYOBI Community Facebook Group to share your photos, advice, or to get help from other gardening experts.