Boost your health with spring gardening

Spring is a great time to experiment with heirloom seeds and grow unusual varieties of lettuce, tomatoes and zucchini to enjoy in your meals.

As every green thumb knows, spring is a great time for tending your vegetable garden. It’s not only the vegetable crops that love the longer hours of sunlight and increased warmth, you will get a physical and mental boost as well.

Diggers Club horticultural expert Marcelle Swanson says lettuce, tomatoes, pumpkin and zucchini grow well in spring and she suggests starting with seeds rather than seedlings.

Colourful array of fresh fruit and vegetables

“Growing from seed is cheaper, gives you access to a greater range of heirloom varieties, and allows you to hold several years’ supply of food in a standard shoe box,” she says. “Many people start vegie gardening with seedlings because it seems easier, but there are many crops that must be grown from seed, like carrots.”

It’s also a great time to plant herbs, which will help transform your home cooking.

Marcelle says Diggers Club’s heirloom seeds offer access to varieties of vegetables that you’ll never see in the supermarket.

“These varieties are selected by gardeners for their garden merit, like the first tomato to fruit each year, the longest-storing pumpkin and the most brightly coloured silverbeet,” she says.

“Heirloom vegetables produce viable seed that can be saved for next year or shared with family and friends. Many have been preserved for hundreds of years because of their value in the garden.”

Marcelle says gardening is a lovely way to connect with family, both past and present. 

“I like the emotional connection it gives me to my grandfather, who is no longer with us,” she says. “I spent a lot of time with him when I was young and being in the garden brings back great memories. I also like the honesty of gardening and the simple pleasure derived by germinating seed and eventually harvesting crops for your table.”

Marcelle Swanson

Healesville Country Club & Resort staff member Kylie Shorter appreciates how gardening prevents the ill-effects of a sedentary lifestyle.

The director of sales for conference and events, Kylie started tending the Club’s garden at the start of coronavirus lockdown measures.

“It made a nice change from the desk, and a chance to reset and focus on a different task,” she says. “I started with our fern garden. It was a big project with load after load of mulch from the ground crew delivered daily. It was very rewarding and worth the tired muscles.”

She also loves the way the resident kangaroos watch and graze on the grass nearby.

Kylie has three raised vegetable beds in her own backyard at home and likes to plant tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes, capsicums, lettuce, spinach and herbs.

Marcelle’s guide to starting a vegetable garden

  • Just start and don’t worry about the results. You will learn through experience and build confidence as you progress.
  • Think about the location of your garden beds. Vegetables need around six hours of sunlight, so select a position in full sun. 
  • Soil preparation is the key. Most soils benefit from applications of organic matter, including decomposed compost and well-rotted manures. However, horse poo is often full of weed seeds and not ideal.
  • Plant the produce you purchase regularly. If you buy a bag of carrots each week, then sow a metre of carrot seed each fortnight to help meet your demand. 
  • Remember, gardening shouldn’t be a chore, but rather a rewarding hobby that also puts food on your table.

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