How to start your own veggie patch
Discover the green fingers you never knew you had by using a corner of your garden to grow your own vegetables.
A study by The Australia Institute a few years ago found 52 per cent of Australian homes like to grow some of their own food. For most people, the motivation is to eat more healthily. For around 60 per cent of people, it’s about saving money and producing tastier food. Sheer enjoyment and seeing gardening as being ‘good for the mind and the soul’ also motivate gardeners.
If you’ve never had a vegie patch but like the idea of building one, how do you get started?
Managing the weather…
Most vegies love sun, advises Richard, but you’ll need to take extra care of your vegetable garden during harsh periods of prolonged heat. On days of 40 degrees-plus you need to shade your vegetables and plants from the sun.
“Use a shade cloth or buy a couple of white cotton sheets from an op shop and use those to shield your vegies from the sun,” says Richard. Remove the cloth or sheets when the intensely hot days pass. Keep lettuce and herbs out of the sun as they don’t take the heat well – they prefer to be planted in a cooler, shaded spot.
In colder months, put a cloth over potato plants if the weather is likely to drop to zero degrees or below at night. Frost burns the leaves of potato plants and will ruin your crop. If you are growing plants up a trellis, secure the trellis firmly against winds.
…and the pests
Try to use natural rather than chemical methods to control pests because chemicals don’t only kill bugs, they affect life in the soil, too. Firstly, have barriers in place like netting and snail traps and remove any bugs and snails you see by hand.
“Get a magnifying glass because kids love to look at bugs. Give them five cents for every snail they find to help with pest management,” suggests Richard.
“Don’t leave rubbish around the garden bed, like piles of wood, because rubbish becomes a hotel for pests to live in. And bring good bugs into the garden to fight off the bad bugs.”
Companion planting grows plants together, so they help each other survive, by deterring pests, attracting the bugs and insects you do want in your garden and boosting growth.
If these strategies don’t work, try making your own pest sprays with chilli and garlic or milk. If that fails, you may need to step up to chemical controls but find a spray with a lower environmental impact.