Most of us know that the sweet flavour and nutritiously vibrant colour of garden-fresh vegetables far outweighs anything found in a store. And, of course, growing your own saves money: a $2 tomato plant can provide 5 kilograms of tomatoes over the season. Nurturing a vegetable garden can also be a fun and rejuvenating way to spend time outdoors.
Here are 5 tips to start one, even if you’re strapped for space: 1. Where, when and how much.
Vegetables need a sunny location (at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day) and good soil (soft, not compacted, and nourished with compost). They need a temperate climate (don’t plant until after there is no threat of frost). It is best to start with a small, select planting if you’re new to gardening so it is easily manageable and helps ensure great results. For example, you might have 5 tomato plants, 3 pepper plants, 5 string bean plants, a small row of carrots and beets, and a cluster of lettuce, and call it a day! 2. Buy quality
. Seeds are less expensive than young plants, of course. But if they don’t produce plants because they’re older or have been damaged, you’ll be disappointed that your money and time were wasted. Therefore, buy seeds from a reputable seller and consider spending on young plants sold at a nursery whenever you can. 3. Space properly.
Use the seed packet/tab label and the internet to determine how big each species and variety will grow, and the space needed for each when fully grown. Remember that this doesn’t just mean above ground, but below it, too. Plants placed too close together reduce proper drainage at the roots, and compete for sun, water and nutrients. Taller or wider veggies like tomatoes and corn can overshadow shorter, smaller ones like carrots and radishes. 4. Carefully choose varieties.
If you have limited space, it’s obviously easier to grow trellis beans and staked tomatoes in a small area than quickly expanding zucchini and cucumbers. And there are other considerations: a) think about what’s more difficult to find in a grocery store that you can grow instead b) some veggies are more finicky to grow, like asparagus and Brussels sprouts, so may require more experience c) certain vegetables – like beans, beets, carrots and spinach – can provide two crops during a season so definitely earn their keep c) and most important, consider what you like to eat! 5. Plan your plantings.
Whether you are growing veggies in pots, a raised bed or a small backyard plot, make a diagram of what you want the space to look like during the seasonal cycle so it’s attractive and keeps all plants living happily together. Plant rows to run north and south to take full advantage of the sun. Consider the east-west sun travelling line so that tall veggies don’t shadow short ones. Leave some areas unplanted to allow a second crop (see #4) to be planted and harvested later in the season. Plant marigolds in between beds to discourage rodents and moths, add beauty, and toss into salads!