There is nothing quite as rewarding as harvesting fresh produce from your own vegetable garden, especially after you've prepared the soil with your own hands, diligently removed munching snails, and checked up on your patch daily to celebrate any signs of new growth.
On World Food Day today, we want to encourage you to grow your own nourishing vegetables, giving you the pleasure of enjoying a home-grown meal, rich in nutrients and in tune with the seasons.
If you've always wanted a veggie patch of your very own, let this be the year you put shovel to dirt and make that dream come true - it will surely become a lifetime’s habit.
To help you get to that glorious first harvest, here are some tips to get you started.
1 | Start slow and small
There’s no need to try and create an entire farm overnight, you can simply start off by creating a few raised beds, and add a few new ones every year as you gain experience.
2 | Select the perfect spot
Important factors to consider are the amount of sunlight, proximity to a water source, and protection from frost and wind. All types of vegetables need at least six to eight hours of sunlight per day, ideally with full morning sun and some afternoon shade.
3 | Away with the weeds
After you’ve cleared out space in your garden for your veggie patch, lay down a weed mat, or sections of cardboard, as a barrier to weeds. Lay it at ground level and build raised beds up on top of the barrier.
4 | Build raised beds
Raised beds are great for growing small plots of vegetables and more manageable for beginners. They provide good drainage, prevent your valuable garden soil from eroding, prevent soil compaction, keep weeds from your garden soil, and serve as a barrier to pests like slugs and snails.
*Tip: Raised beds can be any length, but never wider than 1.2 metres, to allow you to reach into the centre without stepping or leaning on your beautiful spinach.
5 | Success is in the soil
Most vegetables prefer moist, well-drained soil, that is rich in organic matter such as compost or peat moss, so invest in quality topsoil. Organic matter is essential - it retains moisture, aerates the soil, absorbs and stores nutrients, and provides food for soil microorganisms. The magic of healthy soil lies in the organisms - worms, insects and microbes - these guys flourish when the other soil elements are in balance.
6 | Selecting your vegetables
Although you will be tempted to grow all the vegetables you’ve ever wanted, it is best to start with easy, generous performers. These include spinach, lettuce, radish, rocket, leeks, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, silverbeet, celery and spring onions. Also, grow some herbs in between your vegetable crops, such as flat-leaved parsley, basil, oregano and chives, to add to salads.
*Tip: Give companion planting a try to help improve soil quality, reduce pests and attract beneficial insects to your veg garden.
Vegetable Garden Maintenance
Water - Warm-season veg enjoy a steady supply of moisture. Water vegetables when the top inch of the soil is dry. Raised beds drain faster and may require watering every other day.
Mulch - Protect your beds with two inches of weed-suppressing, soil-improving organic mulch.
Weed - Keep weeds to a minimum as they compete with your valuable vegetable crops for water, nutrients and space.
*Tip: Dig into the article below for some tips on making your vegetable garden more water-savvy.
Share your experience
Gardening is done best done in community. Whether you need help identifying that worm feasting on your cabbage, or want to share a tip on growing the juiciest cherry tomatoes, or simply want to celebrate your first harvest, share it with the Candide community.