How to build your own vegetable garden
You will first need to stake out an area of garden to be converted to a vegetable patch. This area needs to be located a good distance from large trees and in a well drained and sunny position. As mentioned above, sleepers can be used to define the veggie patch area and reduce the number of unwanted roots from entering. Rocks can be removed by sieving (this is important for parsnips and carrots to prevent forking) and plastic can be lined for long term segregation from surrounding soil.
The soil must be fertilized and irrigation or some form of consistent watering applied. Lastly the right vegetables must be selected and planted in sensible regions for optimal growth. Stepping stones for access to stake plants and harvest produce are effective as this will confine walking areas.
Make sure the garden is maintained. This includes watering, fertilizing, weeding and plant maintenance (such as staking).
Growing your own – some common pitfalls
What are some of the common mistakes made when growing vegetables at home? Some of the common pitfalls include:
Lack of plant nutrition and poor soil.
When removing grass, try and retain as much of the top soil as possible. This is the darker soil held around the grass roots. Use soil conditioner to develop the long term sustainability of your soil.
Use some methods to control bugs, birds and other pests. There are many organic methods available as well as some simple preventative measures like adding appropriate mulch and keeping fruit and vegetables well away from the ground.
Lack of water
Make sure watering is to the plant root system and consistent. If you have a dry spell of a few hot days, this can wipe out your entire vegetable garden, so make sure you water to the season and climate. Adding mulch helps your plants and the surrounding soil retain moisture and nutrients, both vital for plant health and growth.
Poor crop rotation and choice of plants and positioning
Does your sweet corn shade out your dwarf beans? Choose crops for the season and ensure that you don’t plant the same crop year after year in the same position as the soil will become less able to support that particular plant.
Badly installed vegetable garden
Make sure large roots are removed from your vegetable garden as these will take nutrients away from your plants. If you want a great long term vegetable patch you may want to build a frame from sleepers and line this with some sort of plastic to prevent roots encroaching on your highly nutritious veggie patch soil.
How to grow vegetables in pots
There is not too much difference here, except you will want to make sure your pot has good drainage, plenty of room to allow root growth and is well watered in a sunny position. Add some blue metal or other gravel into the bottom to allow drainage without letting the soil wash out, and make sure you add some organic fertilizer or potting mix rich in nutrients. Pots are great for residential living where space is restricted.
Where can I buy fresh tomatoes and other vegetables?
There are a number of markets which sell relatively fresh fruit and vegetables. This is something which is really specific to your region so you will have to do your own research on where to source organic produce. If you have the room however it really is not that hard to grow your own.
How to organically fertilize your vegetable garden soil
Collect grass clippings, leaves and other organic matter, and mix in your old food scraps to make some highly nutritious compost. If you have chickens then use their droppings as fertilizer.
Preventing pests and bugs on your fresh vegetables
There are many remedies for this. Some natural snail pellets will be invaluable during seed germination, as this is a time when they are most vulnerable. I have had entire 100 seedling crops virtually wiped out by slugs and snails in the past. Some say that blending some of these bugs (such as caterpillars) and applying as a diluted mix can act as a natural pesticide, and others simply suggest planting certain plants which act as a deterrent. For example planting mint can be a deterrent for ants.
Strips of old video tape can be tied around parts of the veggie patch to scare birds, and mulch will reduce the amount of bugs which want a piece of your tasty vegetables. Lastly, make sure you get the fruit off the ground. Tomatoes need staking and climbing beans need climbing poles or rods.
How to save water when gardening and maintain good drainage
Mulch will save you many liters of water as well as providing good weed management. Water will be much less likely to evaporate if generous layers of mulch are applied. You can also buy drip hoses which apply water directly to the base of the plants. This can save considerable amounts of water when compared to a standard sprinkler.
A complex irrigation system would perhaps be the most desirable method of applying water, however we must weigh up the pros and cons of such a system which can certainly become a little expensive. One of the pros however is that we can apply water directly to each plant through drippers, or targeted sprinkler heads.
Installing a sprinkler timer can allow watering in the early hours of the morning, just before a hot day when evaporation is at a minimum. This also allows regular and consistent watering within your suburb’s water restriction regulations.
Lastly you may decide to use grey water to add to your water supply. Water from your washing machine or the shower is perfect for the veggies and can drastically reduce your water bill. Just be sure to make sure you only use environmentally friendly shampoos, conditioners and washing powders/liquids. You may also like to install a water tank which collects water during heavy rain and can consistently water your garden over the dryer durations.
Deciding what to plant
Perhaps the most popular vegetable is the famous tomato. Commercially produced tomatoes are often picked green, and artificially ripened allowing any sugars to turn to starch. This has led to an enormous number of home growers deciding on fresh tomatoes as the number one choice when it comes to vegetables.
Other popular choices include beans, sweet corn, broccoli and potatoes – all of which are high produce crops. Be aware that some crops are more suited to winter than summer and vice versa, and some require full sun or part shade etc. Be sure to select the appropriate crops for the season and positioning within the vegetable patch.
Why grow organically?
Organically grown vegetables taste amazing. Many top chefs stick to organically grown fruit and vegetables in order to add that extra zing to their meals. Using natural fertilizing methods is also much better for the surrounding environment, something which is especially important in built up urban areas. Artificial phosphates and concentrated fertilizers can wreak havoc with wetlands, streams, rivers and other water bodies.
Pesticides are also bad for the environment and somewhat unnecessary. There are many ways of reducing pest activity in your vegetable patch which should definitely be used over pesticides which not only harm the environment, but allow bugs to build up a tolerance to such chemicals in the long run. It is also almost impossible to completely guarantee that some of these pesticides won’t end up in the food you eat, and with a world already plagued with carcinogens and other nasties, it is nice to avoid pesticides if at all possible.
The vegetable garden project.
If you would like to see an actual vegetable patch made in what used to be an ordinary grassed back yard, and the delicious results obtained, then make sure you have a look at my website below for pictures, walk throughs and further tips about growing your own vegetables at home.