Updated: Oct 13, 2021
✦ Have your own little veggie patch
At the moment vegetable plants are immensely popular. Here at Greenbourne Nursery, we have experienced a demand like never before. Personally, I have always found growing vegetables one of the most satisfying and enjoyable aspects of horticulture. I believe that planting vegetable seeds with my mum so many years ago is where it truly all began. Over the years I’ve had periods of growing vegetables that my wife deemed as ‘mild obsession’. There were a few years where I was on the competitive vegetable growing circuit. Entering the shows was fun but time consuming. I remember chasing one of the younger residents down the street yelling at him, “What did you bloody do to my hubbard squash?!” I had become a grumpy old vegetable grower at the ripe old age of 29! I did learn a lot of growing tips and tricks from other competitors at the shows. However, the most important thing I learnt was to create ways to retain interest in my hobby. By making the vegetable area more comfortable and less time consuming I found that I actually spent more time in it.
So here are a few little tips that I always use when growing vegetables.
Soil preparation is everything
Yes, I realise you have heard me go on and on about soil preparation in numerous articles in this series. However, I am going to reiterate it again here. And for very good reasons, vegetables require high amounts of nutrients, a good supply of water and light, friable soil to allow all those beneficial organisms to breed, feed and thrive.
When preparing a new garden bed, do till the soil lightly to disrupt any compaction issues. Add ingredients such as compost, cow manure, mushroom compost etc. Combine all the ingredients with the existing ground soil gently, then water well to completely saturate the area. Top dress the soil with a manure pellet and then you have an area that is primed for some vegetable planting. If using an existing garden bed, the ideal situation is to not till the soil. Remember that we want as minimal disturbance to the ‘home’ of our precious little helpers as possible. Just add the fresh new ingredients in layers on top of the existing soil. Again, products like compost, cow manure etc. are great to use. After layering the ingredients on the existing soil, just lightly aerate the soil with a large fork then water in well. These strategies should be at least applied annually to keep the soil in good health.
Raised beds will make it easier and more enjoyable
In particular with your pick and go vegetables. Plants like silver beet, Asian greens and dwarf beans, for example. You will be surprised how having these plants at a more comfortable height will encourage you to return more often. Visually the plants look more appealing as you see through the dimensions of the plant rather than simply gazing at the top. The plants enjoy the drainage implications the raised planters provide and there is less incidence of pest and disease due to distance from the ground. Over the years I have personally had every type of vegetable garden imaginable and, without a doubt, I enjoy the raised bed. My latest one is made with corrugated iron, held in place with some metal piping. The height gives my aging body a break as there is less bending over to do. And my family, as well as myself, truly do use the garden area more often. By creating a more comfortable environment there is less likelihood of losing interest.
Get the jump on the new season
As the seasons change so do the varieties we grow. While I really do enjoy germinating seed at home, I do recommend purchasing young seedlings at the beginning of the season. Here in Australia, we have fantastic propagating nurseries that are always well ahead of the game. They are continually germinating and growing various varieties in sync with the season. Their propagation areas are state of the art and allow them to have varieties ready right when we need them. Now, please do germinate seeds, it is a fantastic hobby, however get the first batch of ready grown seedlings into the soil right at the turn of the season. It is as much about getting the maximum amount of time out of the season as it is about keeping our interest levels high. Waiting for seed to germinate can potentially distract attention away from the vegetable plot.
Get serious about seed
As I just mentioned, propagating seed is great. It allows you access to an incredible array of different varieties, allows the plants to climatise to your area more quickly and gives you personally great satisfaction having reared the plants from the very beginning. So do it well. I recommend using seed germinating ‘hot boxes’. Basically, these are small containers that are designed to create ideal situations to germinate your seed. They provide extra heat for their small atmosphere which allows the seed to germinate quicker and they also provide protection from attack, be it bugs or small animals. There are many small designs that you can purchase from nurseries. In the past, I have had great success with clear storage containers from the hardware stores. They work very well. Just keep them out of direct sunlight as the plastic can deteriorate when exposed to direct UV light. If germinating direct in the garden area, re-use soft drink containers. Simply cut the bottom off the bottle and place the bottle over and around the area the seed has been placed. It is an excellent strategy to stop slugs and snails getting at your young, vulnerable seedlings.
Using electricity to stop snails
No, we are not about to plug a device into the 240V! If slugs and snails are causing you grief, try some copper tape. The slimy little guys get small electric shocks when they come into contact with the copper tape. If you can secure the perimeter of the area with the copper tape you will be creating a near impenetrable boundary around your pride and joys. It is also great to use around potted plants - simply place the copper stripping a