Starting a Vegetable Patch

Starting a Vegetable Patch

Ok now I am no expert, I do not have a particularly green thumb either, but the one thing I will tell you is it’s not that hard to start a small garden at home. Number one rule for starting out is plant stuff you know you will eat. If your not going to eat it you will be less impressed at the final outcome.

Now I hear you say but my yard is just not big enough. Well my first year I had two small garden beds to plant in about 1m by 8m total. I managed to get enough tomatoes for us that summer and some got given away to friends and family. In a 1m x 1m garden I grew 4 tomato plants that had the sweetest fruit. I also planted pumpkin that year just 2 vines to see how they went and surprisingly well. I got half a dozen butternut pumpkins off each vine and they were all heavier than 2kg. The other was watermelon. Now the kids loved this. It took off like a rocket but I was able to contain it in a small fenced area and it just grew in circles around itself. The first watermelon that season was 12.6kg what a whopper. Kids took it for show and tell and then we chopped it up and between 2 classes they still only ate half of it. We got another 5 watermelons off of just the one vine and they were all around 6kg. Not bad for my first attempt.

Now if you are just starting off the simple seed packets you get from the super market have some really easy to follow instructions. I dig over the garden beds and  blood and bone them watering in well before planting the seed straight in the ground. This is what most seed packets tell you to do. Now if your soil holds moisture well you water plant seed and wait for them to germinate. My soil is quite sandy so I water mine each day until they sprout. I then surround them with sugar cane mulch to keep the moisture in and it also doubles as the snail don’t like it so will not eat your sprouts. I water every day and use a soluble fertilizer like thrive every 2 weeks once the plants start flowering. This is all I did the first year and was so happy with the outcome.

Unfortunately last year I planted too late in the season and nothing really took off. We also had inconsistent weather so it was a sad season all round. This year I wanted to get a jump on things so once it started to warm up and the risk of frost has dropped I have planted seeds into homemade seedling tray and mini greenhouse. I took a few empty egg cartons and cut the tops off. Then filled with soil that I had already watered blood and bone into a few days before. As I have said I have sandy soil but if you have denser soil a seed raising mix from the local nursery might be better for you. I planted the seeds out, watered and put them into the plastic cake containers you get from the supermarket. This acts as a little hot house so the seeds have germinated nicely even though its not quite spring yet. Just need to make sure you let a little air in, either with a small hole or just take the cover off each day for 2 seconds. Rules for transplanting are to wait until the second set of true leaves forms before planting out. This should be around 6 weeks after planting. This is the other good thing about egg cartons as you can simple cut the base to allow the roots out and plant the whole thing in the ground to minimize disturbing the seedling. You can buy inexpensive little green houses from Bunnings but I simply wanted to see if it would work this way.

The best time of year to plant seeds is in theory spring/ September but with our unusual weather patterns of late I would simply say as long as you are sure the threat of frost has gone and the days are warming up, give it a go. use the packet as a guide but as you go along you will develop better judgement as to what grows well in your area and when to plant.

This year I have planted pumpkin watermelon and tomatoes as I know they all grow well. I also have had a seed swap with a friend and we got together and shared our seeds our. I have zucchini, cucumber and lebenese cucumbers, silver beet for the chickens to eat as I think it looks good but we don’t really eat it and some chives to see how they will grow. I have also put in a late plant of sugar snap peas which will die off when it gets to hot but we should still get some good peas first.

So get planting and enjoy watching your garden grow. You will be an expert before you know it and by starting off simple it will give you the confidence to try newer more exotic things. Happy gardening.

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