By Tracey Cole – www.villagegardens.co.za
Growing your own vegetables is healthy, economical, and extremely rewarding! Nothing beats the satisfaction of picking fresh, home-grown produce from the garden.
Before you do any planting there needs to be some good preparation to ensure a continuous supply of tasty veggies. It is also especially useful to know that edibles are seasonal so to grow a healthy, bountiful crop seeds need to be sown in the correct season. Cool season crops can tolerate frost and cold weather, whilst warm season varieties of edibles are more tender and require plenty of sun and warmth.
- All vegetables need at least four hours of sunlight a day to thrive, preferably in a sheltered spot.
- Whether planting in raised beds or in the ground, the soil should be well prepared before planting by adding plenty of compost and fertiliser. All edibles like a free-draining soil.
- Although watering is not as much of an issue in cooler months it is still necessary so easy access to a water source is helpful.
- Raised beds are ideal for vegetable planting as they tend to raise the temperature of the enclosed soil.
- Do not sow all the seeds at once. Successional planting allows for regular crops.
- When sowing seeds in raised beds, cover them with some shade cloth as this will encourage germination. Once the seedlings appear, remove the protection.
- Check planting instructions on packets of seeds for different requirements regarding size, height and space needed, and allow about six weeks for germination.
- Plant seeds according to eventual height, so tallest at the back of the bed. This way the shorter varieties will not be overshadowed.
- It is a good idea to protect any newly planted seeds as birds are very attracted to them for a snack!
- To keep your vegetables thriving a good mulch of dry, untreated grass clippings, leaves or home-made compost will help the soil to stay moist and warm.
- If you are sowing directly into the soil, water the area first so the seeds don’t scatter when you sow them. Cover them lightly with a fine covering of soil and keep them watered. Take precautions when the seedlings start to appear as snails can be very partial to fresh young shoots!
- Stay on top of weeds! Remove them regularly and keep mulching to prevent them growing back.
Now comes the fun part of choosing which edibles and salads you would like to grow and enjoy eating: Cool season edibles suitable for planting now are leeks, beets, carrots, celery, broad beans, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, onions, shallots, rutabagas, cabbage, peas, garlic, Swiss chard, kale, pak choi and butternut squash. Some quick-growing salads are winter gem lettuce, radishes, spring onions, perpetual spinach, and green peppers.
Planting some ‘companion’ plants with the vegetables is a natural, organic way to deter any pesky bugs from attacking your crops. Strongly scented herbs such as coriander, thyme, mint, oregano, and rosemary plus flowering plants like marigolds and nasturtiums are invaluable as pest deterrents when planted amongst vegetables and offer a much better and more environmentally friendly pest control than using commercial sprays!