How to plan a vegetable garden

Plot now for autumn!
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There’s nothing more rewarding than cooking and consuming your very own homegrown produce. Free from nasties and hormones, you can be sure that your very own vegetables will be as organic as they come. When it comes to planning and plotting your vegetable garden, there are a few considerations that need to be made, however, you’ll soon discover that you don’t need to sacrifice time and lifestyle to reap the rewards of this immensely satisfying activity.

WATCH: In the vegie patch with Graham Ross

Choose a space

First things first! You may fantasise about a huge vegetable garden or plot, with rows and rows of beans, beets and berries, but this takes a LOT of space and time. Little plots that make efficient use of space won’t impose on your summer lifestyle or take up excessive time or energy. Most spring and summer vegetables and herbs are shallow rooted annuals and don’t need a lot of space – unless you plan to grow enough to feed the neighbourhood!

The only requisite is that the plants get at least 6 hours – preferably 8  hours – of sunshine a day and are protected from strong winds or coastal breezes. If you want a plot on your balcony or in a small courtyard, consider growing vegetables in pots and make use of your walls. In your backyard, consider a rectangular raised bed. It’s easier on your back if you’re a beginner when tending and harvesting. You can also use the edge as a seating area. So start planning now!


How to grow vegetables in pots

There are many positives when growing vegies in pots: you can move them to follow the sun, they’re decorative, and you can hang them from a wall or ceiling when space is tight. Herbs can grow in small pots (around 25-30cm deep), but most vegetables need pots 30-50cm in deep that can hold 1-2 bags of quality potting mix. Vegies are always hungry and thirsty because they are quick growers. They’ll fill out the pot in no time!

The best vegetables for pots are salad greens (such as cos, watercress, baby leaf spinach and rocket), tomatoes, chilli, capsicum, snow peas, onions (onion chives and garlic chives), cucumber and baby root vegetables like carrots and beets.

How to make a raised vegetable garden

There are many styles and sizes of raised beds you can buy, or you can put together a basic frame yourself. Just don’t use treated pine unless it is arsenic-free. Before installation, think about an irrigation system that leads into the soil subsurface so there is no evaporation in summer. Or make a wicking bed that draws water from a reservoir underneath.

You can build a simple vegetable garden bed from just three 2.4m x 200 x 50mm sleepers (choose ACQ or LOSP ‘safe’ treated pine). Use two of the sleepers to form the sides, and cut a third in half to create the ends. Screw them together with 100mm bugle-head batten screws and bury them 100mm into the ground.


Seeds or seedlings?

Once you’ve got your plot or pots ready, it’s time to decide on your medium! Seeds are cheaper to buy than seedlings, but it may be a false economy in terms of the time seeds take to grow and their viability. If you only get 10 seedlings from 100 seeds you’ve put in a lot of effort for a sad result.

Before buying seeds ask yourself: is germination easy? Will germination and growth take too long for the season? Will it transplant well? If not, then seedlings are for you. They’ve survived the early growth challenges and someone else has done all the hard work for you for little extra cost!

How to plan your vegetable garden beds

Since you’re likely going to be harvesting by hand, considering access is important. You’ll want to be able to get at your vegetables from more than one side or angle without having to step on the soil and jeopardise its mates. If you have the space, consider putting pathways in between your raised garden beds; these can be lined with woodchip, sawdust, or just grass (though keep in mind they will be high traffic!).

Choose vegetables that will succeed in your climate and soil. If you have the space and are planting in-ground or raised beds, start with six or so easy-grow vegetables to build your expertise, such as vine tomatoes, cucumber, dwarf beans and sweet corn.

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