Have you been wanting to start a vegetable garden but not sure how? In this article I’ll give you my top five gardening tips for those just getting started that will set you up for success.
Growing your own fruit and vegetable garden is massively rewarding mentally, physically and spiritually. It is incredibly healing and refreshing to spend an hour or two pottering in your own garden tending your flourishing plants. However if you are a newbie to vegetable gardening it can be overwhelming to know exactly where to start and how to go about it.
1. Start Small
Many gardeners, myself included, get extremely enthusiastic about their gardening plans and plant too much too soon. It is a common mistake and it’s OK. Ambition is a good thing. However in the early stages you want to protect your enthusiasm and energy by not over extending yourself.
You see, it is easy to plant a big vegetable garden but will you really have the time and energy to water it daily, weed it often, harvest all the vegetables, replant as things finish and keep on top of it all? It is all too easy to lose passion for a gardening project when it becomes a lot of hard work. It can become disappointing and frustrating and another job on your to-do list. So start small (even tiny) and build up to a larger garden as you get more experience and confidence.
It is much better to have a tiny well tended garden than a large weedy and neglected one.
You may choose to start a container garden on your balcony with a few pots of herbs and leafy greens. Or clear a one metre by one metre (or less) section in a sunny garden bed.
You can grow a lot in a small space.
Make that little garden a tiny oasis. Love on it. Tend it well, keep it free of weeds and nourish the soil and then and only then, move onto another section.
2. Nurture the Soil
Not many people realise the key to a thriving garden lies in the health of the soil. A healthy soil means healthy plants. Organic farmers have always known this.
The soil contains all the minerals and nutrients to feed the growing plants. Not only that, tiny living single- celled creatures called micro-organisms in the soil are vital to the health of the soil and plants and therefore to us!
You see, it’s like I always thought! Dirt is good for you!
Yes I am talking about bacteria, fungi and other microbes. Healthy soil is full of good bugs that actually assist plants by making nutrients available to them and helping to create the correct ph and other happy conditions so the plants can thrive. A health soil means the plants will be less prone to disease and insect attack.
Chemical sprays, weed killers and artificial fertilisers kill the beneficial micro-organisms. This is not good. Your garden will not like this.
Avoid the use of chemicals in your garden. Add lots of organic matter to your soil in the form of compost or animal manure. This feeds the good bugs and keeps them happy.
If you use potting mix, which is fine, then choose a really good quality organic potting mix.
3. Sow Plants Suited To The Season.
So you’ve got a little garden bed ready. Next comes the fun part. What are you going to grow?
Choose plants that are suited to the current season in your area. For example tomatoes generally do best in the warmer months – late spring and summer. Kale and cabbages do well in the cooler months – autumn and winter (in some areas). Check the growing guides on the tag on the seedlings or the back of the seed packet.
Nature knows what she is doing. Work with her not against her.
When you try to grow something outside of its proper season the plants never do as well and are more prone to disease and insect attack. Don’t waste your time by trying to go against nature. She knows what she is doing. Plant the right plants for this season. Next season will come around soon enough. You can have your tomatoes then.
4. Water Often
Probably the biggest killer of vegetable gardens is lack of watering. Keep the soil moist (but not waterlogged) by watering often. Daily is usually the right amount. Keep a watering can full of water beside the garden bed so it is easy to give it a quick water on the way past. On very hot days you may need to water twice or even three times a day. This is where mulching your garden bed is very helpful.
5. Mulch Well
Mulch is a layer of straw, hay, compost or other organic matter that is laid thickly on top of the soil around your plants to help keep the moisture in the soil and maintain an even soil temperature. With good mulch you may not need to water every day. Check by sticking your finger in the dirt around the plants. If it is still wet, don’t water.
Mulch is essential in extreme climates and hot summers like those we have here in Queensland Australia. It will break down over time and add more organic matter to the soil. Re-mulch when the existing layer of mulch looks a bit thin.
Put lots of love into your garden and it will love you back. Soon you’ll have a thriving and abundant vegetable garden. You might even want to sleep out there! Or maybe that’s just me. 😉