Why do you need your own veggie patch?
There are so many reasons to have this little spot of heaven in our backyards…
Probably the most important one is that you are going to have a fresh supply of your own crop all year round and you'll have significant savings on your grocery bill. I need to specify, that fresh, for me, means picked right now. If it was picked in the morning and it’s now evening, it’s no longer fresh.
In which shop in the world you can find something that was picked five minutes ago? The only true answer is your own backyard or if you are lacking one - Julia's Organic Garden and Kitchen Place. You are always welcome here and you can pick up your lunch or dinner by yourself.
Another crucial consideration is that you know exactly what you put in your garden and that it is completely substance free.
If you have children, this little spot next to your house is going to be an endless supply of educational activities, lessons full of fun and precious uniting family projects. This little patch (hanging baskets, old boxes with punched holes in the bottom, egg cartoons filled with dirt... the list is endless and you’ll be surprised how creative you kids are) is a place where your children will learn to love and protect our only home.
Growing you own crop, means that you'll decrease the amount of polluting trucks that are bringing fruits and veggies to the shops. Regrettably, absolutely all the supermarkets in Australia adopted so-called “Just-In-Time” inventory approach, where units are purchased and brought only when they are wanted. It reduces cost for companies as Coles or Woolworth or Aldi, but at what price to the environment?
Another reason to start to grow something is that you'll decrease the amount of burnt calories (here is my article about this topic working-out-in-the-garden.html) and spend more time in the fresh air.
And finally, having your own fresh produce means a lot of saving on pills, doctors and time when you are unwell, and this is one of the best parts of having a healthy lifestyle.
Very often I meet people that have decided to start a garden and just rush to the nearest store to waste hundreds of dollars on unnecessary, overpriced stuff made overseas. When you start your patch, basically all you need is a waterproof container where you can punch holes in the bottom, dirt, seeds (and/or cuttings) and some space (even a tiny one). Even if you live in an apartment you still can utilize a windowsill, porch or wall/s.
If you are on a budget you can start by buying something very basic like a shovel and rake and then just slowly add to your tools and equipment over a gradual period of time. Another important argument not to hurry with buying equipment all at once is that you'll know with gaining gardening experience exactly what you’ll need.
However, even at the very beginner's level we still need:
- a shovel; when you are choosing shovels/rakes always buy with a long handle as they are much more back friendly than those with a short one.
- watering can; I prefer the metal one as the plastic one is (a) ecologically unfriendly and (b) becomes brittle very quickly;
-personally, I can't work in the garden without a motorbike belt, it’s a tremendous help with my back.
Where to shop to buy all of these?
The “Gum tree” website is an absolute El Dorado for gardeners, where you can get stuff for free, followed closely by “Trash and Treasure” markets. Those markets are the best places in the world not only for gardeners, but for everyone, because: (a) if you buy there you are actively participating in recycling process; (b) only there you can buy European tool for a cheap price. However, the drawback of these markets is there is no always what you need. In this case, you’ll have to go to a Bunnings.
Considering the bed/s position and type of bed.
When choosing the bed position always try to choose the sunniest and most raised place in you garden as it will save your back. You can make it yourself, buy in the store or pick up from the side of the road as it can be any box, former paint basket, old kiddies pool etc.
However in my opinion, the best option in the garden is the non-dig-bed as it requires a limited amount of work, can be implemented anywhere (over concrete or lawn), is easy to make, retains the moisture well and has less weeds than a normal bed.
Here is the link to my post how to make a non-dig-bed its-simple-make-your-own-no-dig-bed.html
Soil, compost and mulching.
Here is the good news: if you have good, healthy soil in your garden, half of your problems (fungi, pests, split and twisted roots etc.) would be sorted automatically. The bad news: you can't buy good soil in Australia. The quality of the soil that is sold over the counter is bad without any correlation to the price. That why it is advisable to make soil yourself. However in saying that, I always use the shop's soil for propagating spring seeds inside the house or when I run a master classes, because this soil is sterile.
Compost everything that you can compost and you'll:
- improve your soil (see above),
- decrease your ecological footprints,
- help to preventing green house emission,
- have your own mulch available at any time and save money.
You can buy a compost bin, or:
- make it yourself;
- go for a hunt in the local “Trash and Treasure” market;
- pick up from the side of the road anything that looks like a compost bin.
And here is the link how to compost how-to-make-compost.html
Mulching is another important part of being successful in gardening as mulch prevents soil from drying out during summer (it reduces the evaporation of moisture up to 70%) and it saves time on watering. During winter it protects soil from over – cooling, suppresses weeds and improves the quality of soil when it breaks down eventually and turns into valuable humus. There are quite a few types of compost: straw, hay, barks... they all available from stores, yet you can mulch you entire garden for free (coffee waste from local shop, rotten leaves from river banks, cleaning horse's supplier warehouse floor, etc.). You can follow this link to access my post about mulching: all-about-mulch.html
If you are just starting to make your first steps in gardening and don't know how to approach, it is advisable to read a few articles before starting your project, you can find them in the local library, in my web-site quite a few of them: juliaorganic.com.au and you can ask me questions via FB, Instagram or in a comment form below any of my posts.
Observe gardens of other people and you can pick up quite a few ideas.
You can save on seeds and cuttings if you pay a visit to your friends or relatives who already have a garden or exchange seeds with your gardeners’ colleagues. Don't forget to save seeds for the next year!
Always start with a little project, no more than fifteen minutes a day, otherwise you can end up with a sore back and completely disheartened. Increase your time in the garden slowly.
It is an excellent idea to have a few chooks in the garden as you'll have a luxurious fresh organic eggs on your table every day, an endless supply of organic manure and you'll also recycle your food scraps. Just before buying them, remember that they are basically pets and you'll need to look after them (feed them, change the water, clean their shed etc.). If you are not sure that you'll have enough time it is better to abandon this idea in the very beginning.
And it is absolutely fantastic to have bees. By having them you'll increase your harvest by 30% at least and you'll have your good quality raw and combed honey that is almost impossible to buy in any of the shops. Just a word of caution, before buying a beehive it is better to attend a bee-keeping course.
What we are planting?
Plant what you like to eat. For example, I love persimmons, that’s why I have two of them.
Plant what is easy to grow if you are a beginner. If you have never done gardening before I'd advise you to start with salad, parsley and cherry guava; leave cabbages and peaches for a later stage.
Arrange your bed according to height of plants. For example, long stemmed sunflowers can go to the back, then silver beet in the middle rows and carrots in the front. You'll find all the necessary instructions (height and spacing) on the back of your seeds’ bag.
Also take into a consideration the amount of sun your plants should receive when positioning them. For example, plant tomatoes and basil should be in the most sunny position; chives, dill and salad can go behind.
Boosting our harvest.
We can do it in a few different ways
1. Attract pollinating insects.
2. If you have a beehive in you backyard this problem is solved. All the same, if you are like most of us, unfortunately lacking this little bee house/s at your place, plant bee's and other pollinating insects attracting plants (oregano, rocket, zucchinis, plums, apples, lavender etc).
3. Fighting with pests/bad insects. In most of the cases, all you need is baby shampoo, olive oil, squashed garlic, cayenne pepper and ashes. The easiest concoction that stops almost all the pests is baby shampoo, olive oil garlic, cayenne pepper and a bucket of water. Or, put a handful of ashes on affected plant. The article with a more detail about how to fight pests organically is scheduled for publishing in April.
4. Attract insects that eat bad insects, ladybirds or praying mantises, for example.
5. Inter-plant crop with companion plants. In some sense, plants are like humans. With a time you'll notice that some plants like each other's company (classical example: tomatoes and basil), some can't stand each other, example: dill and carrot. Another examples of plants that compliment each other: strawberries and raspberries, apple tree and garlic.
Besides, if you inter - plant some of the plants it'll help to ward off pests (sage and chamomile as they are very pungent); or pests will prefer to eat the more tender leaves of nasturtium flowers if you plant them next to cabbages.
6. Adding mulch and manure. Don't forget to add manure to your garden, the best time for Victoria state is the end of July. Try to apply organic one. About mulch application, please, see above.
7. Don't forget to rotate your crop. It is a very important task if you want to maintain your garden healthy. Rotating crop means not to plant in the same spot plants from the same family, as they prone to same deceases and take the same nutrients from the soil. For example, tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants belong to the same family. Applying the crop rotation rule: don't plant any of them next year; plant legumes or cucumbers or salad.
I hope I have encouraged you to start gardening. It is a worthy investment and way to protect our planet. If you have you own tricks or tips on gardening or just questions I'd like to hear them from you.