With the rising cost of living and disruption to supply chains during the last few years, the idea of self-sufficiency and creating your own food security at home has become increasingly popular.
Spring is the best season to start a garden project. The warmer weather makes it easy to geminate seeds and there are a lot of veggies to choose from!
Setting up the garden
How big your backyard is will affect what type of garden you will set up. The first step is to measure your space and decide how large a garden will suit your needs. Larger spaces suit growing directly in the ground or setting up a raised garden bed. For smaller spaces, you can still grow many veggies in pots.
Veggies need sun to thrive, most require at least 6-8 hours per day. This is especially true for fruiting varieties like tomatoes, capsicums, eggplants, cucumber and zucchini. Leafy greens are more shade tolerant and able to thrive in as little as 4-6 hours of sun per day. Lettuce, spinach, silverbeet and kale are good crops to start with. Herbs are also a hardy option and can handle some low light conditions. Suitable herbs to try include parsley, chives, mint and coriander.
It’s important to use good quality soil to get the best out of your veggie garden. Go with a good quality potting mixture that meets the Australian Standards. Potting mixes to these standards are formulated for perfect drainage and water retention. Commercial potting mixes are often slightly acidic, so you may benefit by adding a little lime to your soil when getting started. You can also use compost mixed with something to improve the drainage such as pearlite and sand.
Regular watering improves the health of your veggies and helps to avoid common problems like fruit splitting, flowers dropping or veggies going to seed early. A great way to ensure your veggies get watered is to install a drip irrigation system. Include a timer on your tap too and the drippers will automatically run. If you opt for hand watering, check how dry the soil is by placing your finger 1 inch in the dirt. If its dry, time to water! If it’s wet, leave it be as too much water can cause rot and fungal issues.
Fertilising regularly improves your harvest. As a rule of thumb, in Spring you should liquid fertilise every 2 weeks. Use a nitrogen rich fertiliser (N) for crops that you harvest with shoots and leaves. For fruiting crops, use a fertiliser with higher potassium (K) once they are at fruiting age. This encourages more flowers, and therefore more fruit! You can also use slow-release fertilisers. This saves you from remembering to apply liquid feeds every fortnight and provides steady growth over a longer period.
Choosing your crops
Strategic crop choice
Prioritise foods that you and your family enjoy eating and are happy to use on a regular basis. Veggie gardens can often be generous, so there’s no point in growing food that you don’t like to eat. Try and think of something you use in a lot of your cooking. Are you already looking for leafy greens to add? Maybe you love spicy food? Pick what suits you!
You can also be strategic money-wise. For example, herbs are often very expensive in the supermarket with patchy availability. However, they are really easy to grow at home and you can get multiple harvests from the one plant. Other value for money crops which have multiple harvests from one crop include tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicums and eggplants.
Match your space
If you have lots of growing space, you can tackle large spreading plants like pumpkins, zucchinis, melons and squash. Some plants you can grow vertically to save space such as tomatoes, beans and cucumbers. There are many veggies suited to pots and smaller spaces including lettuce, spinach, beetroots, carrots and chillies. If you’re growing in a small space, keep a look out for seed packets that are labelled as ‘Container’ or ‘Dwarf’ varieties. Mr Fothergill’s ‘Container Garden’ seed range makes this job easy, as these varieties are specially selected for growing in pots and containers.
What to plant in Spring
There’s so much choice to grow in Spring, it really is the best season to start a garden! You can grow beans, beetroot, bok choi, capsicum, carrots, chillies, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce, melons, okra, onion, pak choi, pumpkin, radish, spinach, spring onion, sweet corn, tomatoes and zucchinis! There are also heaps of herbs that you can grow in Spring including basil, chives, coriander, dill, mint, parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme. If that isn’t enough choice for you, there are also a whole multitude of flowers that you can plant to accompany your veggies too.
Why grow from seed
Seedlings experience transplant shock when their roots are disturbed to be planted in your garden. Growing from seed eliminates this, meaning that seed-grown plants quickly catch-up.
Another benefit is that growing from seed is very cost effective. You can get thousands of seeds for just a few dollars depending on variety! You also have the freedom to grow it your own way, whether that be organic, hydroponic, in pots or direct in the garden.
Growing from seed can be really easy, anyone can do it! The seed provides nutrients for the growing plant for the first few weeks, so all you have to provide is water and warmth. Seeds often have protective coatings that work as a buffer against poor growing conditions (e.g. too much/too little water), so these are hard to grow ‘wrong’.
Give your new veggie garden the best start with Mr. Fothergill’s quality seeds. Available in Bunnings and Independent Garden Centres.
This is a sponsored article produced in partnership with Mr. Fothergill’s.