Tips for an organic garden

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We all know fresh is best, and that couldn’t be more true for when you grow your own produce.

A home-grown, freshly picked, vine-ripened tomato has so much zesty flavour compared with those from the supermarket, so why not grow your own?

Growing your own vegetables is rewarding. You should be able to grow a bountiful crop in a matter of weeks. Consider the following tips before you begin, and check with your garden centre or online for which crops are best suited to your local conditions.

Which veggies?

The amount of space you have available will help determine which vegetables you can grow.

Tall vegetables don’t take up a lot of ground space but make up for it in height. These include tomatoes, beans and cucumbers, which require some sort of support. Corn is also an attractive, upright-growing crop.

Tomato plants will need to be staked or grown through a frame.
Tomato plants will need to be staked or grown through a frame.
Wide plants require a lot of ground space. Small zucchini and squash seedlings can grow up to 1.5 metres wide once established. Even more space must be allowed for ground-covering vines such as rockmelon, watermelon and pumpkin, which can cover up to three metres.
Zucchini plants have a wide, low-growing habit.
Zucchini plants have a wide, low-growing habit.

Small plants such as capsicum, chillies, spring onions and leeks have an upright shape, growing to about 40 centimetres.

Chillies and capsicum are compact, low growing plants.
Chillies and capsicum are compact, low-growing plants.

Underground vegetables have leaves above ground but produce their crops underground. These include potatoes, sweet potatoes, radishes and beetroots.

Radishes grow underground, with just the tops visible.
Radishes grow underground, with just the tops visible.

Where to grow them?

No matter what space you have available, you should be able to create a vegetable garden. The ideal growing conditions for your vegetables would be a sunny position for part of the day and, ideally, not in baking sun.

Sunny balconies are ideal for growing vegetables.
Sunny balconies are ideal for growing vegetables.

Small gardens require clever planning. In a small space, grow vegetables in “layers”. Plant tall tomatoes and corn at the back, a row or two of shorter–growing spring onions, and capsicums and chillies at the front. You can even plant flowering annuals among the vegetables to make the garden more attractive.

Smaller gardens require more careful planning.
Smaller gardens require careful planning.

Large gardens are more flexible. Plan the layout of your garden by placing vegetable plants with similar growing habits together. Erect wire structures for the beans and tomatoes. Create large, open beds for watermelon and rockmelon vines. Allow space for low-growing and underground vegetables.

The more space you have, the greater variety of crops you can grow.
The more space you have, the greater variety of crops you can grow.

Keep them watered

Essential to the success of your garden is effective watering. You can use a hose, but a more efficient way is to install a drip-feed irrigation system. This may sound difficult, but it is relatively easy and inexpensive to install.

With an irrigation system, all you have to do is turn the system on for about 20 minutes every other day. Best of all, it ensures the roots of the plants are thoroughly hydrated.

Inconsistent watering sends a shock throughout the plants and affects the quality of produce. It can even weaken the plants, which can create the perfect breeding ground for insects and disease.

A drip irrigation system directs water to the roots and can be controlled with a timer.
A drip-irrigation system directs water to the roots and can be controlled with a timer.

Soil preparation

Garden success will be determined by the quality of the soil. To encourage vigorous growth, prepare the soil before planting.

As most garden soil is compacted and lacking in nutrients, water is poorly absorbed and will run off the top, and plants will not thrive. Whether you are growing in raised beds, pots or in the ground, it is imperative to break up the soil and dig in fresh nutrients.

There are many products on the market including compost, mushroom compost and cow manure, or you could buy prepared, good-quality garden soil from the nursery. These often contain wetting agents to help your garden retain moisture.

Break up the soil before planting and add in organic material to improve soil fertility.
Break up the soil before planting and add in organic material to improve soil fertility.

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