One of my favourite things to do in the garden is to grow my own fresh produce. I had my very first vegetable patch when I was around 7 years old where I grew an assortment of veggies. I remember vividly growing sweet corn and the feeling I had when I picked my very first corn from the tall canes. It was pure excitement.
The 5 general rule when growing vegies:
Rule 1: Sunshine
Almost all vegetables require a hot sunny position in the garden to thrive. In Australia our north sun is our hottest. A lot of the time when I have people ask where to establish a vegetable patch I will recommend a spot that has either a) all day sun or b) is exposed to the afternoon sun. Why a hot spot? With most edible plants (there are the odd exceptions) the sun promotes stronger sugar levels within the fruit/vegetable which results in the plant having stronger flavours. Most often than not, in sweet fruit it can make them even more sweet.
Rule 2: Foundations
It can sometimes be easy to forget about the soil our plants go into, especially when it is a pre-existing garden-bed. Just like a house the most important step to success is having a great foundation and it is no different with soil. In my early years of starting out in the Horticultural industry I learnt very quickly a saying which has stuck with me. ‘You can buy the most beautiful, healthy tree in a nursery and plant it into poor soil. But it will not thrive. If you were to buy a poor, sick tree and plant it into organically rich soil it will thrive and flourish.’
How do you fix poor soil?
It can depend on the soil structure, texture and there are many other factors as well.
But as a general rule of thumb if you have sandy soil adding age animal manures and organic compost to the soil every few months can help to improve the soil structure. All whilst promoting healthy microbes and bacteria in the soil.
If you have a heavy clay soil adding aged animal manures and compost certainly helps improve the structure and texture of the soil. But also adding gypsum and clay breaker to the soil can help to speed up the process by making the soil more friable.
Rule 3: Feeding
Over the years I have experimented with a few different techniques to feed my vegetables. The most effective way is to do a 2:1 ratio. I will use a all-purpose-liquid based fertiliser which I use fortnightly throughout the whole growing season. Then every third to fourth week I will apply a powder or pellet feed. I find mixing the fertilisers up every second to third week to really benefit my plants as it gives them a good balance and mixture of different nutrients.
There are 3 main nutrients plants require to grow.
Phosphorus (P2O5) = Works to help a plant convert other nutrients into usable resources which the plant can use to grow. Phosphorus is used in fertilisers to encourage plants to produce new roots, form flowers which will develop fruit and then to produce seeds. It is also fed to plants which might be fighting a fungal or disease as it can assist them during those tough garden battles.
Nitrogen (N) = Is one of the most important nutritional needs for a plant. It is a very large component of chlorophyll which is what allows plants to use sunlight and produce that energy into sugars from water and carbon dioxide. Plants also use nitrogen for proteins, which they rely on heavily. Without these proteins plants will die. Nitrogen is a component of amino acids which is the main building block for proteins. Nitrogen is usually used in fertilisers to promote new fresh foliage and it will green ‘up’ your plants if they are yellowing.
Potassium (K2O) = Can have many different purposes to assist a plant in its lifetime. But the most important reason is that it allows the opening and closing of the stomata found in the plants foliage, stems and other organs which is how they photosynthesise. Which allows the plant to absorb CO2. However, Potassium is also used to encourage plants to grow quicker and to promote the development of strong stems/trunks.
Rule 4: Watering
We all know plants require water to survive. But… consistent watering in edible plants is so very important. Have you ever had a lemon ripen but have the skin burst and there not to be very much juice inside? It is due to inconsistent watering. What has happened is the fruit, as it has developed, received a large amount of water and it swelled at a gradual pace. Next there was a dry period where there was not enough water getting down into the roots, therefore the fruit development slowed and expanded at a slower rate. Suddenly the tree was exposed to large amounts of water and the fruit began to develop at a rapid rate once again but… too quick. Resulting in the fruit splitting. Most fruit and vegetables like to be watered evenly, with a pattern. By watering your veggie patch every day or it might be every second day you can eliminate environmental issues when growing produce. But… yes you can’t prevent the weather. But understanding your soil, sandy more dry and clay being more wet, you can gauge how much water and how often you may need to attend to your plants.
Rule 5: Watchful Eyes
With warmer weather usually means garden pests become more apparent in the garden. By checking on your plants every few weeks you can start keeping a preventative measure on pest control. If you come across garden pests the sooner you jump on them the easier it will be down the track to keep your prised vegetables in top form.
The wonderful thing about gardening is that you can nurture a plant and see it grow, flourish and produce.
Until next time happy gardening! By Bonnie-Marie Hibbs ©BMHPhotographyTheGardener’sNotebook2018