The home vegetable garden is a place of harmony and a wonderful escape from life. There is nothing more pleasing than seeing a plant grow from seed to producing the most flavourful fruit your family will love.
Growing your own food is the most effective way to save money at home and it reduces packaging waste the supermarkets seem to love. You don’t need a lot of space to reduce food costs. Some vegetables will grow effectively in pots as long as you have a sunny spot.
On this site you will see guides to growing a range of vegetables in your home garden. They are divided into All Year-Round Vegetables, Summer Vegetables and Winter Vegetables. There are also guides to Collecting Vegetable Seeds so you can complete the growing cycle and save money on buying seeds for the next year.
|Table of Contents|
|Vegetable Garden Location|
|Raised Vegetable Garden Beds|
|Raising Vegetable Seeds|
|Pests and Diseases|
|Growing Vegetables in Pots|
Vegetable Garden Location
The best spot in your yard will have the morning sun and afternoon shade during the warmer months and at least half a day of sun during the winter. Vegetables will do better in a sheltered spot and should be protected from dogs, rabbits and other pests.
Use second hand fencing to protect garden beds. It can be purchased from farm auctions or scrap metal yards. Creating raised beds can also help to deter pests and is easier on your back.
In some cases you may not have a choice of where you put your vegetable garden due to a small yard or landscaping. In these cases consider using shade cloth to protect the plants from hot westerly winds during the warmer months and grow plants which do well in the shade for areas of your plot which doesn’t get much sunlight.
Raised Vegetable Garden Beds
Raised garden beds are a great option for the elderly and disabled. There are many ways to create a raised garden bed without having to spend a great deal of money on readymade frames.
Scrap roofing iron can be attached to metal or wooden posts then painted with metal paint for rusty surfaces. If the iron is too high cut with a grinder, file off the edge then put the sharp edge in the ground.
Scrap pieces of timber from a lumber yard can also be used or try recycled timber yards. It does not matter if the timber has some rot as long as it is sturdy. Old tractor tyres also create readymade raised beds and are a great way to recycle these tyres. The outside of the tyre can be painted to improve their look.
Leave enough space between each bed to get a lawn mower and wheel chair through. The bed should be no wider than what the person using the bed can easily reach from each side.
Once you have your frame layer compost, hay and topsoil in the raised bed until you reach the top of the frame. This will settle a little over time, but it can be topped up with more compost before you plant the next seasons plants to add more nutrients to the soil.
Greenhouses are a good investment if you live in hot dry climates. They reduce the amount of water needed and improve the success rate in drought conditions. Plants grow slower in the greenhouse but their growing season is extended as it does provide some protection from frosts.
Most vegetable plants will grow successfully under shade cloth with 50% shade. It is the heat in the atmosphere that will help them grow. Winter vegetables are best grown out in the sun in a protected position.
Greenhouses can be made with a simple frame made from wood, metal posts or poly pipes with the shade cloth attached over the top and sides. Rain will go through the shade cloth.
For more tips to gardening in dry conditions try this guide.
Hothouses can be made from glass or laser lite roofing. The glass option is the most expensive and will need to be professionally installed. Laser lite is a clear roofing product that comes in different shades. It is best to use the clear and attach to a wooden frame.
With both these options you will need to take ventilation into account when designing your hothouse. It is best to have a section of the roof that can be wound up to let the heat out or a door at both ends to provide cross ventilation.
Hothouses can increase the amount of vegetables that can be grown during the cooler months and is worth considering for your garden. A small hothouse the size of a doghouse is handy for raising seeds for the coming spring.
Crop rotation is a must for vegetable gardens. It is best to make a plan of your garden then write down where you have planted each variety of vegetable. Keep this in a file so you can return to it next season then place your new crops in different positions.
This will help to prevent disease and increase the health of your vegetables as each variety will use more of different nutrients in the soil.
Your soil health is the most important consideration in your vegetable garden. The healthier your soil is the healthier your plants will be. Good soil will improve yields, the size of the fruit and their taste.
Every year add a layer of compost to your soil then mulch with straw or pea straw. At the end of the season this will be dug into the soil improving its structure. If you have heavy clay soils you may need to add 10kg (22 pounds) of compost per square metre whereas you may only need 3kg (6.6 pounds) for better soils.
It is worthwhile testing the pH of your soil. Kits can be purchased online or at your local garden centre. For acidic soils it is best to add a handful of lime to the soil to improve its pH.
Raising Vegetable Seeds
Most vegetable seeds can be raised at home. Make your own seed raising mix by sifting regular potting mix or compost. You may need to add 1-part sand to 2 parts compost to improve drainage.
It is best to start seeds for the coming spring during the middle of winter so they will be large enough to plant out once the last of the frosts are over. They will need to be kept in a warm position with good light such as a windowsill.
Moisten the trays or punnets of seed raising mix then sprinkle the seeds over the top. Add more seed raising mix over the top of the seeds to the required depth then spritz with a mist of water.
Cover the trays with plastic or glass to create a humid atmosphere. This will speed up germination but they will germinate without it. Plastic can be pegged onto the edge of the punnet. It is best to keep the trays in a saucer of water to keep the soil moist.
Setting Out Vegetable Seedlings
Most vegetables will be ready to set out when they have their second leaves or are 2 to 5inches (5 to 10cm) tall. Set the trays outside for a few days to let them acclimatise before planting out in their final position. This will reduce shock and improve your success rate.
For winter crops it is best to raise seeds towards the end of summer then plant out during the middle of fall or autumn after the weather has cooled and the heatwaves are over.
Fertilizing Your Vegetable Garden
Start your vegetables off well by applying compost or aged manure to the soil prior to planting. There are many different options available from cow manure to mushroom compost. They will all benefit your garden.
However, it is best and cheaper to make your own compost if you have the space in your garden. Try this guide to make your own compost bins. You can also purchase rolling compost bins which are great if you don’t have a lot of room.
It is best to apply a half strength of liquid fertilizer to seedlings until they are established then a full-strength application every two weeks. Vegetables need the constant supply of nutrients to thrive.
I have used both phosphorus-based fertilizers and seaweed concentrate and have found that the seaweed concentrate achieves better long-term results for the garden. It improves the health of the soil as the worms and other beneficial microorganisms love it.
Pests and Diseases
Vegetables have many different pests and diseases that can decimate a crop. There is nothing more disheartening than walking out to your prized vegetable garden to find a rabbit has eaten all of your greens!
Prevention is always better than cure. For some pests it may be as easy as fencing in your garden with chicken wire or wire mesh. It may be a good idea to dig the wire a foot below the ground to keep out burrowing animals.
For insect infestations companion planting can help to deter pests from our crops. Some scented plants will deter the pests while others will attract the bugs away from your vegetables to their flowers. Try this guide to Companion Planting.
Diseases can be prevented by disposing of diseased plants properly and not leaving them on the ground. It is important to remove the diseased plant as soon as possible to stop the spread. Never put diseased plants or fruit in the compost.
Good soil health will produce stronger plants that are more resistant to disease. It is also important to ensure your plants receive regular watering especially during the hot summer months. Stressed plants encourage disease.
If you don’t want to use chemicals to cure the disease your only option may be to pull out the affected plants then don’t plant anything else in that position for a few seasons. When you do plant there again try a different type of vegetable that isn’t affected by the disease.
Growing Vegetables in Pots
Don’t let apartment living put you off from growing your own produce. It may be trial and error when it comes to finding the right spot for your pots and the vegetables that will grow the best for you, but that is the fun of gardening.
The size of the pot you will need will depend on the vegetable you want to grow. Try using a large pot for a staked tomato or a rectangular pot for a row of spinach or lettuce.
Pots will need to be positioned in a place that has good ventilation, sunlight and warmth. Use a good quality potting mix then apply liquid fertiliser every two weeks. Water regularly but don’t water log the plant.
Vegetable gardening is one of the most rewarding chores around the home. It can improve mental health while saving money at the same time. If you are new to gardening start out with just a few easy to grow plants such as zucchini or pumpkins then move on to more as you gain in confidence.
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