Two years ago, we bought our first three vegetable crates. A year later, we had a further two inbuilt patches in our front yard. In addition, we have various fruit and olive trees.
We actually have a reasonably big garden and if we chose to, we could live off it. But the demands of an active sporty boy means that we wanted to save some yard for him.
Year one was a novelty, experimental and I probably didn’t take it too seriously. I had no idea what I was doing. Year two, something changed. I had researched a lot more, visited more garden spaces, did some volunteering at the market garden in Ceres and I really wanted to be able to eat our own food.
So what changed? I became passionate.
And this summer, the hope is to be able to live sustainably off our patches only buying the things we don’t grow like potatoes (although I may but considering they only cost $2 a kilo at the local organic shop, I may not bother). This year I am trying to grow more from seed (I gave up trying to do this in winter).
So what have I learnt? I know for certain that the learning is constant and so much of it is just trial and error.
I expect that my list will grow and grow (hopefully like my veggies!)
And watch out for my next blog post where I will share with you some of my very valuable resources.
- Make time. Especially during the warmer months. Be prepared to get out of bed at 7am and water the lawns if you don’t have an automatic system. In summer (in Melbourne), it can get so hot you have to do it early.
- What starts off small can end up big, very big. Take zucchini for instance. They can take over your patch if you don’t watch it. So always pay attention to the spacing recommendation when planting seedlings (or seeds).
- Water , water, water and fertilise.
- Pay attention to companion planting. For instance, plant basil with tomatoes. But don’t plant potatoes with tomatoes. Sustainable Garden Companion Planting is one of the good resources out there.
- Don’t plant what you don’t eat. If you don’t eat carrots don’t start growing them just because you can. You might relish them at the start but after a while you will realise you don’t really want to eat them after all. We had that problem with beetroot. Same with our silverbeet. And that just never dies; we have a crop that is now one year old and just keeps coming and coming! We don’t really eat it so it goes to friends, neighbours and I swap it for a coffee at a local cafe.
- Maximise your space by checking out other people’s patches and ideas. Go for a walk around the neighbourhood. You would be amazed how many veggie patches you come across and you will marvel at some of the more interesting and ingenious ideas.
- If you don’t plan to live where you are for many years, keep your patches mobile if you can. Use big pots, crates, etc. Anything that is transportable.
- Bending down is hard no matter what age so make your patches as high as possible.
- No dig patches are good but it costs more and the soil tends to sink so you have to keep topping up.
- Protect your crop from pests. Rats and mice will chew through netting so you will need something stronger than that.
- Don’t expect to get good returns on your investment for at least a few years. Soil, fertilisers, mulch, equipment and materials cost money even if you recycle as much as you can.
- Don’t use chemical pesticides if you can possibly avoid it. Go natural.
- If you plant using left overs from veggies you have bought from the store eg spring onions, basil, garlic etc make sure you are using organic. Otherwise, you don’t know what chemicals etc you are putting back into the soil and the new veggies that sprout from it.
- Be prepared to be disappointed. Just because something grows doesn’t mean it will be successful. Bugs can attack it, heat can kill it and sometimes it just doesn’t work! My broccoli was looking so good but when it came to harvesting time, most of them went straight to seed or just didn’t work. Especially disappointing when you grow something from seed.
- Be prepared to be overjoyed. There is nothing like picking your first chilli or tomato. It’s so satisfying.
So feel free to add your learnings in the comments section! Happy veggie gardening!