I’ve been reading tutorial posts elsewhere about starting veggie gardens, and no wonder people give up on the idea before they start. Why do people have to complicate things which are actually quite simple? Or turn it into a mammoth shopping list that makes buying vegies for the rest of your life seem like the cheap deal?
We are experts at starting veggie gardens. Before you pass me off as an up-myself snob, remember that the husband and I have lived in well over 20 houses in our 13-odd years together. Starting them, we excel at. Learning to keep them going well for years………..well, maybe one day we’ll get the chance. Our way involves using your muscles for the initial start-up, but not your wallet. Most people could do with using their muscles more, so don’t be shy-get out there, toughen up, and do some work you can be proud of and reap the benefits from for years.
200sq/m, less than six months
Here’s our well-honed method.
Pick a sunny spot. Here in Australia, with our intense sun, you can get away with some shade. But try to minimise it. If you have lots of shade everywhere, go ahead and do it anyway, but resign yourself to leafy veg. Under trees is also not so good-they’ll steal from your vegies. Start with a manageable size-you can always expand later once your original area is set-up, but beginning with a huge area can be discouraging.
Peel off the grass. All of the grass. A mattock is the best for this. You may think you want lovely grassy paths, with rocks/sleepers for edging, but you don’t. Well, you won’t once the reality of them sinks in. Grassy paths suck the nutrients and water from your garden, and the grass invades through your pretty edging. Without herbicide, you’ll have a grassy garden fairly quickly. As you’re not a ruminant, and cannot digest the grass, that is bad. Make a compost pile with the sod.
Dig over the dirt. It doesn’t need to be deeply dug, just rough it up a little. A fork is good for this-sink in the tines, wiggle it around and lever it part of the way up. Repeat. Throw on as much manure as you can get-fresh, old, from any farm animal will do. Manure is plentiful, and there’s always people around wanting to get rid of it-find people who keep animals and don’t garden, try stables, ask any farmers you know. Ask on local online groups if anyone wants you to come around and clean up their mess. You’ll meet some interesting people. We’ve spent a lot of time wandering in paddocks picking up muck-but we most definitely don’t go to Bunnings and buy bagged manure. Actually, we don’t go to Bunnings ever, but that’s another story. Spread the lovely muck over your dirt, and inhale the beautiful stink-that stink is the smell of fertility, and future food for you.
Cover the lot with mulch. Sugar cane, lucerne, pea straw, whatever’s available in your area. Again, if you look you can usually pick up bales of straw fairly cheaply from the side of the road. Or, you can rake up the council mowings from the side of the road in the country. Water it well, then rest your aching muscles for a week or so.
Now, it’s time to plan. Decide where you want your beds to be, and tramp paths around them. Stomp down hard and you should soon be able to see them clearly. Your paths will be manured and mulched just as heavily as your beds-and why not? Your plants can spread their roots out there, so lets make it tasty for them. (Admittedly, we currently have bare paths, but we have an unfair amount of local red-bellied black snakes). Make sure your paths and beds are a decent width, but that you can reach the centre of the beds. Water it again.
Plant seeds, according to season. Scrape the mulch back, make sure the soil is damp, break up any clods if needed, and plant away. Seedlings are too much bother-home-started seedlings have their place, but for now it’s an unnecessary complication. Keep it simple. Plant your plants at random, forget about neat beds of one type of plant. Lettuces grow well in the shade of other plants, radishes grow so fast you pull them before the tomatoes next to them are big enough to be bothered, and so on. In the beginning your germination will be poor, so plant thickly. You can always thin, and eat the thinnings. But you want success, so go crazy. Seeds are cheap. My favourite supplier is Rangeview Seeds.
Keep in watered, and watch it grow. Attention is the key-go for a walk around it every day. Get down low, and really look. Learn what your plants, and your weeds, look like when they come up. Keep an eye on the bugs and work out which ones are helpful, and which you should feed to the chooks. Learn what grows well together, and what doesn’t. Work out what grows really well in your area and gather lots of recipes containing it. Conversely, learn what you shouldn’t bother with, as it gets struck down with pests/disease, or hates the weather. This step is not optional if you want garden success-it doesn’t take much time, but attention is the difference between success and failure.
A visitor in the corn patch
There you go. You’re a gardener. That wasn’t so hard, was it?