Thursday, December 16, 2010

Growing your own vegetables

Nothing beats garden-fresh vegetables. Any sunny spot, even a pot, can produce a few favourites.

Where to plant. Your site must get full sun all day, so choose a spot clear of trees. An area of 4m x 4m is a good size for beginners.

What sort of soil?. Fertile, free-draining soil is essential. To improve your soil, dig over your vegie patch, breaking up any clods, and work in plenty of well-rotted manure and compost and one handful of complete plant food per square metre. The dug-over soil should end up dark, fine and crumbly. Leave it undisturbed for a week or two before planting your crop.

Problem soils. Clay: If your soil is sticky, heavy clay, don't bother digging. Build a 25cm-high retaining wall around the site and fill it with good-quality soil.
Sandy: If your soil is very sandy, it will drain well but you'll need to add lots of organic matter to give it fertility and some body. A raised bed will help ensure good drainage. Rake over to level it, then water the area deeply.

What to plant. Select varieties you like to eat. Remember, vegetables planted at the same time mature at the same time, so it's a good idea to plant small batches two or three weeks apart. Choose varieties that are right for the season.

Seeds: They're reasonably cheap and it's easy to plant a few seeds now and save the rest for later. Sow according to the directions on the pack. Never let the soil dry out while the seeds are germinating (which may take two weeks) and, when seedlings appear, thin them so the spacing between each is even.Seedlings:

Bought seedlings are already several weeks old, so they're ready to eat sooner and can be spaced correctly at the outset. But they have to be planted all at once and you may not want so many ready to eat at the same time.

Single or wide rows? Vegetables are usually grown in rows. Single rows are the traditional choice but some garden experts are now recommending three to five rows closely spaced to form one wide row. This increases the yield per square metre.

Source: Gardening: A Commonsense Guide'' (Murdoch Books) via Better Homes and Gardens 

Knowing your zone will help you find what will grow most successfully in your garden. Detailed information on Australian climate zones can be found at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology website .

Australia - arid. This zone crosses Australia from coastal Western Australia to the Great Dividing Range in the East. It includes all the desert area, Kalgoorlie, Alice Springs and dry inland areas of Queensland.

Australia - cool/mountain. Mild or warm summer. Cold winter with frosts. Includes high areas of the New South Wales Northern Tablelands (Armidale,Guyra,Glen Innes), Southern Tablelands, Canberra/ACT, and most of Tasmania.

Australia - sub-tropical. Warm humid summer (average January maximum temperature < 30 degrees C). Mild dry winter. Includes the eastern seaboard from Brisbane south through Coffs Harbour to Sydney. Coastal WA from approx Geraldton to Canarvon

Australia - temperate. Warm summer (average January maximum < 30 degrees C), cool winter. Includes inland Queensland, New South Wales tablelands and coastal region south of Sydney, and much of southern coastal Australia from Melbourne, Adelaide through to Perth.

Australia - tropical. Hot humid summer (average January maximum temperature > 30 degrees C). Warm winter. Extends across the north of Australia from Canarvon through Port Hedland, Broome, Darwin, Cairns, and south to Rockhampton.

Visit Gardenate to make it easier to keep your kitchen garden growing and producing. Each month the home page lists what you can plant now in your climate zone, and what to prepare for next month.


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