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Gardening: Grow Your Own Vegetables
It's very satisfying to grow your own vegetables, and as well as better flavour than the ones from the supermarket, they generally cost you less too.
The initial cost is in time and effort to set up an efficient vegetable garden and installing a watering system. Ongoing costs are seeds or seedlings, mulch and fertiliser and your time, but the satisfaction far outweighs the fairly low costs.
Planning a vegetable garden
What you grow will depend on three factors:
- The space you have:
even on a small balcony it's possible to grow lettuces or salad greens like rocket, tomatoes, beans, capsicums and some herbs. With a bigger garden you can also consider carrots, silverbeet or spinach, bok choy and Asian greens, zucchinis, eggplants, peas, pumpkins; even ' with enough room ' potatoes, onions, celery and garlic.
- The amount of sun it gets:
It's no use planting vegetables that need long hours of sun, if your garden only gets a few hours in the morning or the late afternoon. A productive veggie garden should get at least 5 hours of sun a day; however you can plant some varieties that can make do with morning sun.
- The climate zone you live in:
Australia is divided into four climate zones ' tropical, sub-tropical, temperate and cold. Tropical and sub-tropical plants won't enjoy the sub-zero nights and short winter days of Hobart and the Blue Mountains, and cold-climate veggies won't thrive in the tropics.
Preparing Your Vegetable Garden
Lay out your garden beds to get the maximum sun, protection from wind, and ease of watering, cultivation and picking.
If possible, site your vegetable patch to face north to north-east, to get the maximum sunlight, especially in winter. The individual beds should run north-south, so every plant gets lots of sun.
- Wind protection:
All vegetables need some protection from wind. Cold winds slow down growth; hot winds evaporate water. Strong winds can damage plants. Windbreaks of trees, walls or lattice fences can be placed south or west, to provide protection without blocking the sun.
Install micro irrigation systems (link to water-efficient article). These are extremely efficient way of watering as the water is delivered directly to the roots and not lost to wind and evaporation. Mulch around plants to protect the soil and keep the water in.
Lay paths of pine bark or mulch between the beds for ease of cultivation and picking when your vegetables start producing.
If you don't like digging, consider creating a no-dig vegetable garden.
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