Springtime is the best time of year to create your own Vegetable Garden. September and October are traditionally the best months in the Cape to sow seeds and transplant seedlings from trays into the vegetable garden. In this helpful DIY blog post, we have dug up some helpful gardening ideas for your home vegetable garden to keep you busy and healthy.
create your vegetable garden – our top tips
You might not know it yet, but growing your vegetable garden pays off in a number of different ways. Firstly, you will gain from the health benefits associated with homegrown vegetables. Furthermore, you can also do your bit for the environment by using some recyclable materials in your vegetable garden. For the first few tips we share with you, we will focus on Recycling.
01. Recycle Food Waste and Paper
Another excellent idea is to recycle food waste from your kitchen. Not only will you reduce waste going to a landfill, but you will also be able to enrich the soil when you make compost from food waste. Apart from food waste, you can add other recyclable materials such as cardboard boxes, empty egg containers and other waste paper into your compost. Should you wish to learn more about making your own compost, be sure to read our home composting blog.
02. Recycle Old CDs
Use old CDs on string or fishing lines to scare away birds. Using this helpful tip, you will hit two birds with one stone. Firstly, you will prevent birds from eating your vegetables. Secondly, you will also prevent the harmful plastic from ending at the landfill site.
03. Recycled Sponges Do Wonders In Your Vegetable Garden
Use old sponges to line pots for growing flowers and vegetables. In her book, Jane’s Delicious Garden, Jane Griffiths suggests using old washing-up sponges to line the bottom of your pots. This works really well where you grow container veggies such as leeks, onions, potatoes, artichokes, etc. The sponges help keep the water in the soil near the roots. Moreover, it will encourage the plants to grow deep into the base of the container. The plants will be able to suck up water from the drip tray or the ground below.
04. Reuse old seedling trays in your Vegetable Garden
Recycle old nursery seedling trays for growing seeds. Recycled nursery seedling trays and 6-pack trays work well for transplanting seedlings from your seed trays. Direct sowing seeds into seed trays works well for bigger seeds like squashes and cucumber, where you can easily divide them when they grow big enough for transplanting into the vegetable garden.
05. Recycle old plastic mesh pockets
Do you know those little plastic mesh pockets that hold squash and onions from the supermarket? Well, you can also recycle them. A brilliant idea is to use it to hold a bar of soap near your garden tap. You will surely appreciate this tip the next time you wash off the dirt from your veggie garden. Don’t remove the soap bar from the plastic pocket. Wet the plastic pocket with the soap bar and use it to scrub your hands.
06. Don’t throw away old pot scourers
Yet another recycling idea! Old steel wool twined around seedlings will help keep slugs and snails away as they cannot slither over the sharp steel edges.
07. Grow Edible Flowers
Have you thought about growing edible flowers in your vegetable garden? You can add it to meals like your summer salads and desserts. Moreover, growing flowering plants of any kind encourages diversity in your vegetable garden. It keeps pests at bay and the good insects around. Most importantly, it attracts bees for pollination. Should you wish to learn more about the importance of bees, please read our blog on urban beekeeping.
Edible flowers such as Tulbaghia (wild garlic), Nasturtiums, Lavender, Rose Geranium, Fuschia and Hibiscus add colour and new flavours. Be sure you have identified them accurately, and beware if you suffer from allergies of any kind.
08. Share with friends
There is quite a lot that you can share with your gardening friends. When you buy in bulk, it often results in savings. It is always a good idea to split the cost of a bulk purchase and share the product with a friend. Instead of buying a small pack of seeds, buy a small tin and share it. There are a number of companies that can deliver a load of compost to your house. It is a lot more cost-effective than buying compost in bags. Discuss the option with your neighbour/s and ask if he or she will be willing to split the cost and share it with you.
Apart from sharing physical stuff, you can also share ideas and information. If something works well for you, share your experience with a friend. Furthermore, don’t be shy to ask for some tips if you note that someone has a really nice vegetable garden.
09. Make use of nature to control bugs
Once you start your vegetable garden, you will soon notice that there are some nasty bugs you need to control. A good idea is to keep hens to control bugs. Apart from bug control, chickens have another benefit! Chicken poop is very nutrient-rich, and it can be used as fertiliser.
10. Keep a Vegetable Garden Journal
It is always a good idea to make some notes regarding your vegetable gardening. Since there are lots of different factors involved in gardening, you might want to remember some key points. These points could include the germination time of specific seeds and which vegetables performed better in your specific soil type. Furthermore, you can note any mistakes you made to prevent you from making the same mistake. Maybe a specific fertiliser worked well for you, and you need to remember the specific dosage you used.
11. Plant for Bees
The Tatler recently ran a story about the declining worldwide population of honey bees. Luckily, in South Africa, we are not yet seeing the large decline in colonies that are being seen in the USA, China and Europe. This decline is mainly due to intense crop farming monoculture and the use of insecticides. However, home gardeners are being encouraged to plant flowering plants to encourage habitat and food for bees to ensure our food crops do not come under threat. Fynbos such as Proteas and Ericas, are especially great for attracting bees. Furthermore, don’t hesitate to plant Lavender, Rosemary, Echinacea and Yarrow flowers. All of these will attract bees to your garden.
12. Patchwork planting
According to Jane Griffiths, patchwork planting maximises your planting area in your veggie garden beds. Patchwork planting combines the methods of interplanting, companion planting and vertical gardening (using climbing frames) in one bed. One can mix fast and slow-growing vegetables, early and late harvest, and long and shallow-rooted crops. In addition, you can also add long and shallow-rooted, sun and shade-loving and heavy and light-feeder vegetables successfully.
The above increases your biodiversity, improves your soil, and confuses pests. Should you like to learn more about companion planting, you should definitely read our comprehensive blog on companion planting in the vegetable garden.
13. Container Vegetable Gardening
You can plant vegetables in containers for various reasons. Firstly, try container vegetable gardening if you don’t have enough space in your garden. If you live in an apartment, you can plant vegetables in containers on your balcony or a window sill. Secondly, you can also consider container gardening if your soil quality is poor. Instead of planting in poor soil, you can use rich soil in a container to ensure the plants thrive and get a good crop. Moreover, a container with a drip tray underneath it will help you to save water.
14. Vertical Planting
Utilise your space to maximum advantage. Certainly, one of the best ways to maximise your available space is to do some vertical planting. Commercially available vertical planter pots allow you to plant vegetables in pots attached to the same vertical base. These pots are usually placed against a wall where they get anchored to the wall for support. Apart from vertical planter pots, you can also consider a vertical planter wall. As with the vertical planter pots, there are also many commercially available planter walls you can choose from. There are a number of different solutions you can explore.
Another option available for vertical vegetable gardening is vertical gum Latta tripods. You can utilise these tripods for climbing squash, eggplants, tomatoes and beans. As with the vertical pots and planter walls, the gum Latta tripods are also commercially available in ready-made form. Be sure to go check out your local nursery.
Of course, you can also build your own pot plant racks and support them against a wall. There are many ideas on Pinterest, and you will definitely get some inspiration to start DYI-ing.
15. Mulching is essential
When it comes to mulching, there is a whole list of benefits. By covering the soil with a layer of mulch, you will prevent the soil from drying out quickly. You will thus protect the soil with all its living organisms. Mulch prevents sunlight from reaching the soil surface. This, in turn, will prevent weeds from germinating and growing. Moreover, mulch will help regulate the soil temperature better. The soil will remain cooler in summer and warmer in winter. It will prevent soil from splashing onto leaves. This is important for vegetable plants since soil splashed onto plants will increase the probability of plants getting bacterial and fungal diseases.
There are many more benefits linked to mulching. The above-mentioned are only a few.
16. Raised beds, the way to go
Raised beds contain your soil more easily when adding compost, mulch, and green manures. Moreover, you will not have to bend so low all the time. It is thus a lot more comfortable to work in raised beds.
17. Constant digging in your vegetable Garden is not required
No digging is needed. Yippee, it’s official: digging is not encouraged in vegetable gardens once you have established your beds. Try also not to step into the beds and rather design them so that they are of a suitable width (1m) to reach easily across from a pathway.