Aussies have a proud history of turning to backyard veggie growing in times of crisis. ‘Dig for victory!’ was the nation’s official catch-cry in 1942, as households across the country did their part for the war effort by picking up a shovel, becoming self-sufficient and trading produce over the fence with the neighbours.
Given the extra time at home that coronavirus has gifted us, it’s never been a better time to get your hands dirty and grow your very own backyard veggie patch. And the good news is – setting it up is a job you can knock over in a weekend, and there are plenty of options for everyone – regardless of skill level or time capacity.
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STEP ONE: GET READY
First, you need to decide which kind of veggie garden makes the most sense for your outdoor space.
- If you have a small, paved outdoor area, or are renting; try pots
- Got kids, pets, or want to avoid bending down to the ground? Try a raised garden bed
- Want to go full gnome? Dig directly in the ground.
Now that’s sorted, grab a pencil and some paper, and go and check out your outdoor space. It’s VERY important to pick out an area for your veggie garden that will receive around 6 hours of sunlight during the day, is close to a source of water, and is a size and shape that will allow you to manage it properly. Literally sketch out your garden on paper – this will be a big help when you get to building it.
STEP TWO: GET SET
Now, it’s time to gather your materials:
- Good quality soil – if you’re planting in pots or raised beds, your local nursery can help you with finding the right soil. Otherwise if you’ve already got dirt in the garden, give it a quick check before planting in it.
- Garden bed walls – if you’re building a raised bed, choose what it’s going to be made from. Good options include bricks, rocks, or repurposed timber such as railway sleepers. If you’re using new wood, make sure it’s something that hasn’t been treated with toxic chemicals, such as arsenic.
- Compost – if you don’t have a compost system set up yet, now is the time my friend!
- And the fun part… Plants!
When it comes to choosing what you’re going to plant, there are two golden rules: go with what’s in season, and plant what your household will actually eat so your hard labour won’t go to waste.
Plenty of vegetables are suitable for planting over Autumn, including:
- Broccoli and cauliflower
- Snow peas
- Baby spinach and silverbeet
- Warrigal greens
Australia’s regions are quite diverse in climate, however, so before planting anything be sure to check out this handy guide to planting in Australia’s different climatic regions, and if you have specific questions, chat with the experts at your local Plant Life Balance accredited nursery– they will know what will grow well in your region at this time of year.
TIP: include plants that attract pollinators and pest-controlling predators (like ladybugs, which eat aphids) to increase the biodiversity of your patch, and help keep the nasties out.
If you have the space, you might like to also consider planting a feature tree, such as an olive tree or citrus tree. This is a bit of a longer term investment however, and it might be a few years before you see those trees bare fruit.
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My new routine is to do my paid arts admin job in the front room in the morning, then go through the garden to my shed to make art and other stuff in the afternoon. On the way I inspect what the gardener has been up to. He has recently taken over from me as the boss of the vegetable garden and is doing a fine job. Today the chooks were out of isolation and eating our dinner. #warrigalgreens #newzealandspinach #chooks #mygarden #vegetablegarden
STEP THREE: GET DIRTY
Pull out the plan you drew in step one – it’s time to get busy!
For those growing in pots
This clip from Gardening Australia has some great hints and tips on putting together productive, portable gardens – particularly handy for renters!
For those going for raised beds
Building a raised bed can be quite simple, even for those with modest construction skills – if you need some help, this is a handy step-by-step guide.
For those digging directly into the ground
Consider raising the soil level in the bed by adding in a layer of compost. This will not only help add more nutrients into the soil, it will also improve water retention and drainage.
Finally, when you go to plant your seeds or seedlings, turn the soil over with a spade or shovel first. This will loosen the soil, help it aerate and give enough room for the roots to grow and spread. Plant your veggies in a formation where you can easily reach everything, so that taking care of your new garden is a breeze.
STEP FOUR: GET GROWING
Once your garden in is, you’ll need to keep an eye on three things:
- Watering – your watering schedule will very much depend on your region, what you’ve planted, and the garden’s drainage. As a general rule, water your garden in the morning so it has moisture throughout the day, and water as frequently as needed to keep the soil moist (but not soaked).
- Checking for pests – to ensure your plants make it to your dinner plate, make sure pests don’t get them first. Here’s some of the common ones to keep an eye out for.
- Soil health – soil provides plants much more than just a place to put their roots, it contains lots of minerals, organic matter, water, air spaces, and is also home to a host of microorganisms vital to sustained plant nutrition. That’s why it’s really important to know what healthy soil looks like, and how you can improve it as required.
You don’t have to do all of this alone – your local nursery will be your greatest resource when it comes to answering the specific questions about veggie garden care, troubleshooting any problems, or sharing insider knowledge on how to get those babies to thrive. After all, they’re the plant experts! If you’re not sure who your local nursery is, check the Plant Life Balance nursery finder here.
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Take time to stop and smell the 🍋 I love the variegated leaves on this pink lemonade tree. So pretty! #mincehomegrown #backyardorchard #groworganic #gardeningismytherapy #gardeninglove #gardeninggoals #backyardoasis #naturegood #urbangarden #gardeninglife #pinklemontree #eurekalemon #lemontree #🍋 #fruittree #espalier #growsomethinggreen
Congrats! You’re now ready to establish your own backyard veggie patch – no matter the size of your space or your level of ability. If you have any questions or are after a bit more advice, be sure to give you local nursery a call.