Australians seem to have turned to their backyard gardens for vegetable gardening this year. Perhaps this new hobby is a way of gaining back some control when the world around us appears to be unstable. What is certain, the pandemic has certainly made us think twice on how we lead our lives, and our dependency on others to provide us with the basics. Vegetable gardening is certainly a good way to help us gain some control.
The good news is, you will find your new found hobby of gardening will provide some additional benefits besides the decrease reliance on your grocer for your fresh vegetable supply. From a psychological point of view, growing a vegetable garden can be a positive family-inclusive activity to pursue, as well as providing stress relief, improved brain health, relief from depression and of course natural incidental exercise.
Raking, stirring compost, turning the soil over can be a moderate to a high-intensity form of physical activity. When your exercising outdoors, you exercise harder but perceive it to be easier than when exercising indoors or in a controlled environment.
Growing your own food carries many health benefits:
When I am in the kitchen cooking, I make numerous trips to the garden and harvest what I need on the spot. This availability naturally helps you to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables. Imagine digging into the depths of your fridge to find that bunch of parsley you bought last weekend – only to find it is wilted, bruised and soggy. Parsley can last in your garden bed for over a year if treated well. I usually harvest leaves on a daily basis and use in my cooking. This would not be possible, if I was reliant on my weekly shop.
Lastly, freshly picked produce has more nutrients than store-bought, tastes better and thus is easier to eat.
For the younger members of the family, backyard gardening can draw added interest in the origins of food and inadvertently this added awareness helps them to make better choices about what is on their plates.
One of my own personal reasons for gardening is that I decide what kind of fertilizers and pesticides to come into contact with my crop. In fact, I don’t like to use any pesticides at all.
So now, let us get to the gardening. Gardening isn’t really rocket science, it simply takes a little bit of thought and preparation.
This article is an overview and not aimed at providing an in-depth guide at growing vegetables and fruit. Rather, this article should help you significantly get you started and offer you better success in growing your own crop.
Five Tips for Starting a Vegetable Garden as a hobby
- Start small and as you gain confidence to add to your garden. Don’t overwhelm yourself.
- Pick a spot with at least 6 hours of sunshine and easy access to water.
- The afternoon sun tends to be the harshest. If possible pick a spot with mainly morning sunshine.
- You have to be willing to get your hands dirty if you want to have a substantial backyard vegetable garden. You will need to prepare & nourish your soil first & re-feed at regular intervals. There is no way around it.
- There is no point growing something that you won’t eat much of. Start with growing more of your staples. If you are not a fan of Brussel sprouts for example, why grow it? Your better off, putting effort into growing something you know you will have success in growing a lot of, as opposed to working really hard to grow a vegetable who will yield for you only one item.
- Be prepared to have a close relationship with your vegetables. They need daily checking.
Anything living on earth needs sunshine, water, oxygen and food to survive. If your plant is not growing around healthy soil rich in macronutrients and micronutrients they will grow slowly, be stunted, weak, be susceptible to pests, not flower, or drop their fruit early.
Macronutrients are those elements that plants require in relatively large amounts. The macronutrients are magnesium, sulfur, oxygen, phosphorous, carbon, hydrogen, potassium, calcium and nitrogen.
Creating healthy soil with sufficient nutrients is the key to a healthy harvest. Fertilization adds the necessary minerals to the soil to feed the plants, but getting the right balance of nutrients can be a challenge.
Winter Soil Preparation
Successful summer garden begins with the preparation of the ground the previous winter. After removing all crops, while the ground is still soft enough to work, add a mix of slow-release fertilizer, compost and manure into your garden bed. Work it through the ground, aerating and breaking any compact areas of dirt, mixing it through the garden bed at least 40 cm deep.
Finally, top with cardboard or thick mulch. Over the winter, the fertilizer slowly releases into the soil making it available for absorption by the very first cool-weather crops of the season.
Spring Soil Preparation
Cool-weather crops such as lettuce, silverbeet and cabbage do not produce fruit and are quick growing. If you did not prepare your soil in wintertime, they will need a quick-release fertilizer to cope with the heavy feeding these plants demand.
Summer Soil Preparation
In Australia, crops are exposed to extreme weather stresses – extreme heat and drought conditions. Nutrients in the soil are more difficult to access by the plant. Dilute little Epson salt or magnesium into water. 1 tablespoon to 4 litres of water is enough to water the base of each plant.
Autumn Soil Preparation
After removing your summer crop, chop into finer pieces and set aside a small area of your garden to dig a hole and bury your spent summer crop. Water, to help with decomposing, and cover with soil. By late winter, this section of soil with function as natural compost. To make this compost even better, add any kitchen green waste ( not animal products) into this composting area. After 3 months, work this compost into your soil ( see Winter Soil Preparation above ) to use for the spring crop.
All you need to do is top up your soil with a slow-release fertilizer if you went through the Winter Soil Preparation phase outlined above. If you did not, and you are in autumn or spring readying to plant then prepare your soil as described in Winter Soil Preparation.
If you are currently in autumn or spring readying to plant then prepare your soil as described in Winter Soil Preparation. A mix of compost, manure ( 2:1) and a dusting of slow-release fertilizer should be used. Plentiful too.
Products for Soil Preparation
If your starting from scratch, building a garden bed from ground zero – you will also need garden soil. So your vegetable garden bed will consist of garden soil, compost, manure, slow release fertilizer.
Compost: RichGro All Purpose Organic Compost
10 Easy to Grow Vegetables for Beginners
Here is a list of easy to grow vegetables that are also great producers. If your new at backyard gardening choose three from this list. I live in Queensland and find our Autumns are still quite warm but not too hot for the plants. The crispy cool evenings still mild in South-Eastern Queensland is when much of the growing happens. Inland though, the frost does take over and the temperature drops very quickly. So do pay attention to the recommendations.
Note of warning: Nurseries will stock seedlings not taking into account whether that particular vegetable is the right time of the year to grow. Your best bet, is to work from seeds and follow the recommendations in the back of the packet for your area.
- Aragula ( can’t fail with Arugula, fast-growing, harvest within a few weeks )
- Beetroot ( young leaves can be used in salads, use in smoothies or boil )
- Silverbeet ( Top super easy vegetable to grow, highly nutritious )
- Salad Leaves ( Top super easy vegetable to grow )
- Beans ( generally climbers, can be space savers when grown on a trellis )
- Tomatoes ( keep moisture away from leaves, mulch and feed frequently )
- Spring Onions ( versatile vegetable, requires minimal space and effort )
- Potatoes ( low maintenance, a vegetable with high starch content )
- Parsley ( the plant has a long life, choose a sunny spot, highly nutritious )
- Endives ( highly nutritious use in stirfries, as salad, leaves or boiled)
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