madison cheat sheet: how to grow a vegie garden
You're a young (or young enough, thank you), ambitious, green-conscious woman with a plot of land, bit of garden space or some room on the balcony and a smidgen of time throughout the week to get your green thumb growing.
You've always relished the thought of springing to your little herb patch for some fresh chopped seasonings or serving up the seasonal fare from the fruits of your leisure pursuits' labour at a dinner party ("Why yes, that is a cherry tomato from our own veg patch!").
Now, just where to start? With all of our altruistic intention to eat seasonally and buy locally, there's no better spot to "pick up" local produce than our own backyard. Here's madison's cheat sheet to get your garden growing…
Space, environment and temperature
You don't need a massive back garden to be a green goddess. A little patch of dirt at the front of your terrace house or small window boxes can do the trick. Assess the type of space you have on offer for your plants. The amount of sunlight, rainfall, temperature and growing area will influence the type of garden you can grow. You need to know what type of veggies suit the climate you have. Broccoli, cauliflower and onions like cooler temperatures while corn, tomatoes and eggplants thrive in temperatures above 20C.
Vegetables need sunshine and water. Most vegetables like five to six hours of sun a day. That's good news if you've got a spot heating up for most of the time. If you have a shady space, plants that are sun shy, like Asian greens, mesclun, scallions and spinach will do best. To create a diverse garden, let some herbs be relatively close neighbours to your planted vegetables. Sometimes herbs can increase the flavour factor of particular plants like asparagus and beans when planted in close proximity.
Plants vs seeds
Nursery plants are the ultimate cheat for beginning a garden as nurturing seeds or seedlings from conception means that you might encounter more obstacles while waiting for the seeds to sprout. If you are feeling motivated and buy seeds, read the labels of your seed packets and follow the instructions to maintain healthy plants. If you're forgetful, cut out the packet instructions and make a card catalogue or filing system for your reference.
Prune, harvest and feed your plants. You can also use your plants as organic, biological warfare against pests. Planting dill near broccoli and cauliflower can deter a certain type of plant munching butterfly. Increasing plant variety and mixed placement of vegetables will also halt pesky caterpillars from hopping from one beloved plant feast to the next.
Pots and garden plots
In the potting scenario, the bigger the better, especially if you are growing some herbs. Bigger pots lock in moisture and nutrients and are perfect for inner city living ladies without much land to work with. If you have the luxury to plant directly in the ground, leave enough elbow space between plants for wiggle room. Mulch, mulch and more mulch will thwart weeds and preserve moisture. Consult your plant's packet for the best time to deposit in a pot or in the ground so that your plants have a running chance from the get go.
Be honest about the amount of time that you have to nurture your garden. If you have little time, start out small with an herb garden or with less time-hungry plants. With gardening, the more that you put in, the more that you will get out. Make sure to check in on your green guys at least every other day for unwanted critters and keep a log of when you fertilise.
Growing your own vegetables is supposed to be fun. The initial start-up might be challenging but you will reap the rewards of what you sow, well, literally. And what about all of those urban myths that plants like music? Play some of your favourite beats while gardening and make patch time personal time and a chance to unwind. You can also expand your green ambitions by involving your friends in a gardening club where you can trade advice, lament about plant causalities or just give yourself an excuse for extra gal pal time.
Pots or garden beds
Handy pair of garden gloves
Spade and small hand shovel
Nursery plants (seeds and seedlings if you are feeling ambitious)
Plant food and fertilizer (if needed)
Words by Nikki Fiedler
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