Many people have become environmentally conscious and you may now want to reduce your carbon footprint. One way is by growing organic vegetables.
There are many considerations—where to place it, how much water you have, and even how to engage in pest control. There is a lot of thought, planning and hard work that goes into starting a vegetable garden, but the rewards make it worth it.
Our tips will help you get it right.
Photo by Zane Lee, Unsplash
Planning and Preparation
Before you begin, ascertain the quantity of vegetables you eat per week, and what you eat in which season. You’re unlikely to be able to grow all of it yourself, but at least you’ll have a fair idea of what you need.
Prepare the Ground
One of the most important aspects of gardening is preparing the soil. That is where all your nutrients lie. So, put some compost down. Sometimes that will be through no-dig gardening, or you may choose to dig a bed and fill it with compost. You’ll also need some organic veggie fertiliser, which not only has the macronutrients of potassium, nitrogen and phosphate, but also the micronutrients such as magnesium, calcium and more.
You can spread the granular fertiliser as instructed on the packaging.
Check the Acid Levels of the Soil
The next thing to do is ascertain the pH of the soil. Most vegetables need a neutral pH around 7, but potatoes require something more acidic—around pH of 5.
To increase acidity, add items such as teabags, Epsom salts and coffee grinds to the soil. However, with acid rain being a regular problem, which impacts your soil, you’ll probably need an alkaliser such as lime. Bonemeal is another such alkaliser, but experts usually put it into the soil as they plant.
Plan Your Planting
Whether you choose to buy seedlings or seeds, you need to plan where you will plant. Do your research to find out which plants are companion plants—in other words, which plants flourish next to each other. For instance, tomatoes grow well with basil.
There are some plants which repel each other, and others which compete for nutrients. So, for instance, you can’t plant potatoes and tomatoes together, because their roots lie at the same level and they’re both heavy feeders. This means that they’ll both fare poorly.
What’s more, use your space well. When you do companion planting, you can reduce the distance between plants. For instance, onions are supposed to be planted 7 – 10 cm apart, and 10 cm away from another row of plants. However, if you’re planting spinach in a row next to your onions, and you find out the distance to keep plants away from spinach is 60 cm, you can add the distances together and divide by two. 60+10 cm = 70 cm. Divide that by 2 = 35 cm. Your spinach and onion rows can be 35 cm apart.
If you plant in diagonal rows, you can also fit more plants into a certain space.
Plan Pest Control
One of the great banes of any gardener’s life is insect and rodent control. Not only will you find critters in your compost bin, but they can also eat and destroy crops. It’s best to read up on ways to combat the problem well in advance of composting and planting. However, if you still have problems, it’s best to call in some experts who can help you get rid of them in environmentally-friendly ways.
Compost Your Scraps
Compost has often been called black gold. To create the perfect compost is every gardener’s dream. Not only does it cut down on costs of nutrients, but it aerates the soil, attracts beneficial earthworms, and gives macro and micronutrients to your plants.
Use every kitchen scrap and pop it into the compost daily. Some people like to give their peelings a whirl in the liquidiser, to cut down the time of composting. It takes about 3 months for your compost to form, but you can speed it up by mixing it up every two to three weeks.
You need to start off your compost with a starter—something like a watering with liquid fertiliser. But after that, you can leave it to do the work itself.
You can grow your organic seedlings in advance of the spring planting season. Use a greenhouse or a warm spot in your house to do so. Plant at least 6 weeks in advance of the planting season. If you live in an area with frost, the last frost date will determine when you can plant.
When you plant your veggies, you’ll need to plant them with some more compost, and a bit of bonemeal. Space them correctly, and then water them according to their requirements.
Growing your own veggies is not only rewarding, it’s an environmentally-conscious thing to do. In addition, you’ll know how to survive if ever there are food shortages. Furthermore, gardening is a certified anti-depressant. What more do you want? Go and plant some onions!