Being stuck in isolation can give you the thumbs up, but here’s what you need to know before you head to your local hardware store or garden center.
Anyone who has a failed basil plant or a leaf of cilantro will know that herb gardens and vegetable plots are not for the faint of heart. But with ISO cooking firmly on the agenda, growing our own produce becomes a productive hobby for converted green thumbs everywhere.
But what do you grow and how do you start? What if your space is limited? Here’s how the experts do it.
DESIGN AND PLAN FOR SUCCESS
As with any garden, design and planning is always the first step, says landscape designer Phil Antcliff, director of landscapes for Sydney’s fifth season.
âFind the best location, pick the herbs and vegetables you like, what type of container you want to use and when you’ll have time to complete the project,â he says.
âIt’s a good idea to know what you would like to grow and what you will get the most out of.
âThen check if this is the right season for planting.
âOtherwise, leave some space in the garden for future planting so you can have your favorites. “
He says fall is a great time to plant vegetables like spinach, green beans and peas, as well as herbs like cilantro, parsley and thyme.
“Some leafy vegetables can be ready for harvest in as little as six weeks, while some root vegetables can take 18 weeks to mature.”
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INCREASE THE STAKES
Mr. Antcliff suggests choosing a well-sunny position in summer and winter for the best growing conditions, with protection from the wind if possible. Most herbs and vegetables love good drainage, so it’s a good idea to use a raised garden bed or container to help with draining soil.
âIt also helps the lower back by not having to bend that far,â he says.
âRaised planters can come in all shapes and sizes. You can buy pre-made vegetable boxes or pods from places like Bunnings – or you can build your own using materials like hardwood sleepers or recycled bricks.
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Once you’ve built your planter or purchased your pod, the next step is to install the drainage material and soil.
“For the bottom drainage layer use aggregate like blue metal, about 100mm should do the trick, then add a layer of filter cloth, which will hold the soil but allow water to pass through making sure to that your drainage doesn’t block and the plant roots don’t stay in puddles, âhe says.
âAdd soil and make sure you get a specialized vegetable blend to maximize your plant growth.
âYou will also need a good mulch to install after planting to retain soil moisture. I use a sugarcane mulch which will break down over time and add organic matter to the soil.
WHEN SIZE IS A PROBLEM …
The principle is the same regardless of the area you have.
âThe only limit is the size of the plants that can be grown – citrus in pots can work very well on a balcony,â says Antcliff.
âCombine that with a bunch of little pots planted with parsley, cilantro, sage and thyme and you’ve got a great little vegetable patch.
“My best advice is to start small and simple, learn the herbs and vegetables that you find easy to grow – parsley, mint and rosemary are a great place to start.”
THINK BIG, MAXIMIZE SMALL
Christian Chambers of Sydney Master Gardens says that in small spaces you have to think outside the box to maximize the area you have.
“Some areas can give you height – like in large yard walls or boundary fences – so trellising can be installed to grow vines like tomatoes, passion fruit, or cucumber.” , did he declare.
âThe typical wall garden will also be a good option.
“Some small spaces can give you length, such as long, narrow verandas or a side path, where tall, narrow planters can be used to plant edible or fragrant herbs and annuals.”
He said espalier fruit trees also lend themselves to small, sunny spaces like backyards, while herbs can be grown in hanging baskets to save space.
FAST RESULTS A VICTORY FOR CHILDREN
If you have kids, things like radishes – best planted in the fall and early spring – are great because they’re easy to grow and provide quick results.
âThey might not like the taste so much, but a physical result will keep the interest,â he said.
âSnow peas are another great kid-friendly and a bit more palatableâ¦ and be consistent with your watering, keeping the soil at a constant moisture level.
âErratic watering, drying out and then overwatering will tend to give you poor results and force some plants to go to seed.
âUsing pots or containers of a similar size can help, as small pots don’t dry out while large ones retain moisture, giving you inconsistency in soil moisture in the garden. “
DON’T GET CRAZY WITH FERTILIZER
âMore is not better,â says Chambers.
“Too much will have a negative effect – simple, homemade compost is best.”
He recommends a simple, general slow release like Osmocote or a liquid Seasol.
âThe best part about using Seasol is that you are actively and consciously watering your plants while feeding them at the same time,â he says.
“Some good and easy things to grow in a pot are Swiss chard, mint, parsley, tomato, scallion, oregano, and chili.”