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How does one get the best out of a vegetable garden? Every person has their own ideas on how to get the most production from a specific patch of garden. Some people use Bio-dynamic’s, others plant by moon phases, some swear by compost teas or companion planting, still others like to garden using specific scientific methodologies. For every method you will have any number of variations that people use in their particular set up. Some people take from various gardening disciplines and mix and match to give them what they require in cultivation techniques. There is no way that I could cover every aspect or methodology that is out there, nor would I like you to think that I’m in any way knowledgeable about every method out there.
What I would like to do is give you some hints, tips and suggestions on how to improve your production. This is a collection of advice that a) makes sense b) is easy to implement c) is cost effective . Not all of the advice is my own, in-fact none of it is. This is info that I have taken and used in my own gardens from gardeners that are far more knowledgeable than myself.
The first is organic matter. You can never have enough organic matter in your garden. The easiest way is to make your own. It’s cheaper, you know what’s in there and when you need some you can just wheel your barrow over to you heap and take what you need. I’ll post an article on how we make our compost soon. But you can’t go wrong with a compost heap. Doing a search on the net will show you 101 different ways of making compost, from the small compost bins (which I hate) all the way through to commercial compost operations.
Next, never turn your soil over. Maybe the first time you clear the ground and form your beds., is OK, but after that don’t disturb the soil unless you are lifting produce. Put you organic matter on top of the soil, and let it lie there. Let the worms, insects, fungi and bacteria do the rest. No-Till is the best way to go. You will find that you have stronger plants, fewer weeds, less disease and more time to do more important stuff. Each time you turn the soil over you will be killing hundreds of thousands of beneficial organisms. In addition, each time you disturb the soil the ratio of good vs bad organisms gets disturbed. They will need to fight it out between themselves to re-establish their populations. In the mean time the good bacteria are not doing what they should be doing, Breaking down organic matter, making humus, releasing minerals into the soil and feeding your plants. You will be amazed at how fast the organic matter lying on the soil surface gets broken down and taken into the soil.
Next, pesticides. Never use them. Rather allow your plants to fight it out. Very often you may find that one or two plants in a row will get attacked by a pest. Leave them, what you will find is that as the pest population builds, beneficial insects that prey on the pests soon appear and start to wipe out the population. A balance gets established and you will find that you have a generally low pest load in your garden, and the beneficial insects keep them in check. What most people do wrong is they see the pests and then go out and find an insecticide to take care of the problem. The only thing is that generally, they only pick up the problem once the beneficial insects have just started to arrive in the garden and are slowly building up their population. They apply the poison killing both pest and predator. And then simply get more pests coming over from next door. The beneficial insects are then always on the back foot.
Watering, try to water in the mornings, avoid watering during midday or late afternoons. Midday is a double problem, as the water can aggravate sunburn on the plants, and water is wasted by evaporation. Late afternoon watering also leaves plants with water on their foliage. This can cause an accelerated attack of fungal and mould diseases. In addition, if you have a slug or snail problem this can give them the perfect moist environment to attack your veggies.
Planting heights. Plant your tall growing veggies on the South side of your vegetable patch. Tallest stuff at the back, and shorter veggies in front. Things like Corn, and Runner Beans should be right at the back so that they don’t shade out your lower growing veggies.
Space conservation. In smaller gardens space can be at a premium. Using companion planting is often a great space saver. Underplant corn with pumpkins and beans, these three are a traditional North American Indian planting trio. Asparagus and parsley are great companions, both helping each other out and improving flavor. Get a good book on companion planting to help you on your way. Don’t plant melons near corn as the melons retard the growth of the corn.
Succession or sequential planting is a great way to have a continued harvest of veggies. Depending on your families consumption you can plant rows a few weeks apart. This gives you an extended harvest instead of a single flush of abundance that you need to eat, process or give away in a rush.
Weed continuously. Don’t leave your weeding for a week-end, if you are walking through your garden and see a weed, lift it and throw it onto the bed. The weed will become part of the mulch and feed your garden. If you leave the weeding for the weekends, it can get ahead of you.
Water deeply, don’t give your garden a light watering. Always water deeply and less often. A twice weekly watering that is a good soaking, is infinitely better than a daily light watering. The water penetrates deeply and encourages the roots to grow down. A light watering encourages the roots to grow near the surface where the plant can be easily water-stressed if you forget or cant water for a few days.
Well that’s a start on veggie tips, if there are any other tips that you think might be a good addition to this please do not hesitate to mail me and I’ll be glad to add them.
What’s in my Garden?
I got home early on Friday afternoon and had a quick walk through the big veggie patch (we have three). I took a look at the Brussel Sprouts and it looks like we are going to get a desent harvest this year. Which will be a first for me. I’ve tried to grow broccoli in quantity for about 4 or 5 years now. What’s the secret? I dunno. But I did add a lot of compost to their bed, more than usual. I see the aphids are having a go at them, but there are scores of parasitic wasps in attendance so that will sort that issue out. The Broccoli is busy setting seed and I can see the little pods developing quite nicely. Charlie our gardener has just completed adding another 6 beds to the garden (Each one is 30m long) and I’m going to have to move the fence soon so that we can continue expanding. These beds will lie the whole winter with compost on the surface and will be ready for planting in September. If you are going to start a veggie patch, start now and prepare the beds.
We have lifted the Zulu potatoes, this will be a first for me. These little bulbs are not a potatoe but are actually the bulbs of a semi-succulent plant (When I find out what the scientific name I’ll let you know) We will try eating them this weekend, and I’ll also let you know how they taste. We also lifted the Pondoland potatoes, which are real potaoes, but I only started with a single potato, so we will only be able to eat them in a year or two, as we are growing them to supply your guys. Let’s hope they taste nice. This week end we will be cleaning a lot of seed to prepare for packaging.
The Edible Quote
“urban means a place where you can’t grow any of your own food. Suburban means you can have a garden but not food animals like chickens, pigs or goats. Real country living means really having the right and opportunity to grow both food plants and animals”
Carla Emery from the Encyclopedia of Country Living Pg 3