Is there anything better than eating a fresh grown strawberry whilst standing in your own garden?

Growing your own herbs, fruit and vegetables is not only a healthy and rewarding activity but think about the long-term benefits of saving the amount of money you spend on groceries. By growing your own produce you can be assured that they’re free of any chemicals or pesticides, ultimately being nutrient rich. As autumn approaches this is a good time to plan your vegetable garden for late summer planting and getting organised for next spring.

Here are a few quicks to help you get started:

  1. Choose an area with a sunny northerly aspect if you can, but east or west facing will work too. Ideally this area should see at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. Plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and melon need full sun to produce well but leafy greens like lettuce, kale and herbs can tolerate more shade.
  2. Decide whether containers/pots or a raised garden bed would work better in terms of your environment. Avoid toxic materials such as sleepers or treated pine.
  3. Deciding how often to water depends on the weather, the type of soil and the variety of produce. A quick guide is to check if the soil is dry about an inch (2.5cm) under the surface. Infrequent deep watering is better than more frequent shallow watering. It is better to water around the base of the plants as watering the leaves can created an environment that invites disease.
  4. Pay attention to the type of soil you have as your produce will be able to grow stronger and healthier with access to essential nutrients via their roots. One of the best ways to improve your soil is by using your kitchen scraps and turning them into compost for your soil.
  5. Mulching reduces evaporation from the soil surface with less need to water. It suppresses weed growth, reducing competition for water and nutrients, reduces run-off and can help keep soil warmer in winter. Sugar cane mulch is popular but pea straw and lucerne break down easily and add nutrients to the soil.
  6. Identify which plants grow best in your particular region and climate as this helps ensure your garden’s success. Plan your planting times to ensure a good succession of vegetables.
  7. When planting seedlings or seeds, be sure to leave adequate space between them to avoid overcrowding as good air flow between plants is essential for preventing many types of fungal diseases.
  8. Remove any diseased leaves and plants on a regular basis to prevent it spreading.
  9. Companion planting with herbs and flowers among the vegetables can attract beneficial insects. The smell from a chilli pepper plant can deter other insects and you will have a supply of chillis for a home made pesticide spray.
  10. Encouraging children to be involved in the garden helps them enjoy eating the produce.

Here’s to a successful growing season!

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