It is that time of the year when everyone is talking about what they are growing in their vegetable gardens and the hardware stores and nurseries are full of seedlings and seed.
Sometimes this can be a bit overwhelming and you often see people buying one of everything at the nursery which makes me wonder if they have really thought about what they should be growing.
So here are a few tips to help you decide what you may want to grow this summer.
Only grow what you will eat or preserve– no point in taking up half your growing area with a pumpkin and then deciding you don’t really like them, or 20 pumpkins were just too much, one would have been enough. In the meantime, all your production space was producing very little else.
Grow varieties that do well in your soil and climate. This can take a few years to determine as often it is a trial and error exercise. Be guided by planting guides for your area.
Only grow things that are not susceptible to pest and diseases. You don’t want to be spending time and money on pest removal/ elimination ie it is really an uphill battle to grow summer cabbages on the coast due to white cabbage moth so find an alternative that isn’t so affected by pests and stick to grow Brassicaceae in the cooler months.
Plant a good variety of vegetables. Both to cook and use in salads – you do not want to be eating beans seven days a week so plant a few beans, some silverbeet, beetroot, carrots, zucchini, mesclun lettuce, capsicum, tomatoes etc.
Plant varieties that you can be grown successively. A little bit often. This best done by seed but where you have a vegetable you use every day such as lettuce then buying a punnet every couple of weeks is fine. I plant a 30 cm row of mesclun mix seeds every week to ensure I always have leaves for salads all summer. I also grow beans, beetroot, carrots, corn, tomatoes, capsicum, zucchini, and spring onions successively during summer to ensure a continual harvest.
Plant varieties that use space-saving growing methods. If your production space is limited try some space saving growing methods such as climbing beans along a fence, dwarf cherry tomatoes in hanging baskets, mesclun lettuce in a vertical garden. All takes is a little imagination and then choose vegetable varieties for different growing methods.
Grow what will give you the best return for your hard work.
Couple of things to consider here:
This is not usually an issue if you have lots of space, but if it is limited then it is worth thinking about. Some vegetables take up a lot of space and are in the ground for a long time and are never very expensive. An example is onions, they are planted in June and not harvested till January/ February, taking up a lot of space (as we tend to grow lots of them because we use them all the time) and yet they are nearly always cheap to buy. Whereas some vegetables take up very little space but are always expensive ie mesclun lettuce mixes, it is very easy to grow, takes up very little space but per weight, is always expensive to buy. So, you may make the decision to dedicate what area you have to those more expensive products.
Chemical free food. If you’re looking at growing organically because of concerns about chemicals in your food, look at the dirty dozen, a list of the most chemically contaminated vegetables on the market, and see which of these you are buying. Growing these vegetable varieties will be worth all the effort you put in.
Plant extended harvest varieties. I like to grow thing that I can harvest over a long period ie beans will crop for weeks whilst taking up very little space,(even less if you put in climbing varieties and grow them vertically) whereas a something like corn that takes up a lot of room is tall so can shade other parts of the garden if not place correctly and is in for such a long time and you may only get two to tree cobs off the whole plant.
Plant varieties that can be used at various sizes. Grow things like Radish, carrots, and beetroot that can be planted by seed quite thickly, then thinned, and you can use the “baby” veg when quite small, leaving space for those left to grow to a larger size. By doing this you are getting greater production in this space then if you planted them at their recommended spacing.
So, before you rush off to the hardware store and pick up whatever they have in stock, take the time to think about exactly what you want to grow and what is going to give you the best value for the time and money you will be spending on your productive space.