In our previous going-green articles we mentioned starting your own vegetable garden as a sustainable way to lower your carbon footprint. Now we show you how to make one.
It’s still chilly out, but spring is around the corner, which means plants are gearing up to make a whole lot of whoopi, so now’s the perfect time to start planning your own veggie garden.
Where should I put it?
• First off, it’s most important to make sure your veg garden is located in a place that’s easy to get to – if it’s not, you’re more likely to neglect it, and veggies are attention junkies.
• Secondly, the area will need to get plenty of sun, about six to eight hours a day (though some veggies, such as leafy greens, can get by on four hours, but they may take longer to develop).
• Thirdly, your veggie garden needs to be close to a source of water, so you can easily give them a drink when thirsty.
• Lastly, you need to make sure you have good quality and well-drained soil. To find out (re: drainage), dig a hole about 60cm deep and fill it up with water. If the hole still has some water sitting at the bottom after 30 minutes, it most likely has bad drainage. You can improve your soil’s drainage by digging the whole another 20cm or so deeper and lining the bottom with about 15cm of gravel, then topping up with soil.) You’ll also want to enrich your soil by mixing in some compost and bone meal.
What equipment do I need?
You only really need the basics, such as a garden spade, pruning sheers, trowel, twine and stakes (to lend support to tall plants once they get going), but you may find it convenient to invest in a wheel barrow (to transport bags of compost – they’re heavy!), a compost bin (to make your own – it’s cheap, easy and green), gardening shoes, buckets (for collecting weeds) and a rake (to level soil). Oh, and a sun hat is also a good idea.
What should I plant?
Whatever you like! But if you’re just starting out and feel a little nervous about looking after plants, it’s best to start out with ones that give you more bang for your buck [http://www.beautysouthafrica.com/news/Go-green-get-lean] (and are fairly easy to grow), such as Swiss chard, green beans, carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers, peas, radishes, zucchini, onions and beets.
Should I plant seeds or seedlings?
It depends. Some plants can take months to mature from seed, so it can be easier to buy these as seedlings. You also want to make sure they transplant well (i.e. don’t die when you plant them); these include basil, Swiss chard, aubergine, leeks, onions, parsley, peppers and tomatoes. Plants that work well directly seeded in the ground include rocket, beans, beets, carrots, lettuce, peas and radishes.
How do I make sure my veggie garden keeps going?
Well, you need to water it, obviously. You’ll want to give it a good soak at least once a week – up this to two or three times a week if it’s extremely hot. Remove weeds whenever you see them (they steal water and nutrients from your veggies), and put down some mulch to prevent the moisture in the soil from evaporating – it also helps discourage weeds and keeps your plants’ roots cool.
What should I do about bugs?
You have several options. You can invest in (expensive) organic insecticides and snail traps, or you can simply remove snails as you encounter them. You can also make your own aphid insecticide out of eco-friendly dishwashing liquid (just dilute it with water and decant into a spray bottle).
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