Since the pandemic, my Instagram feed has been steadily filling up with sourdough, chickens, and beautiful homegrown produce.
While it doesn’t appeal to everyone, that is the lifestyle of my dreams. A few years ago my husband and I took the first steps to make it a reality.
We rented a beautiful rural property, surrounded by paddocks, cows, and sheep. There are kangaroos on our driveway, echidnas in our backyard, and some random ducks that appear from somewhere through winter. We have a winter creek, dirt roads, and the most incredible country lifestyle. All I needed was my own veggie garden. Easy right? Here are the five things I wish I knew before starting my veggie garden.
1 – Slugs and Snails are Insatiable
Slugs and snails are insatiable. Like insatiable. I am trying to grow organic, sustainable food for myself and my family and I seem to be feeding an entire population of slugs and snails. They love seedlings. My hard-grown babies, were decimated in a couple of days. The solution? Empty 2-litre soft drink bottles cut in half are great to place over the seedlings. Other options include mesh food covers, mesh waste paper bins, crushed egg shells and one of my all time favourites beer traps.
2 – Space or Lack of It Shouldn’t Stop You
You don’t need a huge amount of space for a productive veggie garden. We are renting and I didn’t start my garden straight away, because I thought it wouldn’t work in pots.
Dwarf citrus trees do well in pots. They are small trees, with normal-sized fruit. I have a couple of small-sized portable garden beds, and then some really large pots. I have harvested broccoli, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, mint, rosemary, and a heap more. As my knowledge has expanded I have converted some space at the back into a bigger bed, but it is astounding how much you can grow in pots. One of my favourite Instagram accounts, in_my_patch shares great, free information about how to grow food in small spaces.
3 – Planning Matters
Vegetables are seasonal and they take time to grow. Seems like common sense right – well it was a shock to me. I thought that I would plant something and hey presto, ready to eat in a couple of weeks. Carrots were the first thing I ever planted. When I didn’t have ready-made carrots in two weeks, I thought I had done something wrong. Carrots can be harvested 12-18 weeks after sowing, so if you want a steady supply, you need to be planning out your planting.
Because vegetables are seasonal, you always need to be working a season ahead, tomatoes are a summer fruit, but if you want to be eating and harvesting in summer, you need to be planting them in spring. Where I live in Adelaide, we can have frost right up until November. Tomatoes need warm soil, so I plant mine late in spring and harvest a little later in summer. There are some great planting guides available that are customised depending on location and climate.
4 – You Will Always Be Learning
There is so much to know about gardening, it is more complicated than buy a plant and stick it in the ground. Soil matters, climate matters, the plants that grow near your plants matter, watering conditions matter, light and shade matter. Just like us, the wrong nutrients affect the health of a plant.
You can think that you have it all figured out and then a plant that you have nurtured and looked after will still die. It can be as simple as a plant having an underlying disease or pest eggs attached to it that you weren’t aware of when you purchased. It can also be something more complicated, and even when you try everything you can’t save it. You are likely to lose a plant or two as you learn. I lost two parsley plants before I learned that the rabbits love them and they need to be grown inside my greenhouse.
The internet is an amazing resource for information about things that affect your plants. You can also go to your local nursery, and there are great apps available that scan a plant and diagnose it for you. People who garden are great resources as well, they have all manner of tips and tricks that you just don’t think of when you start out. The important thing is to keep learning and don’t be afraid to try things and ask questions.
5 – Gardening is Rewarding and Relaxing
I have always struggled with perfectionism and an inability to rest. My garden has given me a place to forget about everything I should be doing. A place to ignore my to-do list, forget about work, and just be. It’s a place that I can feel pride in something beautiful that I have accomplished. I love to go for a wander with a cup of tea and just get lost in the colour, freshness, and vibrance. It’s amazing how much the garden changes from day to day. There is something so rewarding about cooking dinner and harvesting fresh ingredients straight from the garden.
When I started gardening I had no idea and I still have a lot to learn. I learned by trial and error, a whole lot of luck, and some great resources. My one big takeaway is don’t be afraid to start, it might just surprise you how much you love it.
Article supplied with thanks to Life FM in Adelaide.
Feature image: Photo by Sandie Clarke on Unsplash