Growing your own veggie garden is the latest trend. South Africa is a country rich in biodiversity, which means that you can grow anything from fynbos to rosebushes in your garden, depending on what region you’re in. Whether you live in the breezy coast or the sunny north, what any garden in South Africa can do is grow vegetables.
Starting a small veggie patch in your backyard has wonderful benefits; not only are you becoming more self-sustained and therefore spending less at the supermarket, you are contributing to the environment. Not to mention, a veggie garden can be an attractive feature too. Before you start, there are 6 things to bear in mind when starting a veggie garden from scratch.
The amount of work involved is mostly determined by how large you want your veggie garden to be. You may be looking to dedicate a small corner of your garden to a few herbs and lettuce heads to supplement your home cooking, in which case a 2×2 metre spot is all you need. Perhaps you are aiming higher, and wish to grow enough produce to completely sustain you, or even to sell at local farmer’s markets. Larger gardens offer a wide range of options, and you could even create a small orchard or vineyard if you have the space. The first step is to plan how much space you need for the amount of veggies you want to grow.
Even though South Africa has optimal farming conditions, your back garden may not have soil that is fertile enough for growing vegetables. The soil needs to be rich in nutrients in order for any plant to grow, and you can easily tell when this is the case. Good, fertile soil is dark in colour, and clumps can break apart easily when digging. If your soil is silty, sandy, too dry or too compact, it is recommended that you invest in some quality topsoil from your local gardening suppliers. To maintain a garden’s soil, fertilisers may also be useful, either from manufacturers or from a compost heap.
A garden that never sees the sun is doomed for failure, no matter how rich the soil. That being said, some plants thrive better in the shade, so how do you choose the ideal spot in your garden? It may be wise to make two smaller plots, one in direct sunlight and one partially or fully shaded, depending on your needs. Remember to be aware of how the shade moves during the day as the sun climbs, and also be caution of digging near buildings as you may encounter pipes or other construction that can hinder your garden.
4.Choosing your veggies
Depending on your needs, you may choose only one or two different vegetables, or a whole range. Do your research and make sure that the vegetables you’ve chosen are suited to your climate, soil quality, size capacity and work schedule. Many plants simply grow wherever you chuck the seeds down, but many more require more attentive care. Another thing to bear in mind is seasonal vegetables. Try and select both winter and summer plants, so that you can have produce all year round.
With seasonal planting comes another farming trick – rotating your crops. Try and plant a different veggie in each section after every harvest. Different plants use different amounts of nutrients, and rotating your crops will keep the soil from depleting all its nutrients. This is a great way to include variety in your garden as well. Keep a garden plan and accurate records of every new planting and harvest to help you remember where you last planted what.
If you are interested in maintaining your South African veggie garden for years to come, a record is a must-have addition to your garden. Not only does it help in crop rotations, keeping “stock” of what you’re growing and your yield on each plant will help measure how well you’re doing. If you see a decline in yield over the past few seasons, for example, you know it might be time to change an element such as the soil, which may be low in nutrients. A record book is especially useful if you wish to sell your veggies, as you can plan sales accordingly.
Green thumb or not, with the properly planning and preparation, your South African veggie garden is built for success! Nothing makes a meal better than fresh, home-grown ingredients, and nothing is more satisfying than growing those ingredients yourself.