Plant a food gar­den for sum­mer

Now is the time to grow your own veg­eta­bles and herbs, us­ing or­ganic mulches to nour­ish the soil

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

SUM­MER has ar­rived, and November is a great time to plant a food gar­den filled with veg­eta­bles and herbs. Grow­ing your own veg­eta­bles, sal­ads and herbs will give you the sat­is­fac­tion of har­vest­ing fresh pro­duce. It also en­sures that your fam­ily have ac­cess to enough fresh, nu­tri­tious food to lead ac­tive and healthy lives.

There are two routes to suc­cess: sow seeds or buy seedlings from your lo­cal gar­den cen­tre.

All the in­for­ma­tion you need is on the seed packet – in­clud­ing the time to plant, the depth of the seeds and spac­ing be­tween seeds. Buy­ing seedlings will give your gar­den a head-start, as the plants are al­ready 5cm high, which means you will be able to har­vest veg­eta­bles quicker.

Build­ing raised beds filled with pot­ting soil and com­post is the ul­ti­mate way to cre­ate a fab­u­lous veg­etable gar­den. How­ever, a bed of com­posted soil will still give you a sea­son of fab­u­lous food. In both cases, the key to suc­cess is plenty of sun and ac­cess to wa­ter.

Choose a place where veg­eta­bles will re­ceive at least five hours of sun a day. Fence the veg­etable gar­den if you have large dogs – you can also use the fence to grow climb­ing peas and beans.

A me­tre width is prac­ti­cal for beds, so there is ac­cess from both sides for sow­ing, weed­ing and har­vest­ing. Pre­pare the ground by fork­ing over the area, re­mov­ing weeds and stones, and break­ing up any lumps. Add half a bag of com­post and a hand­ful of a gen­eral fer­tiliser per square me­tre, rake the sur­face as evenly as pos­si­ble, and wa­ter well the day be­fore planting.

Root crops and legumes (beans, peas) grow best when seeds are sown di­rectly into their per­ma­nent po­si­tion. Planting in sin­gle or wide rows makes iden­ti­fy­ing weeds eas­ier.

Mark rows with stretched string, then make a fur­row on this line to the cor­rect depth rec­om­mended on the seed packet.

Sow seed spar­ingly, cover with a thin layer of soil, and press down firmly be­fore wa­ter­ing. It helps to sow fine seed more evenly if a tea­spoon of the seed is mixed with a cup of sand or meal.

Thin out seedlings to al­low those left to de­velop into strong, healthy plants. To avoid wash­ing away seed, use a wa­ter­ing can with a fine rose. Pro­tect seeds by cov­er­ing with bird-proof net­ting, and keep the soil moist but not wet.

It makes sense to sow seed at in­ter­vals rather than have too many veg­eta­bles ma­tur­ing at the same time. Save ground space by grow­ing cu­cum­bers, cour­gettes, toma­toes and run­ner beans ver­ti­cally on wig­wams and trellises.

Mulch be­tween rows to con­serve wa­ter and re­duce weeds. On hot days, pre­vent veg­eta­bles from wilt­ing by wa­ter­ing early in the morn­ing and, if nec­es­sary, again in the late af­ter­noon.

The po­ten­tial of veg­eta­bles as tem­po­rary fillers in the flower gar­den is also of­ten over­looked. Lime-green or red frilly-leafed let­tuces are or­na­men­tal enough to fill any gap in the front of a bor­der. Cab­bages can also be used as tem­po­rary fillers in a flower bor­der; those with red-pur­ple leaves will ac­cen­tu­ate a red bor­der, while bluegreen cab­bages will in­tro­duce a con­trast in form and tex­ture with white flow­ers.

There are many choices de­pend­ing on your taste – colour­ful red and yel­low toma­toes, sweet pep­pers in red, yel­low and green, and let­tuces with leaves that are frilly or plain, and green, rose or deep red in colour. Swiss chard has a milder flavour than spinach, “Ruby” has red stems and “Bright Lights” has coloured stems of yel­low, apri­cot, pink and red that are so dec­o­ra­tive they are of­ten grown in the flower gar­den.

Herbs add tex­ture and fra­grance to a gar­den, and flavour and in­ter­est to food. A prac­ti­cal way of grow­ing herbs is in a for­mal herb gar­den with beds dis­sected by paths, but herbs are also at­trac­tive in flower bor­ders where they add tex­tu­ral in­ter­est and fra­grance.

Thyme is ideal for fill­ing gaps be­tween step­ping-stones. Leaves are used for flavour­ing poul­try, veg­eta­bles, and cheese and egg dishes. Chives make a dainty edg­ing, es­pe­cially when the pa­pery mauve flower heads ap­pear.

Bal­conies and win­dow boxes pro­vide easy ac­cess to culi­nary herbs, as do con­tain­ers and hang­ing bas­kets near the kitchen door.

Herbs are use­ful in the veg­etable gar­den where they help dis­cour­age pests. Find space for pots of basil, thyme, co­rian­der and sage. These dec­o­ra­tive and aro­matic herbs are ideal for a sunny pa­tio.

A rose gar­den can look un­in­ter­est­ing be­tween flushes, but re­tains in­ter­est if un­der-planted with aro­matic herbs such as sage, ori­g­anum, scented gera­ni­ums (pe­largo­ni­ums) and di­anthus. Grow strongly scented gar­lic chives, thyme and laven­der as com­pan­ions with roses to dis­cour­age aphids.

GO­ING GREEN: A view across let­tuce, spinach and cab­bage seedlings grow­ing in a food gar­den com­posed en­tirely of raised beds at South African jeweller Christo­pher Grieg’s home in Beech­wood Gar­dens, Joburg.

HEALTHY OP­TION: Sow a few cab­bages ev­ery few weeks so they ma­ture at dif­fer­ent times.

MEL­LOW YEL­LOW: Yel­low pep­pers are now the ul­ti­mate in de­signer veg­eta­bles.

WA­TER-WISE: Toma­toes thrive in full sun, but need lots of wa­ter.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.