Starting your vegetable garden

25 October 2007

These photos were all taken this morning. Early morning, before the sun hits the vegetables, is the best time to walk around looking for bugs or potential problems. Observation is the key to growing good vegies. You need to know what's happening out there and help the plants along if you notice something going wrong.

I had to buy tomatoes yesterday. We had some of our own and some from my step son's garden but with three avid tomato eaters here at the moment, the time came to go to the store to buy them. Yikes! $5 a kilo for plain old tasteless tomatoes, $10 kg for the "vine ripened" ones. I had a look around at the other vegies - $7/kilo for capsicums (peppers), $4 for a lettuce, $3.50 for a bunch of radishes and the long cucumbers were $3.80 each. It would have cost about $20 just for a couple of salads. I hate to think what the same vegetables would cost if I was buying organic produce. Luckily I only had to buy the tomatoes, we had everything else.

French radishes. These are $3.50 at the store, but are easily grown fresh and organic in the back yard for the price of the seeds and a bit of work planting and watering.

That's the great benefit of growing your own, not only are they organic, they're also fresher, tastier and you're protected from the spikes in prices when there's been a drought, storms or cyclones.

Zucchini. We have just planted the follow ups to these - yellow zucchini. By the time the yellows are ready, these will be pulled out.

I've written about starting a new vegetable garden here so I won't go over that again. I want to give those of you who have started your first vegie gardens, or who are about to, a few tips that I hope will help you grow your vegetables.

Nectarines ripening in the warm sun. No fruit you buy will ever taste as good as that from your own backyard.

Almost all uncontaminated soil will grow food, but with a bit of help, the soil in your back yard will produce very good crops instead of mediocre ones. The one thing that will make the biggest difference is to add aged manure to the soil. Your aim should be to add as much organic matter as possible, but if you can only add one thing, let it be old manure. If you can add compost with the manure you're on your way to good soil, and good soil will give good crops. If you're lucky enough to have your own animals, when you buy manure, or if it is given to you, make sure the animals have not recently been wormed. Manure from wormed animals will kill the worms in your soil. You want to encourage worms, they enrich your soil. At the same time you're developing your vegetable garden you should also start a compost pile or bin. The two go hand-in-hand.

These are Richmond green apple cucumbers which were a popular variety of cucumber in Australia in the 1950s. You can't buy these at the supermarket now, they are only available in seed form to grow in your own vegie garden. The taste is sensational.

And the follow ups to the Richmond cucumbers - Lebanese cucumbers that will be picked small and crunchy in about 8 weeks time.

Think of your soil as a cake. Sure, you can make a cake from a packet and you have a cake. But you can also make a cake using organic flour, backyard eggs, good butter, homegrown carrots, walnuts and spices and you get healthy, delicious cake that everyone will enjoy. The packet cake will fill you but the homemade cake will not only fill your belly, it will add to your nutrition.

A variety of lettuces - red, Cos, butter and frilly. All fresh and waiting to be picked for a salad.

So let's imagine you've added some aged horse or cow manure to your soil, along with your homemade compost. You dig it in (my preferred way) or you add it to your layers in a no dig garden bed. If you can afford to buy a good organic fertiliser, do so, if you can't, buy some blood and bone and sulphate of potash and use them. The blood and bone will add nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus - all necessary for good plant growth and the potash will induce flowering. The ratio is one handful of potash to 10kg of blood and bone. Sprinkle that over your new garden and dig in, along with the manure and compost.

Green lake beans. Hanno loves these cooked - either hot or in a salad. I like them eaten raw straight from the vine.

Now you're ready to plant your seeds or seedlings. You're planting into good soil, so you want to give your plants the best chance to thrive. Get yourself some seaweed concentrate. I use Natrakelp when I can afford it and Seasol when I can't. There is some good info here about organic fertilisers, including Natrakelp. Seaweed concentrate, properly diluted, will help your seedlings over the shock of transplanting. I water my plants with a weak solution of seaweed concentrate every couple of weeks to keep everything healthy. A good trick is to pour some diluted seaweed into a small container before you plant your seedlings. Allow the seedlings to sit in the seaweed for about 30 minutes before you plant. Then plant out and water in. Then pour on some more seaweed to settle the plant in nicely.

The follow ups to the tomatoes. We have tomatoes in large pots, sweet bites and tommy toes in various places in the garden and quite a few planted in the aquaponics garden. One of these is a yellow pear tomatoes, I'm not sure what the others are. In the pots we have Armish paste, beefsteaks and brandywines, in the aquaponics we have dwarf pear, sweet bites and beefsteaks.

Now a word of warning. Never over fertilise your plants. If you start your garden in a similar way to the outline above, you won't need to fertilise much at all. I make up a liquid comfrey fertiliser or worm juice for the leafy greens and apply that every two weeks. Things like tomatoes, peppers and beans, I just plant into rich soil and keep watered. The rule of thumb is you give nitrogen to the leafy greens and a small amount of potash (when planting) to the fruiting plants like tomatoes, beans, zucchinis etc. Give a good deep watering maybe twice a week, depending on your climate, and three times a week in the heat of summer. Try to water your plants in the early morning as this will help you avoid the diseases of humidity like powdery mildew.
There are many reasons to start growing your own food. It's really enjoyable, you can grow organic food for a minimal price, it's as fresh as it can possibly be when you eat it and it has no pesticides or herbicides. But now it will also save you money and ensure your supply of vegetables when the supply might be a bit tight at the shop.


  1. Anopther great Post. Makes me want to go out and plant a garden.Winter will be here soon.
    What a Lovely Garden you have. I'm so Thankful my parents taught us to garden and to live a simple side of life.
    Have a great day!

  2. Rhonda ~

    Thank you for visiting my blog :-) I feel very special as I visit yours every day (and have linked to you several times!), you're such an inspiration. I am so glad I get to watch your garden over the dark and snowy winter that's in store here. :-)

    Your last post put into words so many feelings I have. I cut back to part time work (2 1/2 days per week) in August in order to live a simpler, healthier and happier life with my husband. It's been amazing but I think so few people actually realize that it makes good sense. They just see that I am a young person wasting time when I should be working. Phoo!


  3. Hi Rhonda,

    Your garden is looking fantastic!!! An great inspiration!

  4. Beautiful garden and very inspiring. I found your blog through Ruthie's. Our little garden is looking better now that my sweetie took over from me. I'm much better at cooking the food than growing it. ;-)

  5. Hi Lib, I look forward to your daily comments. PLeased tell me when I start to get boring.

    Hi Geoff! good to see your here. : )

    Hello Ruthie and Chile, welcome. I'll be going back again today Ruthie if I have the time. I'll visit you again too, Chili. I just popped in for a quick look before I welcomed you.

  6. I am so jealous. With the drought continuing, I'll be lucky to get anything. I am putting tomatoes in big pots under the verandah to see how they go and a couple of other plants. I do admire your place, it is all so well set up.

  7. Hi Rhonda,

    Your photo of the apple cuke made my mouth water - it is the variety my Mum has always grown, so sweet and crunchy! We ate them like fruit when we were little.

    I noticed you use a trellis? I am attempting to grow my cukes on a trellis too this year - any tips?

    Cheers, Julie

  8. good luck with the tomatoes, colleen. I have some in pots too and they're looking ok, so far.

    Hello Julie, it's so good to hear from you again. You just need to keep propping them up until they can stay upright by themselves. Cut off all dead and dying leaves and if you have powdery mildew, give them some copper oxychloride (it's organic).

  9. Thanks, Rhonda Jean. Be sure to read more than just the latest post. It’s a bit more risqué than my usual posting!

  10. The Simple FamilyOctober 25, 2007 12:26 pm

    I am so in awe of your garden. Mine is having some....issues. I can only hope I'll have one as beautiful as your's soon!

  11. Great post;you're very inspiring.
    (Touch wood) my vegie garden is going great guns at the moment.We let the chooks plough over the fallow vegie boxes for a few months,then top them up with compost before planting them out again.
    You're so right about flavour ! My son just tasted raw home grown broad beans for the first time and gave them a big thumbs up for taste,pod and all.

  12. I recently stumbled across this site, and I know I'm going to love watching someone else's tomatoes grow round and red while I'm sitting by the fire in January here in the states. Luckily, I'm in the south, so I can still plant and harvest for at least a couple of months yet. I just planted my garlic and onions this week, and I'm hoping to get in my carrots, lettuce, and greens this weekend. \

    Here's to simple living!

  13. Rhonda, any advice for people who don't have a back yard but would like to try growing vegetables in pots? So far I grow only herbs, and would like to try vegetables.

  14. you have set me on yet another find a source in the usa for the richmond green apple cucumbers! know anyone who's growing them out over here? they are definitely on my life list now! LOL

  15. welcome to all the new readers and thanks to all for the comments.

    Anna, I'll write what I know about growing vegies in containers next week. I'm no expert though.

    ntiveheart, here is a source in the US:

  16. Thanks, Rhonda! I will stay tuned.

  17. Your garden is amazing. We live in a apt. We have a huge front yard patio; that this spring, I am hoping to start a container garden. If the results are half as good as yours I will be happy.

  18. you have an absolutely lovely garden!
    we plan on growing quite a bit of produce this year,come Spring.
    I absolutely love growing things...but it had mostly been flowers. This Spring it shall be different.


Comments with links or email addresses won't be published. All spam and business advertising will be deleted.

Children read my blog so I always make sure the information here is family-friendly. I don't publish comments containing links or email addresses now because I don't have time to check them.

All comments in English, please. Thank you.