Gardening: food for thought

Dreaming about an edible garden you can build yourself without breaking your back or the bank? Maybe you’re envisioning raised beds full of fresh vegetables and herbs, natural river-pebble pathways wide enough for the kids to run around on, and a day bed stacked with oversize cushions? And don’t forget to add a chilled lemonade made fresh from the morning’s harvest. Dream no more, turn it into reality!

See how you can build the ultimate veggie patch, just like these superstar growers!

Kicking goals in the backyard
Former Sydney Swans footballer Jude Bolton and his wife Lynette were so inspired by Better Homes and Gardens ultimate veggie patch (created on TV last year), they decided to build it for themselves.

The Boltons had a bright, sunny spot in the back corner of their yard and loved the idea of a multipurpose garden, complete with raised beds and entertaining zones among the produce. Be inspired by their story and start planning your own version.

Tips and tricks for veggie garden maintenance

Watering: To encourage them to grow quickly, water your patch at dawn or dusk, when the heat of the sun is at its mildest. This helps to prevent the water from evaporating off leaf surfaces.

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Apply a scattering of granular slow-release fertiliser before every plant you sow 

Feeding: Once you’ve started off with a good enriched soil (see Activate your soil, apply a scattering of granular slow-release fertiliser before every plant you sow. Leaf vegetables are hungry for nitrogen, so top them up with a soluble fertiliser about 14 days into the growing cycle. Treat them well and they will grow and grow. . . and grow a little more!

Pest control: Caterpillars are an edible garden’s worst enemy and will easily destroy a crop overnight. Try spraying with Dipel – this naturally derived product will only affect the caterpillar, leaving all other animals in the food chain unaffected. Or, try Success Ultra from Yates, which also has a short withholding period, meaning you can pick your harvest a few days after spraying.

Raise the bar on your garden beds
A built-up bed offers multiple benefits for produce and gardener alike. It’s great for drainage as well as giving you more control over what goes into the soil in terms of nutrients and composts. It also significantly reduces the chance of invasion from ground-level pests and diseases. Even better, putting your crop at knee height reduces the distance you need to bend over to tend to your yield – giving back pain the boot!

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Garden boxes provide good drainage and serve as a barrier to pests such as slugs and snails

Here’s a pick of appetising herbs, fruit and veg to fill your bed

1. Thyme is a perennial ground cover herb. Variegated forms, like this, provide a great foliage contrast among other herbs.
2. These mini chillies (Capsicum annuum) are pretty enough to decorate any sunny spot as well as adding spice to meals.
3. Sweet basil is an essential flavour for Italian cookery, and sensationally fragrant when picked fresh.
4. A delicate shrub with blue-grey leaves, curry plant (Helichrysum italicum) is wonderfully aromatic.
5. The sun-ripened sweetness of homegrown strawberries is best when eaten straight after picking.
6. Loose-leaf lettuces go from seed to baby leaves in five weeks. You can harvest your salad year-round.
7. The sweet and savoury flavours of sage make it an incredibly versatile culinary herb. It has a variety of medicinal uses, too.
8. Apple mint (Mentha suaveolens) is hardy, looks stunning and loves sun. The leaves make a wonderful tea when infused in water.
9. Chives, the delicate cousin of onion, garlic and leek, look and taste superb as a garnish. Just pick, wash and chop up with kitchen scissors.

Activate your soil
Tired of your veggie garden not producing despite all your love and care? It may be a sign of nutrient-poor soil. The addition of compost and cow manure will help rejuvenate the soil and return much-needed minerals and nutrients. Consider a compost bin for kitchen scraps – the worms will do all the work for you!


Don't have a big backyard? No problem! Watch how to harvest your own herbs and veggies in a small space

Free Project Sheet:
Do like the Boltons and grab the easy-to-follow project sheet for a raised garden bed project. We’ve put together step-by-step instructions along with a complete list of the materials and tools you’ll need to do the job.

To get your project sheet visit bhgshop.com.au/projectsheets and download it, or post a stamped ($2), self-addressed C5 (162 x 229mm) envelope to Better Homes and Gardens, Veggie Garden, May 2016, GPO Box 7812, Sydney NSW 2001. Please allow at least 10 days for postal delivery.

(Images © Pacific Magazines Australia)

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