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Sustainable Life: Ready, veggie, go!

Mia Swainson

Spring has sprung. Plants are all sporting bright, green shoots and flowers are blooming.

If you want to be ahead of the pack, now is time to get your spring vegetables going. Get in early to have a long harvest and the best summer crops.

Ready, veggie, go!

Where to put vegetables?

The crucial success factors for positioning your garden are sun and water. As a general rule, vegetables need maximum sunlight. They also need be located somewhere that makes them easy to water. Hand watering? Put the vegetables in deep, planter boxes, near your home. Got a drip system with a timer? Put those vegetables out in the yard, somewhere handy for harvesting.

Make your vegetable bed

So many options! You can dig directly into the soil, put a raised bed on top of the soil, make your own wicking bed or use deep planter boxes. Most Canberra back yards have clay soil that is hostile to vegetable growth. So in our town, planter boxes, raised beds and wicking beds are the fastest way to successful home grown veggies.

Haven’t heard of a wicking bed? They’re the latest garden trend because they keep soil all over the bed moist, without needing to water every day. If you’d like to know more about wicking beds, check out this Gardening Australia fact sheet.

Good food makes good plants

What ever shape your veggie patch takes, it’s soil quality that really counts. Vegetables like nutrient rich soil. If you’re putting in a new bed, you can buy-in soil that’s been prepared especially for vegetables – easy. If you’re planting directly into the earth, building the soil becomes an art. Consider enriching a 2m x 1.5m patch with a full 25 Litre bag of cow or sheep manure and four buckets of compost. To keep your soil good over time, maintain it by using plenty of mulch and a little seaweed liquid fertilizer.

Consider enriching a 2m x 1.5m patch with a full 25 Litre bag of cow or sheep manure and four buckets of compost. To keep your soil good over time, maintain it by using plenty of mulch and a little seaweed liquid fertilizer.

Get planting

Plant vegetables that you love to eat. Here are my top five spring vegetables that thrive, even with Canberra’s springtime frosts.

  • I love the crunch of snow peas and the wow factor that snow pea shoots give a spring salad. You can plant seeds directly into the soil right now and they’ll produce a late spring crop. Because they’ve got nitrogen-fixing nodules on their roots, snow peas will also help you prepare the soil for a late summer crop.
  • Rocket – fresh, peppery and edgy in any salad. Super easy to grow from seed. Plant your seeds in a row, so that you have enough to harvest all spring. As the seedlings emerge, prevent slugs and snails from flattening your fledgling crop overnight with broken-up egg shells, sawdust or pet-friendly anti-slug pellets. When summer’s heat arrives, let your rocket burst into gorgeous white flowers and your garden will love the bees and other insects that arrive.
  • Rainbow Chard. This Mediterranean, leafy green is packed with goodness and is super-easy to grow. I like the colours in rainbow chard, rather than regular dark green silverbeet. You can grow rainbow chard from seed, in a seed raising tray… Or you could cheat and get seedlings from a local grower.
  • I love turning up the flavour in salads and roast vegetables with parsley. It’s easy to grow from seed and will last through next winter and into spring again if you can spare the space. Scatter the seeds in a long row and harvest while the shoots are young for subtle flavour and soft leaves.
  • Globe artichokes. These spectacular-looking, perennial thistles grow to about 1.5m high. You eat the flower head, usually after it’s been simmered and dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Fresh artichokes taste much richer than the ones you can buy, preserved in jars. Let some of your flowers go to seed and enjoy the bright purple thistle flowers in your garden.
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Mia Swainson

Mia Swainson is passionate about creating a more sustainable world and believes that everyone can make a difference. Trained as an environmental engineer, Mia has worked in sustainable development with the Australian Government and community sector for more than 15 years. Mia’s work has taken her around the world to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and back to Canberra. She currently tends her kitchen garden, cares for three young boys and is growing her executive coaching consultancy (miaswainson.com.au/wp). More about the Author

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