Sustainable Life: how to build the perfect autumn veggie patch | HerCanberra

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Sustainable Life: how to build the perfect autumn veggie patch

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The prolific growth of summertime veggies has produced bountiful crops of tomatoes, zucchinis and more.

No time to bask in the glory. The secret to a productive garden in Canberra’s autumn and winter is to plant your veggies now when the days are long and the soil is warm.

If you wait until late autumn, when the first frost destroys your tomato leaves and pumpkin vines, then you will have missed the best growing days.

Early autumn is the perfect time to plant whole rows of parsley, coriander, baby spinach, globe radishes, silverbeet, garlic, onions and pea—using seed.

It’s also time to establish your winter brassica crops, including broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and cabbage, and to plant for an early spring crop of broad beans. Carrots, parsnips, swedes and beetroot also go well in an autumn veggie patch.

Step 1. Set up your veggie garden

CHOOSE YOUR REAL ESTATE WELL

As with house buying, it’s all about the location… and the amount of sunlight in each location.  Full sun is ideal, with some shelter from the harsh summer afternoon sun.

SET UP YOUR WATERING SYSTEM

If you’re serious about gardening, get yourself some drip irrigation, space out your rows by 40 – 60cm.  Hook your irrigation up with a timer on your garden tap.

CREATE BEAUTIFUL SOIL

Most vegetables like a rich soil, full of compost and worm casings. They also like their soil to drain, so if it’s too gluggy—simply add some sand and mix it through. Definitely don’t plant veggies directly into the hard, clay Canberra soil.

If you’ve got an existing veggie patch, don’t forget to add fertiliser before you plant. About a bucket of animal manure, per square metre, for most vegetables.

Step 2. Decide what to plant

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO EAT?

What is difficult to get from shops? Some homes like to supply themselves with leafy greens, so they’ve always got fresh salad veggies and herbs. Others like to grow unusual or exotic vegetables, that can’t be sourced in the supermarkets.

Sugar snap and snow peas are favourites with children as they can be eaten directly from the plants—no preparation necessary.

Source your seeds and seedlings from garden stores, farmers markets and online, through stores like the Diggers Club and the Little Veggie Patch Co.

Step 3. Get your plants in the soil!

Get those seeds and seedlings into the soil. If you need space, because your summer vegetables haven’t yet finished, be ruthless.

Pull out summer veggies that are taking up productive space—especially excess tomatoes and pumpkin vines. Dig up basil that’s in your veggie patch and transfer it to a pot. You can keep the potted basil in a sunny, frost-free position well after the frost.

Clear away weeds and mulch around your new plants. Then, finish off your planting by watering with a touch of seaweed-based plant conditioner.

Be sure to protect your new seedlings and seeds by heading off an attack from snails using crushed eggshells or snail and slug pellets. If you’ve planted brassicas, get yourself some Dipel—a biological control for white cabbage moth caterpillars. Most brassicas like a spray every two weeks, to keep those cabbage moths at bay.

Step 4. Tend your garden

Love is essential to the growth of vegetables. It doesn’t have to be expressed every day, but at least a few times each week. Keep your soil moist and as seedlings emerge from the soil and continue to water them every few days.

Keep weeding and mulching. Your efforts in the early autumn garden will produce veggies in late autumn, through winter and into early spring.

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