How To Grow Cucumber Plants

Cucumbers grow well on a trellis

Cucumber grow well on a trellis

The question of how to grow cucumbers is a pretty simple one to answer. Find a sunny spot, get a seed, stick it the ground and apply water and you are away. Of course there is more to it than that but like growing a lot of things people tend to over complicate it.

What do they need

Although they are known for their coolness cucumbers are a warm season vegetable but they are pretty adaptable. They need a full sun position and the soil needs to be 68º  (20ºC) or above for good gemination.

Sow the seeds directly into soil that has had some compost dug in and is crumbly and well-drained so the roots can easily push through it. Clay soil will need to be improved. You can let your cucumbers roam free but I like to grow mine up. That way they take up less space and I feel as though the air moves around better and reduces fungus diseases that cucumbers are prone to.  I usually use a bamboo stake as I plant things wherever I have space but many people use a trellis either up a wall or free-standing. If you go for the near the wall  method just be careful how hot they get – although they like it warm in hot areas the fence or wall can heat up and they almost cook.

Once you have planted them make a bit of an indentation like a dish around the plant to encourage the water to stay near the roots when you water.

Cucumbers are shallow rooted and because of this they need a fair bit of water. Don’t let your seedlings dry out keep them moist but not too wet. Check out what happens when it rains. It is the most amazing thing my cucumbers have been known to double in size when it rains they just suck up all the water and get big and fat. I also find that no matter how hard I look I always miss one and it ends up so big it almost could be mistaken for a melon.  I use mulch for two reasons – it keeps the soil from drying out and if there is one on the ground it stops things like snails eating the fruit as well as keeps the weeds down.

Pick your cucumbers whenever the look good to eat. Picking them often will encourage more flowers and therefore more cucumbers. Don’t let them get to big they are better when they are small.

You will need to tie them up to start with but after a while they develop little tendrils that use to hang on. Once they start to flower give them a feed with a multi purpose fertilizer and then feed them ever 5 weeks or so.

If you get flowers but no fruit it may be too cold or you may  have a shortage of bees. PlantCucumber_Flower some blue flowers near by to attract bees of you can hand pollinate by transfering pollen between flowers with a paint brush.

Help I have too many cucumbers

Sometimes a bumper crop can be just as bad as no fruit at all. Cucumbers are really perishable so don’t last very long once you pick them, they start to lose their moisture and go all wrinkly and pretty yuck. Lots of people pickle them – I’m not a fan. They will last a few days in the crisper section of the fridge but I’ve discovered that if you completely wrap them in cling film and put them in the crisper they will last twice as long sometimes longer.

Problems with Cucumbers

The biggest problem I have is powdery mildew which is a white powdery fungus that totally covers the plant in just a couple of days, it seems to dry the leaves out and then the plant stops producing and becomes unhealthy. – it’s at it worst when the weather is humid. Lady

Spotted cucumber beetle

Spotted cucumber beetle

beetles seem to help but just when you think everything is fine it’s everywhere. You can spray with a systemic fungicide, dusting with sulphur should also help. You can also use milk. Mix up a solution of 1 part milk to 10 parts water and spray it on your cucumber plant and anything else that gets powdery mildew is said to be an effective treatment. Use full cream milk and don’t be tempted to make it stronger as it can cause problems like sooty mould. You need to do this regularly about every seven to 10 days when it’s hot. Make sure you get a good even coverage over all of the leaves. I have to admit I tend to just rip it out and start a new plant off as I have usually had heaps of cucumber by then and will generally be needing a break anyway.  Another problem that people get with cucumbers is cucumber beetle – (they can be spotted or striped) luckily I have been spared this so far. A remedy I read is to collect as many as you can of the little suckers and squash them (you’ll feel better already) then mix them up with a couple of cups of water and spray it on the effected plants the beetles it seems don’t like the smell and stay away.

Varieties

There are generally three types apple cucumbers which a round and have lime green to

sweet success is a popular variety

sweet success is a popular variety

creamy white skin they take about 10-12 weeks to produce fruit..  Green (sometimes called supermarket) which are long and dark green they are a bit less prone to powdery mildew problems. Lebanese – pick these when small, less than 6 inches, they are sweet and burpless.  Your local plant supplier will have ones that grow well in your area.

How to Grow Beans

How to Grow BeansYou really don’t even need to ask how to grow beans they are so easy to grow. Beans are a great crop because they grow up rather than out so you get great value for space used – perfect. Beans have great names like scarlet runner, big kahuna, lazy housewife, purple king, dragons tongue, asparagus yardlong,

They are warm season vegetables and are frost sensitive. So plant seeds after the threat of frost has passed or cover the area to protect them. They can be grown all year round in warm areas and for about 6 months of the year in temperate areas. In cold areas they can be grown for about 4 months of the year. They prefer well drained soil but you should add compost to sandy soil to improve the water holding ability. They prefer a neutral PH.

Beans are either climbing (pole) or bush (dwarf). You will need to give the pole varieties somethig to climb on and protect them from wind damage. If you live in a windy area you may be better to plant dwarf beans. Taller varieties generally yield about three times the dwarf beans.

Sow seeds directly where you want them to grow. Often people plant them in the same spot that broccoli, cabbage or cauliflower just came out of as those plants are pretty hungry for nitrogen– beans restore the nitrogen to the soil – how clever is Mother Nature?

Read the instructions on the packet of seeds for spacing requirements but generally. If you are planting rows make the rows about 50-60cm apart and plant each seed 7-10 cm along the row.

Gold Mine BeansThey will get flowers and then as the flowers fall away little beans will form. You can pick the lovely tender baby beans as soon as they look big enough to eat. Then others as they get a bit bigger. You can also leave them to get big and fat then use the seeds in soups – can’t say I’ve done this but it is possible.

I usually plant just a few dwarf beans in a clump wherever I can find space.  Then when the next space comes vacant I plant a few more and so on otherwise I end up with a ton of beans all at once. There are only so many beans two people can eat and my space is too valuable. It can be a bit stressful trying to figure out how to use all the produce you grow. I’ve tried freezing them but haven’t had much success – I like my food fresh otherwise I would just buy frozen beans from the supermarket.

Check out my page that talks about different varieties here

Planning a Vegetable Garden Layout

If you are brand new to growing vegetables and haven’t even planted anything yet you are probably asking where should I put it? What should it look like? How big should it be? Should I have raised beds or should I even have just pots or other containers with my plants in? How much time do I need to put in? Should I compost? How much water do I give them? In the beggining the questions seem endless but just take it one step at a time and try not to bite off more than you can easily chew at once.

Here is some information about these questions that just might help I hope so.
Tap

Where should I put my vegetable garden?

Where is the tap?  – this is a big consideration you need an easily accessible water supply. You also need to consider the water that runs off – using a hose on a balcony in an apartment block doesn’t sound like the best idea to me. You could use a watering can but again where will the water that comes from that go and where will the run off go?

What is the sun doing? An open sunny spot that is protected from strong winds is ideal. The best tasting vegetables are those that grow quickly.  To grow quickly vegetables need as much sunlight as they can get. This is particularly true in the colder months when the days are shorter. At least 4 to 5 hours of direct sun per day is required. Think about where the shadows from the house or fences fall at different times of the year. My vegetable garden is in full shade during winter I have successfully grown brocolli and cabbages in full shade and they were perfectly happy.

You also shouldn’t put it anywhere near large trees as the roots of the tree will compete with the vegetables for water and nutrients and it will be difficult to dig. A level site is best and will be the easiest to manage. It’s also a good idea to put the vegetable garden close to the house if you can so it’s easy to pick things when you need it.

How Big Should It Be?

A vegetable garden can be as big or as small as you like. Half a dozen pots on a balcony or

My Vegetable garden

My Vegetable garden

patio can be a vegetable garden. You can have vertical garden going up a wall. Your available space and your own enthusiasm will determine the answers to this question. Generally it is best to have beds that are about  5 feet wide (150 cm) and paths that are 1 -1&1/2 feet (30cm-40cm) between each bed. This width allows you to work from both sides to weed, plant or harvest your crops and the width allows you to plant three plants of broccoli, tomato or cabbage. You could also plant three rows of beans, peas or sweet corn. You’d also be able to fit 6 plants of beetroot, carrots or lettuce in this width. My general advice would be to start small see if you like it and then expand as your knowledge and confidence increases and you get an idea of how long you need to dedicate to your new hobby. It’s far better to look after a small area well than to be swamped with the commitment of a large garden. My garden is just a rectangle with some timbers holding the soil in place and then I have timber boards that i can walk on the plant, pick or pull weeds. I can move the timber paths out of the way to dig it all over –  it works for me. I have concrete path on one side and stones around the other three sides. Originally we put it up against the fence but I found that it was too hard to get into plant and pick stuff. Also the fence got quite hot in summer and the plants tended to wilt in the heat. It was good for climbing plants  though it is all a bit of trail and error just do what you think will work for you. If you’d like any specific advice give me information and about your situation and I’ll give you my opinion.

Should I have raised beds?

There are few major advantages of raised beds. They can be easier to work and are less back breaking I have done a post about raised garden beds which you can read here.

Jerusalem Artichoke

What is a jerusalem artichoke I hear you ask?Jerusalem artichokes tubers

Jerusalem Artichokes are not artichokes at all they are a big sunflower and have tuberous root like a potato. It is the root that you eat. They are grown as an annual meaning that you replace them each year.

The Jerusalem artichoke, also called sunroot, sunchoke, earth apple or topinambour, is a species of sunflower native to eastern North America, and found from eastern Canada and Maine west to North Dakota, and south to northern Florida and Texas. Wikipedia

There is a great blog post here which deals with the pitfalls of growing these plants and  how invasive they can be  – after reading this I decided that there is no way I am setting them loose in my garden. I might give them a go but I will plant them in a smart pot which will Smart Potallow me to grow them without the hassle of them going weedy and invading my yard. You can get smart pots from garden centers and Amazon has them for about $15.00 for a 15 gallon one which should be big enough. You could also use these to grow any other plant once the artichoke season is over.

Jerusalem Artichoke topIf you still want to grow them the details are below.

They can grow up to 10 feet tall and about 18 inches wide. They are happy in most soil types. People usually plant them along a fence so that they won’t put extra shade on your garden. If you are growing them in a smart pot you will need to protect them from the wind and they will dry out quicker so will need more water.

Plant tubers in late winter or early spring. about 8 inches (10-15 cm) deep and 20 inches (50 -60cm) apart. Scatter some fertiliser when you plant.

They get yellow flowers in summer – you should remove these when the buds form.

Harvest them four to six weeks after the flower buds form or when the stems die down which should be in late autumn. While you can leave them in the soil until you want them they can get weedy and invasive if you don’t dig them up every last one each year.

You should get about 12 tubers per plant.

 

 

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Grow Asparagus Plants

The decision to grow asparagus plants is an investment in the future they produce more spears every year and continue to do so for about 20 years.Asparagus

Growing Conditions

Although they are best suited to mild or cold climates they are pretty adaptable and will grow in much warmer climates even in the subtropics. Frost is no problem as the ferny plants die off each winter.

They like deep crumbly soil  so that it is easy for the spears to push up.  A PH level of about seven or higher. Plant them in full sun where you want them to permanently stay. protect from strong winds. They are not suited to heavy clay soil.

Seriously Weird Looking

They produce new shoots (or spears) each spring – this is what you eat.  They don’t get edible spears for two seasons so you need to show a bit of patience if you plant them from seed.  It’s better to plant two year old “crowns”. The spears appear before any of the green ferny stuff so they can look seriously weird when they poke up through the soil.

How weird are these?

How weird are these?

Male and Female

There are male and female asparagus plants – the male ones produce better spears. You know if you have female one if it gets red berries in the second season – pull it out as the berries growing into plants can be a nightmare for the environment – the birds eat the berries and off it goes.

You should be able to buy a two year old crown from the nursery or plant supplier.

Planting

Dig the soil to at least a spade depth add organic matter and a bit of general purpose fertiliser.

Plant the crown about 6 – 8inches (15-20cm) deep and about 12 – 20 inches (30 to 50cm apart) and cover with about 2 inches of soil as the spears grow cover with more soil until the ground is level.

Water regularly and give regular high nitrogen fertiliser in summer to encourage the green ferny  top growth. Cut down the dry yellow fern to the ground in winter and give another dose of fertilizer to encourage spears in spring.

I have included a video below to show you what they look like and how to plant them. This isn’t me I got this from YouTube I couldn’t have done it better myself – Enjoy!

White or Green Asparagus and when should I pick it

White and green asparagus are the same thing. If you want white asparagus you need to pull the soil up around the plant to about 8 inches to make a hill to stop the light getting to the spears.

Picked it when the spears are about 8 inches (20 cm) long and before the tips open – just cut the green spears off at the ground. When the white ones break the surface stick a long knife into the soil and cut the spear about 8 inches under the soil. After you pick all the spears for the season level the soil out again  so that you can mound it up again next year.

Varieties
Mary Washington is the most common well known variety for home gardeners and is the one I am aware of. I have done a bit of research and found that other varieties which may be more disease resistant are the all male hybrids Jersey Gem and Jersey Knight which produce significantly more yield.  Check for availability in your area. if you are in the US Jersey Gem and Jersey Knight can be purchased from  Burpee Gardening
iconAtlas is another variety withfatter spears and which is available from California Asparagus Transplants and Seed, Davis, CA.

In the UK the BBC recommends the following varieties Gijnlim – heavy crops one year after planting, Jersey Giant – dark green spears with a purple head, Jersey Knight Improved – thick, but tender spears, Purple asparagus of Alberga – Italian heritage variety with purple spears, Backlim – thick, green spears

In Australia Garden Express has Mary Washington.

In Canada there is a variety called Viking has been developed which is hardy to zone 4. Jersey Gem and Jersy Knight which were developed in California are apprently only hardy to zone 5. See the planting zone maps here

How Much To Plant

I have read that the recommended number of plants to grow is ten per family member. I don’t know about you but this is too much space to give up in my garden. If you plant the newer hybids you may be able to get away with half that number – check with your supplier.

If you know anything extra about asparagus that you would like to share or if you know of a good supplier that you would like to recommend let us know by adding a comment below.

Gardening Gift Ideas

Need some gardening gift ideas for the gardener in your life.

My friends are always asking me what they can get for their mother, father, husband or whoever for Christmas or their birthday or just because they want to buy them something. “They are a gardener” they say “what would they like?”

Well I know what I would like. I’ve made a list of things I’d either like to have or which are my most valued garden things. I hope it helps you find something. First a couple of things I don’t want – a little bag filled with garden tools – I’ve been gardening for years I have all those little tools and my guess is that your gardener has also got them. I don’t want gardener’s hand cream either I have cupboard full of hand cream and I really like to choose my own anyway. I certainly don’t want a mug that says “worlds best gardener” I want serious gardener stuff. I hope my family checks my website. I’ve tried to choose a range of practical things that won’t break the bank but that are thoughtful and good quality. If you click on any of the links it will take you to the Amazon Store where you can check out the details and purchase if you wish. I’ll get a small commision which will help with my website expenses -Thanks.

Gardening GlovesGardening Gloves

Gardening gloves wear out so I always need gardening gloves. Not the big heavy ones that
are made from leather I need ones that are made from material that lets the air circulate or my hands get too hot. I need ones that are thin and flexible so I can still feel what I’m doing. I find that they wear out about once a year so these are always on my list. At less than ten dollars they are a great stockng filler.

A Great Gardening Book

Trowel & ErrorSure I’ve got gardening books most of them have the same information just presented in a different way and they never seem to have all the tips that people who have been gardeninng for years accumulate it’s like as if they don’t want to share. Which is why I made this website in the first place – I want to share tips.  I want this book even if it only has one or two things in it that I don’t know it will be a great book. It’s less than $10.00 how could you go wrong.

Other gardening book suggestions are All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.

Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening by Louise Riotte or Grow Cook Eat: A Food Lover’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening by by Willi Galloway which gives tip on harveting storing and cooking what you grow. 

I want help in the garden

It really is more fun when you do it with someone and there are some jobs I can’t do on my own. So give your loved one a homemade voucher that entitles them to 1 hour (or however many hours you are willing to give them) of help. Lots of the time people have everything money can buy but really would just like your company. Just make sure you are willing to follow through. You can make and print a gift voucher here.

A Big Flexible BucketTub Trug

These are called “tub trugs” they are fantastic things. This is a great gift for anyone. They come in lots of colours and sizes. They do all the things a bucket does in that they hold things but they are bigger and they are flexible so you can squeeze the handles together. They are flexible but really strong and durable. Buckets tend to get a crack in them then it’s all over these things last and last.  I have one already I have found so many uses for it I want another. I’ve used it as a big ice bucket when we had a party.  You can use it to store the kids toys in it – the uses are endless. I can fit so much more garden clippings in it I have to make fewer trips to the bin to unload. A great idea is to use one of these as the “basket” for a hamper filled with all the things on this list- extra tip – don’t forget the chocolates – gardeners are people too we love chocolates. These things make a really weird looking gift when wrapped, tie the handles together and put something in it that will rattle around when they shake it they’ll never guess what it is. If you can afford it go for the genuine tub trug the plastic is different and they last longer.

Thin Nosed Garden SnipsThin Nosed Snips

These are my favourite gardening tool my husband  bought me some a few years ago. They are perfect for picking flowers, snipping off herbs or picking a pepper I find as I go out the door I go to the shed and grab these. They are small and light enough to put in my pocket so I am ready to snip whenever I get the urge. It really is amazing how often I use them.

Get the best ones you can afford they will last for years.

SecateursLopers or a multi purpose tool are also a good idea.

A Hose that doesn’t Kink

Never Kink HoseOne of the most frustrating things is a garden hose that gets kinks in it. Recently, I bought one that doesn’t kink and it is like a dream come true. They are a bit more expensive than the normal garden hose but it is money well spent.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8Galaxy Note 8

I have one of these it is the best money I’ve ever spent. It is a mini tablet. I use it for everything. Taking photos of flowers or other things I’ve grown, reading kindle or playstore books, making notes, sending emails, internet searches, recording recipes – the list grows every day. There are a couple of things that in my opinion separate it from other tablets – it’s small enough to just put it in my handbag – it’s about the same size as a book, it is so easy to use it like a book or note pad,  I can take all my stuff with me wherever I go. The stylus pen is also a game changer for me I find typing is so much easier than on ones that you just use your fingers and I can write straight onto the screen in my own handwriting – pretty cool in my book.

A Garden chairPatio Chair

Once all the work is done it’s nice to sit down a survey the scene a soak up the beauty of my garden. A nice comfortable chair is just the thing. Make sure it can stay outside I don’t want to have to lug it inside. I won’t use it if I have to go to much trouble with it.

A Raised Garden Bed

Raised gardenThere are hundreds of raised garden beds on the market, I’ve done a whole article on them. You can find it here if you’d like to read it. Overall my favourite one is this one  which is pictured at above – it’s strong and sturdy and can be arranged in different ways depending on the situation.

If you’d like something a bit more fancy  this timber one is good choice and would be perfect for a herb garden or for someone who has issues with bending.

They can be really handy

They can be really handy

 

Other ideas that spring to mind are a worm farm or a compost tumbler – as you can see once I get started I can’t stop.

If you have any ideas you’d like to add to this list leave a comment (the comment tab is at the begiining of this article) and I’ll see what I can do.

TaoTronics® E27 12W Led Grow Light TT-GL20 Red Blue LED Lights for Plants

I wanted to give you a few tips for choosing the best grow light as well as what they are and tips for using them – so here goes.

What is a grow light?

A grow light or plant light is an artificial light source. Generally they are electric. They are
Grow light
designed to stimulate plant growth. You use a grow light when there isn’t enough natural light, like in winter when day light hours are insufficient or maybe if your balcony faces the wrong way. Plants may not die without enough light but they will grow long and spindly and may not set fruit so you won’t get the results you want.

Why Do I want One?

From WikiPedia:

Grow lights either attempt to provide a light spectrum similar to that of the sun, or to provide a spectrum that is more tailored to the needs of the plants being cultivated. Outdoor conditions are mimicked with varying colour, temperatures and spectral outputs from the grow light, as well as varying the lumen output (intensity) of the lamps. Depending on the type of plant being cultivated, the stage of cultivation (e.g., the germination/vegetative phase or the flowering/fruiting phase), and the photoperiod required by the plants, specific ranges of spectrum, luminous efficacy and colour temperature are desirable for use with specific plants and time periods. – this is all a bit deep for me all I know is that they will help me grow vegetables when the light conditions at my place aren’t good enough.

Don’t believe They Could Work

indoor-plant-farm-japan-01_81667_990x742

The image at the right is of the largest indoor farm in Japan – they use artificial light could this be the farms of the future. Click here to see more.

Why This One?

TaoTronics® E27 12W Led Grow Light TT-GL20 Red Blue LED Lights for Plants

  • 12month manufacturer warranty
  • LED lights don’t get very hot the problem with old fashioned incandescent grow lights is that they got too hot, burnt the plants and dried out the soil.
  • 12V LED doesn’t use much power at all -even if you have it on 24 hours a day you won’t notice any change in your power bill – 12v is super low.
  • The light coverage is about 3 feet x 2 feet which is good enough for a small herb garden, a balcony planter box, a small green house or a small raised vegetable garden. These are suitable for anywhere light is limited. You could in theory grow flowers in a closet with no othe rlight source.
  • Fits into a regular bulb socket – you will need something to put it into like a lamp Grow Light Bulb- it just twists into the socket. You can also get brackets to hang grow lights which may be useful.
  • It is suitable for all plants in all stages of growth.
  • You can use it for hydroponics, aquatic plants, flowers vegetables or herbs.
  • Much more effective than normal fluorescent plant lights.
  • Some people report that their vegetables have grown twice as fast as when grown using a full spectrum light – sunlight is full spectrum light. That’s pretty amazing.
  • Inexpensive – when you consider it’s a one off purchase to allow you to garden all year. LED lights should last a lot longer than a normal bulb.

 

Tips For Using a Grow Light

Light “power” reduces depending on how far away the light source is form the plants.

These lights are relatively cool. So the closer the better. Try to have a bit of space around each plant so the light can penetrate.

As a rule of thumb keep the light about three inches from the tips of the plant. The more intense the light the better.   Use the three inch rule and adjust as you see fit. Once you go from three inches to six inches you have halved the “amount” of light reaching the plants. So the closer the better.

Just like in the sun seedlings need time to get used to the intensity of the light put tender plants and seedlings further away from the light this is called hardening off.

Don’t use a light that has infrared/UV  indoors they give off heat that will cook your plants.

Be careful where you plan to put them – they give off a really bright pinkish light that may be way too bright in your living areas and could irritate your eyes.

As a guide run the light for 18 hours if you are growing vegetables or 24 hours if you are growing flowers.

Try to place it so the plants will grow straight – just like in the sun plants will grow toward the light. You could turn them about  1/4 turn a day to stop this. you can also buy hanging pully products to hang your light.

Most grow lights are designed for inside use so be careful using it outside on a balcony.

Some plants, like tomatoes and peppers, need an ideal soil temperature that is about 70 degrees F to germinate so depending on how warm your growing area is you may also need a heat pad.

Vegetables To Grow In Winter

What vegetables to grow in winter is dependant on what climate zone you live in – do you

Onions are a popular cool season vegetable to grow

Onions are a popular cool season vegetable to grow

get frost?  See the climate zone map here if you are not sure. Does your garden get enough sun in winter. My vegetable garden is in full shade during winter. Once you think about how cold it gets and what the sun is doing at your place you can decide what to plant and where.

Many vegetables grow well through the cooler months. In temperate and warm climates, it’s possible to grow winter vegetables including leafy greens.

Cool season vegetables grow best when temperatures are between 50-68 ° F  (10-20°C)  or sometimes even lower.

Most winter vegetable plants are quite hardy and will cope well with cold weather, but most are frost sensitive.  If you get frosts where you live you will probably need to cover  your vegetables to protect them from the cold.

 

Garlic takes a while but it is worth the wait

Garlic takes a while but it is worth the wait

Cool season vegetables include: artichoke, asparagus, fava beans (broad beans) carrots, cabbage,  beans, beetroot, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, garlic, onions, spring onions, peas, radish, perpetual spinach

Cabbage and cauliflower grow well in winter

Cabbage and cauliflower grow well in winter

, spinach and turnips.

Most can be planted or sown directly outdoors to ensure that your winter vegetable garden is fully stocked.

Make sure you remember to water but not too much garden beds won’t dry out as quickly in winter as they do in spring and summer.

Other possibilities

If the weather is mild or you have a sheltered garden that is protected from frost you may be able to start some plants in late winter rather than waiting for early spring. It really depends on your microclimate. If you think it’s warm enough where you live have a go what will you have lost a couple of dollars if you don’t get frost you should be OK I managed to grow a great crop of broccoli and cabbage in full shade last winter.

Vegetables that may be suitable for this  include artichokes (Globe and Jerusalem), beetroot, cabbage, carrots, potatoes and radish.

Get a Head Start

Frost-sensitive vegetables such as capsicum, eggplant and tomatoes can be started earlyPropogating-tray indoors will need a warm spot to germinate.  You can get a propagating tray with a heat mat like the one on the right to help you raise seedlings early. This ensures that the soil is consistently warm enough.

Frost-Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can also get various covers that can go over your garden to protect your plants from frost and increase the temperature. Of course a greenhouse would be the ultimate luxury but most people don’t have them.

 

  • Winter is the usual time to plant and prune soft fruits including strawberries other berries and currants.

Raised Garden Bed – Review

Review Raised Garden Beds

If you want a raised garden bed and you are a bit handy you can buy all the stuff and make it yourself or you can can buy a kit.  Timber is always a good choice, although you should be careful using treated timber,  you can make one out of breeze or besser blocks there are also a few around that are made out of colorbond metal like a water tank. It just needs to be strong enough to contain the soil, deep enough for the roots to grow and retain the moisture and open enough for excess water to drain away.

Be Careful What You Buy

There are heaps of raised gardens on the market that come in kit form that are marketed as being perfect for both first time vegetable grower and experienced gardeners. I thought it might be a good idea to have a look at some and see how they stack up. The questions that you need to answer are:

  • Is it deep enough – I’ve looked at quite a few and the big problem I see with a lot of them is that they are too shallow.  The ones that sit on the ground are fine as you are really just containing the normal garden soil and so the plants and your garden bed can go down into the soil. The ones that are elevated, which are really just a big pot, need  to be at least a foot (30cm deep) so there is enough soil to deal with the depth of the vegetable roots and so it doesn’t dry out too quickly. It won’t be full right to the top either so a 9 inch one will end up being 7-8 inches almost useless in my opinion.
  • Is it sturdy enough – it must be strong enough to hold the soil in if they aren’t strong enough they will bow out with the weight of the soil and fall apart. Look for one that has a brace to strengthen it if it’s made of timber.
  • Is it durable – it needs to last a few years sitting out in the sun and rain and it will be constantly wet from the inside as well
  • Does it fit in my space – check the measurements carefully.

These are my 3 best buys

4-in-1 Modular Raised Bed

Four ways to put it together makes it suitable for lots of situations

Four ways to put it together makes it suitable for lots of situations

It’s made from colorbond steel so should be really durable and won’t need a brace. There is a two year manufacturer warranty.  You can set it up in 4 different ways. It is 15 inches deep so plenty of room for roots. It sits directly on the ground so drainage won’t be a problem. It has a plastic strip which goes around the top so the edges won’t be sharp. You just need a screwdriver to put it together. It’s reasonably priced at $199. It doesn’t have a bottom so it should be placed on a surface like grass, dirt or gravel rather than on a solid surface. In my opinion this is an excellent product. You can get the details here

Set it up in one of four shapes: 4′ 9″ L x 3′ 11″ W 6′, 10-1/2″ L x 1′ 9-1/2″ W; 5′ 5-1/2″ L x 3′ 3″ W or 3′ 3″ square all configurations are 15 inches deep. It holds approximately 2114 quarts of container mix, but you can also add topsoil and compost in with the container mix. 

Gronomics MRGB-2L 48-48 48-Inch by 48-Inch by 13-Inch Modular Raised Garden Bed, Unfinished

  •  No tools required  – it all just slides together slides together 
  • Made in the USA from western red cedar
  • Rough sawn rustic look – you can get a smooth finish one as well but they are twice the price I like the look of this one.
Each 4×4 kit comes with 8 side slats, and 4 corners. This kit is modular  which allows the corners to add more slats to be connected to extend the bed. The modular one will let you add to your beds in the future if you want to whereas the non modular one from the same company does not give the same flexibility. If you want to put together longer beds. A 4×8 kit costs twice as much as a 4×4 kit, so I think you get more flexibility if you purchase the several 4×4 modular kits. If you buy a 4×8 kit you get 14 side slats and 6 corners. If you buy 2 4×4 kits, you get 16 side slats and 8 corners for the same price – and more flexibility. Two smaller beds will also be stronger than one long bed. You can set them up separately so you can access the bed from all sides this way you will be able to use all the space for vegetables and won’t need a space for stepping. At less than $100 this looks like  a good buy to me. Get the details here
If you want one that is higher this one looks good to me

Gronomics REGB 24-48 24-Inch by 48-Inch by 30-Inch Rustic Elevated Garden Bed, Unfinished

It is from the same company as the one above so if you want one of each they will match.Raised garden Bed It has all the advantages of the one above in that it is deep enough and strong enough and durable plus it is higher so you won’t need to bend over as far. I really like these.  Just make sure you have space for it as at 4 feet long it is bigger than it looks in the picture. This company has lots of different sizes for all different situations. It’s  more expensive than the one that sits on the ground but a still think it’s good value at $169.00. You can get the details here

If you have any questions or comments please add them and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

What Vegetables To Grow

OK so you’ve decided you want a vegetable garden. You’ve thought about where to put it and you’ve decided how it should look. Now you want to get some information on what vegetables to grow.

  • First thing you should consider is your climate or planting zone. I wrote a page about this already so check it out here.  This should give you some info about what will grow where you live.
  • What time of years is it – should you be growing winter, spring or summer crops.
  • Next thing is to think about what your family likes to eat. There is no use growing brussel sprouts if your family won’t eat them.
  • How much you get for your effort is also a good way to decide what to plant.

    Its better to grow small cabbages that take up less space in your garden

    Its better to grow small cabbages that take up less of your valuable growing space

Climbing plants like beans and peas grow on a trellis so they take up vertical space but very little ground space.

Cucumber grow well on a trellis

Cucumber grow well on a trellis

Cucumbers can also be grown up rather than out very successfully. Tomatoes and capsicums give a great yield for the space they take up. How much space they need to grow is also a good reason to grow or not grow something. There is a lot more to a growing cabbage than what you see at the supermarket – some varieties take up a fair bit of space. Plants that you can cut some off and they regrow are also valuable additions to your patch. Broccoli, celery, loose leaf type lettuces, rhubarb, silverbeet and spinach are great vegetables that you can pick over a long time. New varieties of plants are being developed all the time. Small or dwarf varieties of cabbages, mini iceberg lettuces, small zucchini plants that grow on a more compact plant rather than rambling all over the place are now available.

Herbs are a great value for the space they use

They can all be picked and picked  and they just keep growing back. Just think about how much you are likely to eat though. A friend recently remarked how he had no trouble at all growing herbs and that corriander was coming up in his lawn it grew so well – his problem was eating them. I find we can eat all our basil, chives and parsley a fair bit of the oregano but struggle to find much to do with the marjoram. Herbs are great companion plants though and can be really beneficial in the vegie patch.

Best Yield Plants

Some of the best home garden vegetables based on yield for growing space are listed below. Choose the smaller varieties if you can find them:

Beans – dwarf and climbing. Broccoli -pick and come again varieties, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage – get the small varieties, capsicum, carrot, cauliflower – get the small ones, cucumber, lettuce – I find the loose leaf or mini icebergs the best, marrow, onion, parsnips, peas – climbing, Radish, rhubarb, silver beet, spinach, tomato and turnip.

Successive Plantings

Many gardeners, when first starting out, make the mistake of planting too much at once. The beds quickly fill up and everything becomes ready to eat at once. For a supply of vegetables over a longer period make small successive plantings. When I buy seedlings I  buy three single tomato plants of different varieties –  I usually buy one largish round

Plant different types of tomatoes rather than a lot of the same

Plant different types of tomatoes rather than a lot of the same

variety, one cherry and one roma. Then once they are well on their way in the garden I might buy a couple more. It is a more expensive way to buy them but I think it’s crazy to buy six of the same variety at once you end up with to many of the same thing at the same time and no space to plant other things. I just plant one capsicum plant at a time. Unless I can find someone to share them with I rarely buy more than a couple at a time of anything. There are only two of us so we don’t need six cucumber plants we just need one or two. Then maybe another later as the first two are well on their way. I also plant things that can be eaten at different stages – sugar snap peas are great example of this they can be eaten before the peas are fully developed like a snow pea and then as they mature they can be used as normal peas that you shell. Beans as well can be eaten at all different stages. Capsicums also can be eaten green or red. Carrots and beetroot can be eaten when small and big. Baby beetroot leaves are also great in a salad.

 

 

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