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.

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.

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.

 

 

Growing Vegetables In Containers

Growing vegetables in containers is really no different than growing them anywhere – they need good soil, good sun – about six hours a day for fruiting varieties, a good supply of water and good drainage. A container can be

Containers come in all sizes

Containers come in all sizes

anything you want it to be from the most expensive decorative pot to an old shoe.  It can can be a great way to reuse rather than chucking it out. Really, many raised garden beds are just big containers.

A pot like the one on the right can be perfect for growing salad greens, herbs or strawberries.

Polystyrene boxes make great economical containers for vegetables. Just put a few holes in the bottom for drainage fill it with dirt and you are on your way.

Growing vegetables in containers can be a great way to introduce yourself to growing vegetables to see if how much you like it before you start digging up your yard. If your garden soil is difficult to dig like clay or rocks vegetables in containers is a great way to solve your problem. It also gives you great scope for managing the environment – too hot near that wall – move it to the other side of the yard – perfect.

Some plants are perfect for pots others not so great. Herbs in particular are great in containers. Plants like mint which can grow wild in the garden should always be grown in a container. Most tomatoes are great in containers – some grow huge just be careful what you choose.  While I’m not sure  that I’d put pumpkin in a pot, cucumbers grown up on a trellis instead of along the ground could be great. As a general rule the harvest yield will be a bit lower when things are grown in pots.

Make sure you put drainage holes in whatever you use.

Tips

  • You should use a good quality potting mix  – not garden soil
  • Make sure the pots are clean – if you are using pots that have been used before make sure you give them a good clean
  • Use bigger pots rather than small as it will give the roots plenty of space to grow and they won’t dry out as quickly.
  • Vegetables grow quickly and generally have a pretty good root structure they will fill up a pot really quickly.
  • If you are planning to move them around think about how heavy they will be with moist soil in them – do you need to put them on wheels?
  • Plants grown in containers need all the same things as those grown in the ground
    Tomatoes in pots still need a stake

    Tomatoes in pots still need a stake

    need – like a trellis to grow up for beans and peas and some sort of support structure for tomatoes.

  • Make sure the pot is deep enough – root vegetables like carrots and beetroot need a good soil depth of at least 12 inches to grow.
  • Think about what variety to grow. You can get carrots that are round rather than long and patio varieties of some plants which are more compact.
  • Thinks about what your pots will be made from. Porous containers like terracotta  will suck the water out of the soil so you may need to water them more often.
  • Think about the wind  some containers or  pots will blow over if it’s windy especially if the plant, like a tomato for instance, is tall.
  • Be careful if you live in a hot climate a pot plant sitting in the hot sun all day will get a lot hotter than one planted in the ground.
  • Make sure there is plenty of airflow around the plants and that the sun gets to all of them. Increased humidity caused by being too close together can help in the development of some diseases.

How big should the container be?

Vegetables are vigorous growers, so big containers are best. Small plants such as lettuce need a pot that’s at least  8-9″ (20-25cm) deep and about  12″ (30cm) wide, while more robust plants such as tomato and eggplant (aubergine) demand pots that are  12″-15″ (30-40cm) deep and  15″-20″ (40-50 cm) wide. As mentioned above look out for more compact varieties of plants. Plastic or other lightweight pots will be easier move them around if you need to.

How Many Should I put in Each Container

This really is dependant on the container just use the guides provided on the back of seed packets or on the tag that comes with the seedlings.  I always plant things just a little closer than they recommend – nothing has died yet!

 

 

 

 

Raised Vegetable Garden Beds

Raised Vegetable Garden Beds are a great way to grow your vegetables.

Raised garden bed

A raised vegetable garden bed like this one is perfect.

Raised garden beds take many forms from the ones you build yourself from scratch to the ones you buy and plonk on the ground and fill up with soil.

There are many advantages of raised garden beds

  • Less Bending this can be a real bonus for anyone with back problems.
  • Weeding is much easier so long as you don’t make the bed too big you can reach the weeds more easily.
  • Good over paving – you can put some of them on top of any flat surface.
  • Solves your Soil problems – if you have problem soil like lots of rocks, heavy clay soil or even really sandy soil a raised garden bed can save you heaps of work trying to improve your natural soil.
  • Adds height to your garden – sometimes you just want to add a bit of interest in your garden the addition of height can be just the thing.
  • good idea for renters – while it may not be the easiest thing to do you can just pack it up and take it with you when you move.
  • Pest prevention – raising the bed can make it more difficult for rabbits, dogs and other animals to get to your crops. It should also cut down on slugs and snails.
  • Improved drainage
  • There are lots of options
  • The smaller ones can be great for small areas like balconies.
  • If they a small you may be able to move them around periodically if you need to.
  • Less bending so they a re perfect for people that are less able to bend and dig.

So why doesn’t everyone have one?

  • Cost –  they cost more than just digging a hole in the ground. Not only will you have to pay for the materials for the walls of the bed you also need to fill them with lots of new soil and compost.

    They can be really handy

    They can be really handy

  • Filling it can be a pain – where are you going to get the soil to go in it.
  • Heating and cooling- the soil in a raised bed will heat up and cool down more quickly than a bed in the ground.
  •   If your bed is raised off the ground it will probably need more water as the increased air flow will dry the soil out more quickly.
  • Looks – some people find them really unappealing to look at
  • How are you going to dig it? Sometimes you need to dig things like compost in it can be more difficult to dig depending on how high it is and you will probably need to use small hand tools rather than a spade.

Ground Preparation

If the sides of your raised bed is over a foot high you probably need little or no ground preparation. If you are putting it on a hard surface like concrete so long  as it is pretty flat you’ll need none. If you are putting it over a grassed area and it is less than 1 foot high you will need to dig out the existing grass and remove any weeds otherwise the grass and weeds will just grow up through your garden – beleive me you don’t want this to happen. You can either dig up the existing grass, spray it with a glyphosate containing weed killer or cover it with a thick layer of newspaper – about 20 sheets. You will need to wait for the grass or weeds to die off then give it a dig over to improved the drainage before putting your new raised bed on top. Make sure you leave an area around the bed grass free or eventually the grass will grow up into the bed. If you have a problem with digging pests you may need to put down some wire so they can’t dig under it.

Filling a Raised Garden Bed

Remember vegetables need a depth of about 12 to 18 inches of good rich soil to grow.

The soil needs to be rich and should include lots of compost and manure. If you purchased a raised planter kit it should come with some recommendations for how to fill it.

You can buy premium planter mixes or garden mixes from your local garden centre.  If your bed is deeper than about 18 inches you can use sand or any other soil to fill up the bottom I would avoid clay as you don’t want affect the drainage. If you have access to some good garden soil by all means use it in the bottom section but you should have 1 foot to 18 inches of premium quality compost rich vegetable soil mix in the top. Some gardeners use straw bales in the bottom of a raised bed but these will become waterlogged, rot down and become a bit stinky over time.  Your bed will need to be topped up from time to time with premium veggie mix and compost.