The vegetable garden is a sacred site for most gardeners. It encompasses much of our raison d’être for gardening: growing our own produce, seed-raising and collecting, composting and soil management. Our desire for self-sustainability, even if it is only some seasonal carrots, makes all the effort – and it requires much being the most labour intensive garden activity – appear worthwhile.
For some, growing vegetables comes easy and their success rate is enviable. For the rest of us, it takes a lot of trial and error, wasted seeds and frustrated hair-pulling as the garden pests enjoy the tastiest morsels. For beginners, though, it can be a little daunting knowing how to start and which way is up.
So, here a few answers that may help and hopefully point you in the right direction.
Vegetable Gardens – The WHAT
What is a vegetable garden? Obviously it’s a garden where vegetables are planted, nurtured and harvested. It offers the home gardener a place to grow their own produce and realise a type of self-sufficiency that many farmers would have enjoyed in years gone by.
Some gardeners utilise their veggie patch year round while others just use it to grow spring and summer vegetables. Regardless of how it’s used benefiting from your own homegrown produce is a pleasure few enjoy these days – but it is coming back into vogue.
The HOW to Vegetable Garden
There’s more to the vegetable garden than the 6 x 6 ft plot of land. While most gardeners have cordoned off a spot within their garden solely to grow vegetables this method is waning in popularity. The reasons are many but they primarily focus on gardeners realising that their garden styles need to be more efficient with the limited resources available. Here are some methods that are gaining acceptance amongst the gardening community;
- Permaculture – while certainly not a new method permaculture utlises all the available land on offer. It encompasses companion planting, strategic placement of trees and shrubs to buffer against extreme weather conditions and the vegetables are usually grown amongst flowering ornamentals. In some cases, they’re grown instead of traditional flowering plants and use the foliage and flowers from the vegetables to create aesthetic appeal.
- Hydroponics/ Aquaponics – these two methods are also gaining in popularity. Hydroponics is the process of growing vegetables in nutrient-rich fluids while aquaponics uses fresh-water fish to provide the nutrients for the veggies.
- Growbags – growing vegetables in growbags is also taking off for gardeners with limited space. Growbags utilise height in the garden where traditionally it hasn’t been used for producing foodstuffs.
- Container Vegetables – growing vegetables in containers has been popularised by high-density dwellers because they just don’t have the soil available to plant their own veggies. Containers can be just as successful but often are more laborious than traditional vegetable gardens.
- Indoor Vegetable Garden – growing veggies indoors is getting some attention of late especially for cold-climate gardeners who don’t get many warm months and where snow or frosts are climatic problems.
- Allotments – the final alternative, allotments, are great for people with no garden space at all. These are usually allotted to gardeners as part of a community plot and allow gardeners to grow their own produce or share with others in the same plot.
The WHEN to Vegetable Garden
When to plant, grow and harvest vegetables is the most common question I field via this blog so I have produced this document – Veggie Gardening Plan.pdf [PDF] – for you to download or refer to as, and when, you need it.
While each climate and gardening zone around the globe differs, this is just a general guide to help you consider times when these veggies are most likely to produce in you vegetable garden. You may find that each of the three phases may differ for your specific region with extended, or shortened, periods for each.
The WHY of Vegetable Gardens
- Cheap – the obvious reason many turn to growing their own vegetables is to save money. Plus, once your vegetable garden is flourishing you can collect your own seeds for future seasons and it becomes even cheaper.
- Healthier for you and your family – after linking to this list of Vegetables that MUST be organic it highlighted for me that buying produce from the grocers was certainly going to have some implications on my health and that of my family. Therefore, growing my own produce I can rest assured knowing that they have never been contaminated with inorganic pesticides and growth hormones.
Growing vegetables can also be good for your body physically as it is quite a laborious activity.
- Environmental benefits – these can’t be applauded enough. Growing your own veggies adds to the environment where mass-grown vegetables always subtract. There are less pesticides, herbicides, inorganic fertilisers and water consumption can usually be reduced too.
So there you have it. If you don’t already have a vegetable garden of some sort then it’s definitely time to get out there and start one.