Published 09 Nov 2023
With spring in full swing, we’ve seen the last of the frost and that means it’s time to plant out your summer veggies.
If you have the space, time and are able, planting your own vegetables can significantly help keep the weekly grocery budget in check, while also ensuring easy access to fresh and healthy produce throughout the season. It is also a great way to connect with those around you, either through sharing the fruits of your labour or engaging in community-based gardening groups. This in turn can have a positive effect on your mental health and wellbeing. What’s not to get excited about.
The first step is to think about which foods you and your household like to eat in summer. Plan to plant the vegetables that you know you’re likely to use up. It also helps to consider both the size of your plot and the plant – and ratio of edible output. Planting a couple of punnets of pumpkin or zucchini seedlings may seem like a great idea, but these are large plants and can max out a garden bed quickly. Garden real estate is hot property, and these important steps will help avoid wastage and make the best use of space.
The Planter garden app allows you to visually arrange your veggie garden in grids, which not only helps with the early planning stages but also creates a map for future reference, so you can identify what that little green seedling popping up is and avoid mixing up your cucumbers and your capsicums. This app also provides handy hints for companion planting to help you learn which plants grow well side-by-side and help deter pests, and which should be spaced apart.
Salad staples like lettuce, rocket, climbing beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, spring onions and radish are easy to grow and a great bet for planting ahead of the warmer months. Radish are also a fantastic test for soil health as they emerge from seeds quickly and can be ready to pick in as little as three weeks!
Where space allows, larger plants such as zucchini, pumpkin, corn, capsicum and eggplants will also thrive when planted in Spring, and it’s not too late in Victoria to get tomatoes in the ground.
It pays to plants your own herbs. The average cost of a single supermarket serve of parsley, basil or chives (approximately $3.20) is only slightly less than the average for a full punnet of herb seedlings ($4.50), yet a plant will continue to give – even if it is an annual (plants with a single growing season). Planting seeds is cheaper still but where time is of the essence, seedlings will become established more quickly.
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. These stalwarts of the herb garden are complemented in summer with basil, coriander, dill, tarragon, chives and mint to liven up salads and other dishes and treat your taste buds throughout the week. Be sure to keep mint contained to a small bed or pots to avoid it creeping and taking over the garden.
Ensure that your planting area is well prepared by mixing through some compost or slow-release fertiliser, watering in and leaving it to rest for a minimum of two weeks. It helps to avoid planting the same vegetables back-to-back – rotating the location of your plants each season minimises nutrient leaching and diseases and ensures your new crop has a fresh start. Once the soil is prepped, install any larger structures (tripods, trellises etc.) that you’ll be using for climbing plants such as beans, tomatoes, cucumbers or squash. It is much easier to set these up before the garden bed is overtaken with greenery.
For quick growing varieties such as lettuce, coriander, basil, rocket and radishes, stagger the harvest over the summer months by planting seeds or seedlings two weeks apart. Follow the planting instructions on the pack or label and be sure to observe the recommended planting distance between plants. From little things big things grow and plants do need space to thrive. Apply a layer of straw or hay around your veggies to deter weeds and help with water retention. Be sure to water your seeds or seedlings regularly after planting and in the early stages of growth. Check them often and keep the surrounding area weed-free to ensure maximum nutrient uptake for the plants you want to encourage. But remember a weed, is just a plant growing in the wrong place.
Your vegetables will be ready to pick at different times, depending on what you’ve planted, and you’ll be surprised at just how quickly some varieties will mature. While it’s tempting to get straight into greens such as lettuce and herbs, it is best to let these plants get established before you start to harvest. Tomatoes can be picked just as they start to change colour and will continue to ripen in a sunny spot indoors. Take advantage of vegetables such as celery and lettuce by taking a few stalks or leaves from around the outside, leaving the plant to continue growing for another day’s harvest.
Once you have picked your bounty, get inspired in the kitchen by browsing through our healthy recipes, and learn how to get the most from your fruit and vegetables with handy storage tips and more. If you’re feeling particularly neighbourly or find that you have too much produce, don’t waste it – why not share what you can with friends and family or place bunches of veggies or herbs by your gate for the benefit of passers-by.
Want to get into gardening, but don’t have the space, tools, or know-how? Chances are there is a communal veggie patch in your area. Community gardening can be a great way to dip your toes into gardening and learn from more seasoned green thumbs, while also getting involved and improving connections with your local community. Head to Community Gardens Australia or your local council website to find a garden near you.
A helping hand
Once you’re up and running, you’ll find that adding compost to replenish the soil at the beginning and end of your growing season can really help to boost the quality of your veggies. Get started with your own composting system, and if you find that you’re really churning through it, why not register with ShareWaste to collect food scraps and other organics from your neighbours to help boost your supply and divert material from landfill, while meeting other like-minded people around you.