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As daunting it may seem at first, starting your own vegetable patch is both fun and rewarding. Not only as a hobby no matter your age, but also for the vast health benefits. Veggie gardens are a great way to save a few bucks on your grocery bills, but the sweet juicy fresh flavours and textures of your own garden-grown is something so unique - nothing quite beats harvesting your own produce. So, don’t worry if you’ve got nested space on your balcony, anyone can start a veggie garden.
Since you’re a beginner, we’d suggest - start small. It’s better to be proud of a small garden than be frustrated by a big one! In order for most veggies to thrive, they need a certain amount of space – make sure to plan out how much space is needed for each plant. Further consider the size, shape, and location of your garden to figure out the best set-up for your veggies.
There are 3 basic requirements you need access to -
A sunny location: Like every other plant, vegetables too need the sun to jump-start photosynthesis, which makes it mandatory for the crops to receive at least 6-8 hours of sunlight each day.
Close proximity to water source: Provide your garden a long drink every few days for the water to penetrate through the soil encouraging the roots to grow deeper, where they’re able to access nutrients better to stay healthy. If you’re growing your veggies in containers, make sure they have sufficient drainage holes.
Rich soil: Decent well-fed moist soil is the most important element in pumping up yields. If you have poorly drained soil, opt to plant veggies in a raised bed.
Raised beds yield up to four times more than the same amount of space planted in rows, they’re easy to maintain and saves time by growing closely to crowd out competing weeds, spending less time on weeding. Planting crops in raised beds is a quicker way to achieve deep layers of fertile soil resulting in extra-lush, extra-productive growth above ground. Before planting, make sure the soil’s pH is correct – take the time to adjust the pH by fixing any deficiencies with Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorus or by simply adding compost to the soil.
We suggest growing what you’re likely to consume and be mindful not to overcrowd them. Also take into account the season during which you’re growing them. For example, tomatoes and zucchinis grow in the middle of summer while lettuce, kale and root veggies are cool-season crops. Common, productive plants that are relatively easy to grow for beginners include perennial herbs, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, radish, spring onions, peppers, cabbage, beets or carrots.
Watering: The best time to water them is in the morning, as it provides them with moisture they need during the day, making it easier for them to absorb any nutrients. It's important to water them even on rainy days and if you’re using clay soil over sandy soil, give them an extended watering session as they tend to dry out faster.
Fertilising: Ideally after 5 weeks of sowing your seeds, fertilise your veggie garden once in a while to maximise yield. Alternatively, using compost is an easy way to promote soil and plant health too. The quantity of fertiliser used for light and heavy feeders varies – always follow the suggestion on seed packets.
Weeding: Weeds compete with your vegetables for light, water, and nutrients, so it's important to keep them at bay. Using a hand fork, pinch the weed close to the base of the plant to lightly stir the top inch of soil regularly to discourage weed seedlings or, gently but firmly pull the weed out of the ground when the soil is moist after watering or rain, as they will come out of the ground more easily.
Pest control: You may have a few enemies when it comes to raising a beautiful and tasty veggie garden – the worst foe being pests. The simplest and natural way to deter pests is to prevent them from overtaking your garden by encouraging beneficial bugs and animals that prey on common pests. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to keep weeds and dead plants away and have a decluttered garden making it harder for pests to inhabit.