Instead of relying on cash loan provider Wonga to help you out in a financial pinch, their blogger Dimitri Jackson, a self-professed garden geek has offered the tips below on planting a vegetable garden that will save you a packet on soaring food prices. There are a number of factors that will determine your success or failure. Here’s what to consider before getting started:
It’s all about the sun
Note down the answers to these questions: Where do you get the most sun? How much sun does each area of your garden get? Some vegetables need full sun, while others grow well in part shade (a minimum of three hours of sun, or consistent dappled sun, throughout the day.)
Map out your space
Now look at the land or space you have to work with. Remember, you don’t need a lot of space to grow a garden. If you’re working with limited space, then consider two options: gardening in containers or vertical gardening.
Containers: tomatoes and herbs can be grown in pots on your back stoep or even a balcony. By shopping at wholesalers, supermarkets or flea markets you can save substantially on containers. And, you can do far better with your imagination that a collection of traditional terra cotta pots – plant herbs and greens in chipped teapots and vintage olive oil cans. Just remember to place sand or stones at the bottom for critical drainage.
Gardens that grow up: Vertical garden are all the rage. You can fix rain gutters to the side of your house and plant in them shallow crops, like lettuce and herbs. Canvas hanging shoe organisers work well for shallow crops. Why not build outdoor shelving and have layers of pots on your veranda. Even a backyard fence can be used to grow climbing vegetables like peas and cucumbers.
It’s all about the water
The critical questions now is: can my garden hose reach the area of my garden in which I’ve chosen to set out my veggie garden? It’s critical to think carefully about water quantity and accessibility before you begin to plant. Now is also the time to research a cistern rain water collection system for your garden. Research carefully the crops you would like to grow so you will have sufficient water and proper drainage. Water in the morning, before the sun hits your garden, or late afternoon, to avoid burning your plants.
Once you’ve analysed your light, selected a site and prepared the garden, you can now start to plant. Make sure you water your plants before you stick them in the garden to stop them going into shock when you transplant them. Handle the root ball with care when dislodging the plant from its plastic nursery container.
- Tip: You can save money on your vegetables by purchasing plants from independent farmers and nurseries, or starting seeds yourself. You’ll also be support families instead of corporate stores.
- Try starting seeds from scratch rather than buying established plants from a store. This does entail a little more work, but you’ll save yourself money doing it yourself.
- There are cheaper alternatives to buying peat pots or other seed starting kits. Your nursery is likely to have loads of black plastic pots and plant trays they’d only throw away or recycle. Even egg cartons and plastic cups will allow your seeds to get a good start.
- If you have a problem with birds and rodents eating your veggies, you could make the veggie garden equivalent of a scarecrow – slice an old garden hose into segments to resemble snakes. This will often keep cautious animals out your garden. The kids could even paint the hoses to look like the real deal.
The tools you’ll need
Don’t be tempted at the beginning of your venture to buy expensive Swiss-made garden tools. A cultivator tool (which looks like a claw with three or four prongs) and a small trowel are just what you’ll need. For bigger gardens, buy a large long-handled shovel, preferably with a bullet-shaped head which makes it easier to dig into the ground that a flat head spade.
Avoid being enticed into the latest piece of ‘garden technology’ or ‘innovative’ gardening product. For instance, an upside-down tomato planter can tend to dry out quickly and tomato stems can break. Instead, use a small container – even a tub with drainage holes – and a tomato support cage. Most varieties of tomatoes are pretty sturdy growing the right way up, but some types will need a little help. All they’ll need is a little support from a tomato cage (you can purchase these at most nurseries) and they’ll reward you with all the tomatoes you could possibly eat.
Plan your garden properly, treat your plants right and in as little as six months those expensive trips to the supermarket could turn into a stroll out the back door.