raised-vegetable-bed

Long Term Maintenance of our Vegetable Garden

I grew up in an environment where every household that has backyard also grew their own food. Every inch of backyard was used to its fullest capacity to grow anything and everything edible, or to support animals like poultry or pigs. You could walk past to your neighbors’ front yards and see all of these blossoming fruits, speckled but fresh vegetables, rabbit traps, bird baths and pigeon huts ready to catch the evening meal. I always dream of walking back in time then that every day when I tend our own small patch of vegetables would keep giving us fresh vegetables. My family and I have been enjoying so far every garden season.

Like many of us today, we started our own vegetable garden as a way to deal with constraints of time and money. Grocery bills has cut down and if we need veggies all we need to do is grab the clippers and walk out the back door!

Growing your own produce has a lot of advantages. It will save you time, it is cost-effective, and you will have access to the freshest, most nutritious produce from your own backyard.

Vegetable gardening does take time in the initial stages. You need to plan your plot, plant your seedlings, fertilize the soil, and keep an eye on its water and nutrients levels. But once your garden is established, it is actually very little work. And as I came to learn, the work it required is generally enjoyable and often very sociable to the whole family. At our household it can easily become a morning quick chore for me during school days but on weekends the whole family involved. To us gardening isn’t long bean science, it’s a combination of a bit of knowledge, intuition, passion and fun; all these are equally important. Be prepared to give everything a go and you’ll be a very good gardener.

Our garden is thriving every year. We enjoy the enormous harvests we get every time. Maybe because we keep building a healthy soil, produce our own compost and we plant seasonally. We tried to keep the garden as varied as possible and rotate our crops each seasons. Nature is built around the principles of biodiversity, so by regularly changing your crops and planting different species of plants together, you’ll add nutrients to the soil and decrease the risk of pest attacks.

We are still learning to garden as we go but gardening to us doesn’t need to be so complicated. Start simple: recycle your waste, get a good composter or worm farm, and the rest should go from there. To us it all really started with composting and a a raised bed with good healthy soil. The rest was remarkably easy.

Actually nature has a clever way of recycling itself; the process of plant death, breakdown, and regrowth is an intrinsic part of our natural environment. Plants have well-defined life cycle: they grow, blossom, ripen, then break down and fertilize the ground around them. But of course we take care of these garden cleanouts straight to our compost heap. Since we started, our garden never emptied with plants. We plant veggies even winter. Most of our herbs and some winter veggies survive during winter.

These are our experienced long-term maintenance of our home garden. Once you’ve got your vegetable garden established, there is very little you need to do, other than providing your plants with ongoing care and maintenance.

Regular weeding: This shouldn’t be a difficult job. Clear out all the weeds surrounding your plants, but be careful not to put them back in your compost heap straight away as they may re-grow. We usually leave ours on the footpath until they are dried up in the sun. Small ones we throw them back on the garden bed. We chop big ones to throw in the compost heap.

Regular fertilization: The best time to add nutrients to your soil is just before you plant or in time of planting. We use compost soil from our own composter when we plant seedlings. We incorporate the compost soil in the hole we dig for our plants. After this, a little bit here and there whenever your plants look like they need a bit of love is always a good thing.

Keeping bug-free: There are many different ways to get rid of bugs from your garden. Bugs can flourish when the soil becomes too acidic.We sprinkled used coffee grounds around our plants and the garden soil to neutralize the acidity. Throw on some dolomite lime and some compost tea or fertilizer to boost your plants’ immunity. To exterminate slugs, place a ring of salt around the plants they seem to favor. You can also fill a small bowl with beer. The slugs will crawl into the bowl, become intoxicated and die. Placing netting over plants can often solve the problem of larger bugs and also ward off birds.

Protection against heat and cold: Some plants can’t cope in extreme climates – be it the heat of summer or the frost of winter. You can provide protection by draping them with a hessian cloth (block out sunlight), cover with plastic buckets or cardboard to insulate against cold and hail or bringing them indoors.

Watering and drought-proofing: as our climate is becoming hotter and drier, we need to think of innovative but green ways to keep plants hydrated and cool. Plants want to be watered regularly. In the heat of summer, vegetables really need a drink at least every couple of days. Pea straw, straw or mulch are an excellent investment as they allow the plants to retain moisture around the roots, and hence not require too much watering. You can also save your shower and bath water using bucket and tip this over the vegetables after you’ve washed. Water tanks and recycling systems are also excellent investments.

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