Notes by Phil Dudman
It’s week three of the Grow Your Own Challenge and we’re well on our way to enjoying fresh tasty homegrown veg. So far you’ve prepared your growing space, chosen and planted your seedlings and pampered them lovingly to help them settle in to their new home. Now it’s time to really get them kicking along so they grow up to be big and strong. And let’s not forget to look out for any hungry pests that might be lurking about.
Feed and water them well
Vegies are hungry plants. When you think about it, they have to do a lot of growing in a relatively short period of time, so they need all the help they can get. Regular deep watering is important – never let your vegies dry out (for too long anyway) – and be sure to feed them regularly. That’s the secret to growing strong healthy vegetables with the sweetest flavour (ever eaten a bitter lettuce – it was probably under-fed or under-watered).
In week 2, we added a little blood and bone to the soil and mixed it in before planting. This will be great for feeding your plants as they develop, but because they’re so hungry, they will also benefit from a regular application of liquid fertiliser. Liquid fertilisers are sold as liquid or granular concentrates that are diluted in water by mixing in a watering can (according to manufacturers directions). The fertiliser in solution makes it very easy for the plants to absorb the nutrients and they start to benefit from these almost immediately after application.
You may know of organic products such as ‘Charlie Carp’, fish emulsion and liquid blood and bone as well as synthetic fertilisers like ‘Thrive’ and ‘Miracle Gro’. All of these are excellent forms of soluble nutrients. Once your seedlings have been in for a week or so, start giving them a liquid feed every week by pouring it gently over the plants as well as the surrounding soil (best done in the morning). Make one morning a week your liquid fertilising day. It’ll pay off and you’ll really enjoy the results as your vegies start to grow with incredible health and vigour!
Seaweed extracts such as Seasol and eco-cweed will also help your plants to thrive. These are not fertilisers, but more like plant tonics that help roots to develop as well as strengthen the cell walls of plants making them more resistant to heat, cold and pest and diseases. Mix a little into your liquid fertiliser solution (according to directions) each week.
The trick to controlling pest and diseases in the vegie patch is being aware of what can affect your different crops and keeping an eye on them so you can act before they become a problem.
The main enemies of seedlings are snails and slugs. You may not notice them when you’re planting, because they do most of their moving about (and eating) at night. Click here to grab my fact sheet on simple ways to control snails and slugs.
If you live out of town or close to bushland, animals like wallabies, possums and rabbits may find your patch irresistible, causing you endless heartache and grief. Physical barriers are the only way to keep these marauding invaders at bay. Start by setting up a few stakes with chicken wire around your patch. In the long term, you may like to consider something more substantial like a chain wire fence.
Phil’s Top Tips
1. Feed and water your seedlings well – keep the soil moist and give your plants a feed every week with liquid fertiliser– then stand back!
2. Add a little liquid tonic – liquid seaweed extracts help to strengthen seedlings and make them more resistant to extremes of temperature as well as disease.
3. Keep an eye on pests – snails and slugs love seedlings, so do native animals like wallabies and possums. Take measures to keep them off your crops.
Guest writer Diane Hart
Diane is a passionate gardener that started when she dug up her first crop of potatoes on her father’s allotment – like finding a treasure chest of jewels. This was at age 9 and she hasn’t looked back since. Diane has a professional qualifications in horticulture, arboroculture, permaculture design and bush regeneration. She had a landscaping business in Sydney for 15 years that specialised in coastal gardening and edible landscapes and has also taught a wide variety of courses ranging from organic gardening for beginners, to ecotherapy and labour market programs for people with disabilities and the long term unemployed.
Diane now runs a consultancy called Hart Gardens which has involved spending time in Indonesia running, as a volunteer, workshops for locals in organic gardening. She was also employed by a group of hotels to design organic gardens for them, teach their staff and implement and design their new cooking schools. Diane believes that it is important to give children the opportunity to cook and garden and has been involved with schools working with them for over 25 years.
Diane has provided a snapshot of vegetable families to assist GYO participants and encourages more people to grow their own food.
‘CHANGING THE WAY WE EAT ONE GARDEN AT A TIME’ – by Diane Hart
It’s hard to deny that the past fifty years have seen rapid changes in the way we shop and eat. The industrialization of our food – with large supermarkets taking the place of the local shops – may have given us convenience, but the cost has been great to our health and the health of our planet.
One of the most responsible jobs I have ever had is to feed my family – after all, you are what you eat. Growing your own food is a positively empowering experience that connects us to the earth and joins us with collective wisdoms that are thousands of years old – skills and knowledge that nurture you in a way fast food doesn’t. Oh, and did I say that you will find yourself out in the garden in your pyjamas at sun-up watching the butterflies flitting through the broad-beans or thinking that a raindrop on a nasturtium leaf looks just like a pearl?
I often hear from people that it is much cheaper to shop at the supermarket and live off ‘convenience foods’. Apart from the health and nutritional aspects this is just not true. We had a meal from the garden last night and the only things I had to buy were flour and butter. I live on a small suburban block with lots of flowers and over 70 food plants. You don’t need a lot of space to feed yourself – you just need to start.
Vegetable families (pdf 235kb)
That’s it for this week. Keep those seedlings pumping along. Next week, we’ll be showcasing the wonderful flavours of culinary herbs, what to grow and how to grow the best.