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Grow your own

Posted on Oct 7, 2013

By Melinda Collins

Your garden is likely a shadow of its summer self as spring and its accompanying weather slowly but surely creeps in.

While there might still be some brassica family greens toiling through the cooler months, the abundance of the warmer months is nothing more than a leafy green memory at this time of year.

But this quiet period in your garden’s yearly cycle does not mean you can absolve yourself of all garden duties.

On the contrary, spring is time to get diggin’ and get dirty!

Soil prep

Much like priming a wall before you paint, the prep work you put into your vegetable garden will determine its success.

Clear out plant matter and debris before filling with nutrient-rich soil.

Make the bed

Soil should be workable; moist but not muddy and a handful of soil formed into a ball should break apart when dropped from chest level.

Use a spade or fork to dig the soil to a depth of about 30cm, incorporating an 8-10cm layer of compost or rotted manure.

Make sure you rake the soil until level because loose, well-aerated soil allows water and oxygen to reach the plants’ roots quickly.

Some Cantabrian areas have poor soil; clay-like, or the opposite, sand-like. If this is the case, consider building raised beds.

Raised beds for poor soil

An excellent idea for growing vegetables on sites with difficult soils, a raised bed is easy to construct and low maintenance. They encourage good drainage and air circulation and warm quickly in spring.

If you decide to stain the timber, use water based stains as you want to keep chemicals away from the vegetables. Another great tip is to place newspaper down before you fill the raised beds with soil as this will prevent most weeds from coming up into your new garden.

Get composting

Many things we traditionally dispose of – vegetable peels, banana skins and grass clippings – can provide a great source of fertiliser and conditioner for the contents of your vege garden. Compost also helps make soil more absorbent, reducing the need for watering.

Better yet, it’s easy, inexpensive, and a great way to add nutrients back into the garden.

Measurement matters

Most seed packets and plant labels provide basic information on growing.

It can be tempting to set plants too close together, which can limit the amount of sun, nutrients and water that each plant receives, and the requirements will vary depending on what you’re planting.

Measure the distance between your thumb and little finger, as this can be a useful measure for spacing seedlings.

Alternatively, you can mark the handle of a rake every five centimetres with a permanent marker.

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