Legendary chef Stephanie Alexander says you can start small, with just a pot and some seedlings, but your garden and know-how will flourish quickly. Here are her tips for beginners.
Where is the best spot to grow your veggies, and can you use pots? Thriving veggie gardens love six to eight hours of sunlight per day, so preferably not under a tree or near large shrubs. Many vegetables thrive in pots, particularly tomatoes, eggplants and capsicum. Just don’t let them dry out. Vegetables can look quite at home among ornamental plants if you are short of space.
Grow things you want to eat! Try crops that are guaranteed successes, such as silverbeet, beans, lettuce and herbs – that way you will always have something in your garden that you want to try. If space permits, and as your skills and confidence grow, add in a few new or more experimental things. Read garden catalogues for unusual and heirloom varieties. Pole beans take up very little space and produce an abundance of beans.
In spring tomatoes can be grown in a small space such as a balcony or in a backyard garden – and they are particularly good for beginners. Add to them other salad items such as lettuce, radish and herbs, which are really satisfying to grow, and you can create a complete dish. You only need to plant two or three basil plants as just two or three leaves are needed to make a lovely salad.
If you love your soil your kitchen garden will love you back. Add organic compost and cover in mulch to retain the moisture. Be sure to have a covered container in your kitchen to collect all the compostable scraps and then add them to your compost system (either a tumbler, or some other specific container).
Your plants need to be healthy to produce veggies. Consistent watering is a must, as well as boosting soil with liquid fertiliser such as worm juice, particularly if you are gardening in pots. Check your garden regularly – every day in hot weather – to make sure you don’t miss that “just right” harvest time. You also should closely observe what your plants and soil might need to stay thriving – whether it’s water, compost, support structures, mulch, snail or bug checks.
Start small and grow, but just start! Begin with a few seeds or a seedling in a pot, and your know-how will flourish along with your garden.
The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation is in partnership with Coles. For more information about the Kitchen Garden Foundation and how you can get involved visit www.kitchengardenfoundation.org.au.