Plan edible garden now

Time to plan edible garden


Life & Style
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Garden guru Fiona Ogilvie says if you want a veggie garden now is the time to plan it before you plant it come autumn.

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Recipes from Celia Brooks’ Superveg will inspire gardeners to grow their own vegetables. Photo by Jean Cazals (supplied by Fiona Ogilvie).

Recipes from Celia Brooks’ Superveg will inspire gardeners to grow their own vegetables. Photo by Jean Cazals (supplied by Fiona Ogilvie).

Autumn is a great time to start a vegetable garden.

Plan it when summer’s heat forces you indoors, then when temperatures drop and it rains (well, it has to eventually), you can plant it.

I’m currently inspired to grow more vegies by, of all things, a cookery book. Superveg by Celia Brooks (Murdoch Press, rrp $39.99) that has more than 100 mouth-watering recipes for her 25 fave vegetables and it’s an easy read and beautifully illustrated.

I was put off at first by learning Celia lives in foggy London but in fact most of her vegetables transplant happily to NSW.

Admittedly she omits leafy Asian vegetables like bok choy and choy sum but there are plenty of recipes for similar salad-type greens.

And the book’s structure, which divides vegetables into chapters on roots, shoots or fruits (like, say, onions, broccoli and eggplants) is a joy, making it easy for gardeners to select at a glance what we might grow and what we can start with now.

The most important decision to make when considering a vegie garden is location. First up put it near a tap. Vegies need a heap of water from go to whoa.

The most important decision to make when considering a vegie garden is location. First up put it near a tap. Vegies need a heap of water from go to whoa.

They also need full sun: planting in rows running north to south maximises sunlight. 

Isolation from invasive roots, especially those of trees is another essential. Wind is a killer too and shelter is vital.

Bill made a vegetable garden to the east of a north-south tennis court fence and covered a stretch of fence with shade cloth to protect it from the August westerlies.

Soil fertility is probably your least worry as it’s easy to add fertiliser. Texture is more important: free-draining sand, sticky clay or loam.

Soil must hold moisture but drain well and humus - decomposed plant material - achieves this for all soil types.

If you’re on the land you’ll probably know your soil’s alkalinity or acidity (technically its pH). Hydrangea flower colour is a guide: blue and your soil’s acid, pink and it’s alkaline. 

Soil pH is easy to test with a DIY kit. 7 is neutral and between 6 and 6.5 is recommended for most plants.

Below 6 is too acid for them to absorb essential trace elements, so add lime or dolomite, half a kilo per square metre of ground.

Most NSW soils are acid but if yours is alkaline correct it with four tablespoons of powdered sulphur per square metre.

Highly alkaline soil prevents plants from absorbing essential iron. 

Lots of vegetables can be sown in March. Start with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, leeks, onions and parsnips. Broad beans can wait until April. Lastly, if you’re too flat out to manage a vegie garden but would love a few home grown vegies, select ornamental ones you can plant anywhere. 

Purple cabbage, beetroot and radicchio (a type of chicory with white-veined, red leaves) all have pretty leaves and when they’re watered regularly are happy and decorative among sun-loving perennials.

Heads Up:  Blue Mountains Edible Garden Festival, March 3-4, includes a morning workshop on starting an edible garden and an afternoon local edible garden trail. 

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