Growing your own vegetables is a win-win all round. High in vitamins A and C, antioxidants, minerals and fibre, vegetables protect against heart disease and cancer. The mental health benefits too have been well documented.
By Terra Viva Owner Peter Worsp
The 1959 rehab programme for war veterans included working in the garden as part of a physical and mental wellbeing programme. You’ll also find that children growing vegetables are much more likely to eat them. If you’ve grown your own vegetables you know exactly what’s gone into and onto them.
Growing vegetables gives you a healthy body and mind, a great sense of satisfaction and a healthy pocket. That convenient back-garden vege patch can save you big bucks, especially at this ‘in between’ season of the year. So here’s a few tips, and always remember: plants were designed to grow – it ain’t rocket science!
Herbs are one of the easiest, even in the smallest patch. Parsley – great in the ground or in containers in full sun/part shade with plenty of water. The secret for basil? Maximum heat and shelter from cold wind. Picking mint? Always cut stalks off right at the base and use only the tip to keep plants clear of rust – mint loves water and is happy in part shade. Coriander is such a useful herb which also loves part shade and is at its best grown from seed in spring and autumn. Sweet rocket transforms an average salad into a culinary masterpiece.
As winter veges finish and summer is still a way off, plant pak choi, silverbeet and spinach, which all grow fast and are happy in the cooler temperatures. Beetroot is delicious and versatile – the young foliage as a microgreen, the small beets roasted or grated, and for preserving at the end of the season. Did you know that any of the beets are good for lowering blood pressure?
Soil preparation is the key, so dig down to a spade’s depth and mix in blood and bone, a dusting of lime, and sheep pellets, to provide loose and fertile earthworm-attracting soil. Regular light side dressings of crop-specific fertilisers and a top-up of Tui Seaweed Tonic will give you bumper crops. Marigolds, sunflowers and cleomes keep the bugs at bay.
Along with lettuces (plant every two weeks for a continuous supply), tomatoes are the top summer crop. Good heat, good soil and regular feeding give lots of sweet juicy fruit packed with goodies like lycopene, a powerful anti-oxidant for prostate health. In cooler climates, grow the smaller-fruited tomatoes –Sweet 100, Sungold, Berrytoms – as they ripen much quicker. Feed tomatoes regularly and use the same fertiliser for eggplants (aubergines) which love heat, along with chillies and capsicums (Target is an easy variety). Climbing beans and dwarf beans love well-composted, damp but well-drained soil, and once again…heat!