A Beginner's Guide to Starting a Veggie Garden

10 Sep, 2022

Starting a veggie garden will help you stay active and get you outside a lot more. We don’t need to tell you that staying active is very important for your mental and physical health. Being out amongst the birds, bees, and broccoli is a great way to get a dose of Vitamin D which helps with mood, mind, and boosting your immune system. The very process of gardening is therapeutic, lowering stress levels and helping the mind relax. It’s also a great way for the family to spend some time together, sharing an experience and a sense of achievement. Better yet, you get to eat it all at the end.

Light on your pockets and on the planet!

We all know the planet needs a bit of help these days. And, it doesn’t hurt the back pocket either. Plants are their own little perpetual growing machines, once you’ve got broccoli broad beans, you potentially have an infinite supply. You’re creating your own edible CO2 heroes ready to snack on when you need instead of heading to a supermarket for a plastic-wrapped supply that ends up wilting in the fridge.

Be a control freak. It’s ok!

Taking charge of what you eat and how it's grown is awesome. You can make sure that what goes on your plate suits you. You know what goes on and into your plants. You can say no to harmful chemical sprays, and you have complete control over what goes in your soil and what fertilisers are used. Plant what you want and when you want. Get your hands dirty and eat clean.

1, 2, 3, veggie!

So you’ve never grown a veggie? Never fear, veggies are plants, plants are nature and nature is natural, and that’s what you’ll be - a natural. Eventually. Even the best gardeners still learning, and that’s half the fun, because growing veggies does more for you than just put kai on a plate. The process puts us in touch with nature, keeping you active and connected. The food you grow provides all sorts of nutrition through essential minerals and vitamins. But just being out in the garden also gets us some essential Vitamin D and the whole process helps with mental health. Believe it or not, some of the healthy bacteria in soil help produce serotonin – the neurotransmitter that helps you feel happy. You literally grow happier! So it doesn’t matter if you're looking to teach the kids about nature, you want fresher produce, or you want to stretch the budget, with a bit of help pretty much anyone can get a veggie patch going.

When do I grow what?

You’ll know that certain crops are harvested at different times of the year, but knowing when to get your seeds or plants in the ground isn’t always the same. Some pop up in a matter of weeks, others will take a couple of months.

Summer crops like tomatoes, eggplants, capsicums, chillies, pumpkins, corn, and melons flourish in the heat, with the plants sprouting in early spring and finishing when autumn arrives. Luckily that’s when the next crops, including members of the brassica family like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts kick into gear. The cool weather does wonders for them. When it comes to figuring out what to get planted, seed packets have handy regional guides, telling you when its best to get started. Of course, the seedlings available instores are aligned to what will grow in the coming season, so picking up a six pack of tomatoes or chillies in spring will have you sorted for those tasty summer harvests.

X marks the spot!

Most vegetables need full sun to grow well – it’s that old photosynthesis thing. In shady spots they tend to stretch and stretch, and energy goes into that rather than fattening up and turning into healthy plants with yummy little veggies. Hunt around for somewhere you know they’ll get the best light, and a bit of shelter from the wind is always good.

As long as there’s sun and some room for roots, you’re good to grow. You don’t necessarily need to find a spot of ground to dig up. In a pinch you could use big pots and containers, with different plants in each, or go big with a Vegepod – capsules that can be moved to where works best.

I like dirt

Soil matters. Depending on where you are, you might have heavy clay, which can get waterlogged in winter rock hard in summer, or you might have rich volcanic soil, which is great but needs frequent watering. It might be in between. You might not really know. That’s ok. Just ask one of our team, and they can give you some advice. The important thing is to get rid of any weeds first, then build on what you have with a good blend of Living Earth Organic Veggie Mix and some Kings Organic Compost, which puts the essential microbes and nutrients into the ground to give your veggies something to feed on. Mix in sheep pellets or Natures Organic Fertiliser for an additional organic boost. Avoid the temptation to use that leftover potting mix in your veggie patch – it will dry out too fast.

If you’re using a large pot or container, filling it with a bag of Living Earth Organic Veggie Mix will give you a great start.

The other thing to think about early on is putting in some stakes or support for climbers like beans, or tomatoes which get top-heavy when they fruit. Do this at planting time, before plants get too established to prevent root damage

Growing...growing... go on!

So the plants are in the ground and it’s a waiting game. And a watering game. Regular deep watering and the addition of an occasional well-balanced fertiliser will help get the garden started. Get the hose pointed low so that water trickles down into the root zone rather than onto the leaves and foliage. Soggy leaves grow diseases, or can magnify the sun. Watering in the mornings gives the plants what they need to make the most of the day’s sun.

Do a bit of research on the plants you're growing – they all have slightly different fertilising needs, and some, like tomatoes and potatoes, need a bit more feeding to deliver a bountiful crop.

Putting in a bit of effort with a liquid fertiliser that is absorbed more quickly by plants will pay off, or if you’re pressed for time and a bit more hands-off you can let a slow-release food do its thing.

And of course, no matter where you are in the process the team of your local Kings can help with advice for anything that comes up.

How to be an instant expert

Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts. Gardening is trial and error, success and failure. Lean into the process and the journey. Some things will thrive, and some won’t survive. That’s the learning part that makes you a better gardener, and what makes the successes so rewarding. Talk to other gardeners and friends, share ideas and learn from each other. And you can always drop into your local Kings for advice. We can help with any tips and tricks, or you can bring a photo of your issues and we can explain what’s happening. You can even seek advice from our online Plant Doctor by sending through your photos and questions at plantdoctor.co.nz

Together we’ll help you become an expert in no time.

Share this post