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Starting a New Vegetable Garden

Vegetables are immensely rewarding, and they look good too. As you gain confidence it's fun to try new vegetables, unusual varieties and 'strange' looking heirloom vegetables.

If it's the crops you are after then the secret with good vegetable gardening is to do a little, but to do it often. Unless you garden at least once a week and for a few hours each weekend regularly, then it is not worth starting a vegetable garden.

You'll need a few basic
tools but this doesn't have to break the bank. Buy what you need and then add specialist tools as you develop expertise and can justify them.

You don't need a huge space to grow vegetables, but if you are really short on gardening space or even if you hcan only garden in containers then our Small Space Vegetables is full of ideas and practical advice.

In a bigger garden, where you site your vegetable garden will depend on how big your garden is and the other demands made on the space by children, ornamental trees and flower borders, not to mention somewhere to turn or park the car. If you can choose, a good site will improve yields and plant health.

Site Selection
Where you site your vegetable garden will depend on how big your garden is and the other demands made on the space by children, ornamental trees and flower borders, not to mention somewhere to turn or park the car.

If you can choose, a good site will improve yields and plant health. There are a few key criteria that will have an impact on the success of the vegetables grown: sunshine, exposure to wind, frost, rainfall and drainage, and soil.

A good site will have ready access to a garden tap, as watering vegetables is a fact of life. Having the garden near the house will mean that you work in it more often and are more likely to pick the vegetables when ready.

Sunshine
Most vegetables need full sun to grow and for crop development. A gentle slope catches more sun than a flat site.

Wind
Air circulation decreases humidity and thus also problems arising from fungal disease which thrive in close, humid conditions. Some plants are air-pollinated, and will crop better with some wind.

Wind affects temperature, reducing it significantly in many cases. Wind can also buffet and damage crops such as pole-beans, tomatoes and corn.

Windbreaks that filter the wind are necessary on exposed sites - remember that a solid barrier increases turbulence on the leeward side. These can be a slatted fence or a hedge, or made from windbreak cloths, but they must filter and reduce wind.

Frost
Apart from in the warmest areas, frosts are a fact of life. They also serve a useful role in reducing disease and pest numbers, as we all know, cold kills.

Take care not to place a vegetable garden in a frosty position, such as at the bottom of a slope, as this will significantly shorten your growing season.

You cannot plant out until frosts have passed, and you crops must mature before cold and frost bring an end to the growing season. In colder climates the growing season is shortened by frosts and cold weather. Get a jump-start on the season by starting some seedlings, e.g. courgettes and lettuce, under cover. Using raised beds also lengthens the season as the soil warms earlier and say warm later.


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Vegetables are immensely rewarding, and they look good too

Vegetables are immensely rewarding, and they look good too

Tools for the Vegetable Garden

You will need a few basic tools. Long handled tools are easier on the back, although hand tools are essential for weeding close to vegetable plants and transplanting.

Buy the best quality you can afford, and look after them, cleaning and putting them away after use. Good tools will last for years.

You can often buy good used tools second-hand at a very reasonable price. This is a good way to acquire infrequently used items, but check their condition and for any damage carefully.

Metal rakeA spade for digging over the soil (a shovel has a long handle and is easier on the back)

A garden fork for lifting vegetables root crops, such as potatoes.

A hoe for scuffling between vegetable rows

A metal rake breaks up tiny clods and smooths the soil surface before planting. The long handle on your tools can make a groove or seed drill.

Hand fork and trowelA hand fork and trowel are needed for weeding and transplanting.

Garden twine and stakesA garden line will help you mark and sow straight lines; stakes or markers indicate where seeds have been sown until they germinate. Tall stakes or pea-sticks and garden twine are needed for rows of beans, peas and tomatoes.

Garden hoseA garden hose and a sprinkler of some kind will enable you to water the garden, and a 'leaky-hose' is great for delivering water to the plant roots.

WheelbarrowA wheelbarrow is a definite asset for moving compost around the garden and for transporting tools and seedlings.

A glasshouse or cold frame for starting seedlings are great to have, but not essential, and these don't have to be elaborate.

clocheCloches a good for covering new seedlings until they re-establish, but you can improvise with a PET soft-drink bottle, with the narrow end cut off, inserted into the ground around the plant.

Raised beds
Raised beds, a good option for wet, heavy or light soils. With warm soil early and late, they prolong the growing season

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Last revised 18 Oct '02