It’s edible garden time

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A vegetable garden designed by Renee Wright is bordered by a hedge of Duranta Sheenas Gold.

Johannesburg - Now is the time to plant up a vegetable garden that looks fabulous. A food garden will provide fresh, healthy vegetables for your family.

Start by planting up salad vegetables such as red and yellow tomatoes or sweet peppers in red, yellow and green. Choose from a range of lettuce varieties including those with leaves that are frilly or plain in a host of colours ranging from purple to ruby rose and green. Swiss chard has a milder flavour than spinach, and modern cultivar “Bright Lights” has brightly coloured stems of yellow, apricot, pink and red.

It is important to choose a level area that gets at least six hours of sunshine a day for your vegetable garden. Make sure it is near a convenient water source and within easy reach of the house. Leaf vegetables lettuce and spinach will grow in less sun. Paths should be wide enough for a wheelbarrow. Raised beds make it easier to improve the soil and allow for good drainage, planting and harvesting.

The most important part of growing vegetables is preparation of the soil. Vegetables are tastier and tender if grown quickly in a healthy soil that is rich in organic matter.

Dig in generous amounts of compost to encourage strong healthy growth and to retain moisture. Not all crops like freshly manured ground. These include root crops, such as carrots and beetroot.

What to plant

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Time to grow peppers in a range of colours.

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Now is the time to sow seed or plant seedlings of beetroot, eggplant (brinjal), cabbage, carrot, chillies, courgettes, cucumber, peppers, lettuce, leek, pumpkin, radish, squash, Swiss chard, spinach, sweet corn, tomato and turnip. Climbing and bush beans are better planted from seed.

Remember to plant so that tall varieties do not block out the sun from lower-growing vegetables. Plant in broad rows to conserve moisture, and mulch with bark or straw between vegetables to help control weeds, retain moisture in soil, and prevent vegetables being splashed with mud.

Fertilise once a fortnight with an organic fertiliser to help plants build resistance to disease and strong, healthy growth. Re-energise soil between plantings by adding generous amounts of compost.

Even the smallest garden can supply salad greens, baby cabbages, cherry tomatoes and flavourful herbs. Make use of vertical space with wigwams and trellis for climbing beans, cucumbers and tomatoes, and plant chives, thyme and basil at the base.

Rotate leaf (lettuce, cabbage), root (carrot, beetroot) and legume (beans, peas). Quick-growing plants can be planted between slow growers and will have been harvested before the slower crop matures – radish between carrots, lettuce between broccoli.

Time for tomatoes

If you are an adventurous gardener, consider planting tomatoes. They need lots of sun and a soil rich in organic matter.

Plant tomato seedlings 30-45cm apart and with the top four leaves above the surface, as this helps develop a strong root system. A layer of mulch will keep the soil cool, conserve moisture and discourage weeds.

Water the root area thoroughly and regularly, avoiding water on leaves. Fertilise with a specially formulated tomato fertiliser according to instructions on the bag. For the best flavour, allow tomatoes to ripen on the vine. - Saturday Star

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