A kitchen garden doesn’t have to be an elaborate affair, and you truly don’t need a lot of space. A sunny spot in a courtyard or balcony, a few containers and some good-quality seedlings are all you need to have fresh herbs and vegetables on your doorstep – and this is the perfect time to get planting!
Most plants don’t really mind what you grow them in – so long as they are made from non-toxic materials and have drainage holes for excess water, you can plant your veggies in old watering cans, plant pots, recycled polystyrene boxes or special garden boxes designed for small spaces.
Plants in pots tend to be more thirsty than those in the ground, as the soil is more prone to drying out. Think about where the water will come from for your garden. Will you have to carry heavy watering cans? Can you rig up a drip feeder or make use of a timer? I personally use clay self-watering pots, which are buried in the soil and fed by a 30L tank, which needs to be filled every week or so.
Edible plants are hungry plants, so make sure you get rich potting mix suitable for growing fruit and vegetables. Your nursery should be able to point you in the right direction.
You will need to fertilise your veggie garden once a week and, while you could spend money on fertiliser, I strongly recommend you consider installing a worm farm, which will do away with most kitchen scraps and also provide you with free fertiliser, in the form of “worm tea”, the liquid that collects in the bottom of the worm farm, and which you tap off.
When choosing a spot for your kitchen garden, make sure the plants will get at least four hours of sunshine or, in tropical climates, don’t get too much sun – a shade cloth is helpful in Northern climes.
Before we look at which plants to grow, a note on choosing your supplier. Having had plenty of seedling curl up and die on me, I have learned a few lessons, which I share with you now. First, start with seedlings. While seeds are cheaper, they take a lot more effort and, with summer around the corner, you’ll get more bang for your buck from planting seedlings now.
The second learning is that mass-produced seedlings purchased from enormous hardware stores (no names mentioned!) are not always right for the climate in which they are sold. I have found the best source to be a small, local nursery or a farmers market (Caboolture, if anyone’s wondering), which I visit twice a year to buy a huge batch of seedlings for a third of the price.
A final piece of advice – don’t forget to grow flowers to support your vegetable garden and attract bees! Marigolds, nasturtium or any other flowering plant will hep.
12 plants to grow in pots right now
- Lettuce – choose oak or another frilly lettuce where you pick the leaves rather than harvest the whole bulb
- Cherry tomatoes
- Asian greens
- Asian eggplant (the long, thin variety)
- Shallots/spring onions
- Sweet peas
Tell us about your garden – what are you growing right now?