Autumn Vegetable Garden.
How to plan and protect your autumn vegetable garden
How to start an autumn vegetable garden!!!
There are a number of steps that you need to follow to set up the garden so do your planning before going out and buying expensive seed or even more expensive seedlings.
Planning the garden.
Where is the best place for your garden?
Most vegetables like a sunny spot in your garden so find somwhere where they will get sun and be close to a tap as they need plenty of water. If you live in Cape Town which is a winter rainfall area watering might not be too much of a factor as it often rains. It's also a good idea to plant the garden near a window so that you can see your plants and watch them grow without having to go out into the elements. From a window you can spot a problem and nip outside quickly to sort it out.
Shade cloth fence
How can you protect your garden?
If you have dogs and cats in your garden your veggie patch will need some protection. Dogs are attracted by bonemeal and your beautiful cabbage patch could end up looking like a mole hole after the dogs have flattened it. Even worse, your prize cabbages could be scattered all over the garden if you don't keep the dogs out.
Wind and rain could also be a problem especially in Cape Town with our winter storms.
There are a number of things you can do.
Here is a short list.
Plant a hedge of taller plants around the edge of your vegetable patch to protect the garden from the elements.
Fence off the area with chicken wire or wood strips to keep your pets out. It needs to be pretty strong to stop a determined dog. Wood fencing will stop the dog but will block your view of the garden.
To overcome all of the above problems I have done the following.
I have built a tarpole/creosote pole fence like you see in the cowboy movies using two or three uprights planted a couple of metres apart and have connected them with split poles, one close to the ground and one near the top. The gap in between I have filled with shade cloth. To keep it taut I have threaded wire though the holes provided on the top and bottom the the shade cloth and pulled it tight across the gap. I have also nailed the wire using U shaped nails to the cross pieces so the shade cloth will not sag.
This method provides a number of benefits.
I can plant peas and beans close to the shade cloth fence and they can use it to climb on.
Shade cloth being see-through allows me to see the garden from my window without having to brave the elements.
The main benefit is that if you have dogs the shade cloth is strong enough to keep them out if properly secured.
The shade cloth also protects your plants as it shades them from the sun and minimises any wind.
What tools do you need?
If you are slightly handy and have had a garden for a while you most probably have all the tools you need.
A digging spade, a small hand spade, a rake, a hosepipe with a nozzle that can make a gentle spray and some pruning shears is about all that you will need. If you don't like getting your hands dirty digging in manure and compost then a pair of gloves might also come in handy.
How big should your vegetable beds be?
The ideal size of a bed is two metres by one metre, they can be longer but if you make them wider you need to have access to the bed from both sides. It is easier to have a wider bed split down the middle by a pathway and then you can gain access to the plants in both beds without having to step into the patch. A centre pathway also saves a lot of space especially if your garden patch is small.
When should you start planting?
Autumn in South Africa is from March to May and vegetables can be planted in this period.
What can be planted in your Autumn garden?
Here is a list of cool season vegetables to choose from. They include beets, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, collards, garlic, kale, leeks, lettuce, mustard greens, onions, parsley, peas, potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, spinach and turnips.
When to start planting?
It is best to check the planting instructions on your seed packets as different vegetables have different requirements. If you are planting seeds note that it will take about six weeks longer for your veggies to mature than it would do if you were planting seedlings purchased at a nursery.
Tips when planting vegetables.
Work out where you will plant each vegetable type as each vegetable has its own requirements. Some have longer roots than others and others require more space when they are maturing. You don't need your peas to be pushed over by a cabbage or something else that requires more space and invades the pea patch.
When planting seed ensure that the seed is fresh and plant more seed in the rows than is required as some of the seed might not come up. If too much seed comes up you can always transplant some of the small plants to another patch.
Seeds need to be planted at specific depths, rule of thumb is a depth of three times the size of the seed. Planting seeds too deep will cause them not to germinate. The back of the seed packet will advise how deep to sow the seed and how much space each plant will need once it starts to grow.
If you are planting fine seed such as carrots or lettuces mix a teaspoon of seed into a cup of fine sand or even flour and sprinkle this onto the bed you are planting. This will assist you in spreading the seed around and it will not all end up on the same side of the patch.
Birds are another problem. Freshly planted seed attracts them so it's an idea to protect your beds from them by spreading some shade cloth over the bed until the seeds have germinated.
Winter crops will stop growing when they reach maturity. In summer they will continue to grow and eventually go to seed. When growing stops the vegetable is ready to be harvested.
A winter vegetable garden if properly planned has the potential to provide you with delicious fresh vegetables for the whole winter season.
In Cape Town with its winter rainfall you can also keep the cost of your water bills down by directing water from your roof to water tanks which you can then sprinkle onto the plants when necessary.
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How to start a vegetable garden