Growing fresh vegetables and herbs year round for your salads or cooked in the steamer or the oven is a form of intensive cultivation as the best vegetables are sowing, cultivated and harvested in short time spans. Successive plantings mean that you produce young growing tissue and this is always found in the crunchiest, tastiest vegetables. This is how I harvest quality vegetables and herbs year round.
Step 1 – Grouping
Vegetables can be grown in pretty much the same soil. The best vegetable soil is loose, crumby and able to hold water and nutrients. It needs to be fertilized and aerated but the same soil will grow a variety of vegetables. Vegetables are generally grouped into 3 main types-seed vegetables, leaf and stem vegetables and root and bulb vegetables. Group these together because each of these vegetable types require different types and amounts of fertilizer.
Step 2 – Seasonal Planting
Determine whether your vegetables are cool or warm season plants and plant them in season. Brussel sprouts, cauliflower and beans grow well during cooler months while capsicum, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and corn all enjoy warmer growing conditions. Vegetables like cabbage, lettuce and carrots grow in temperatures between warm and cool plantings. Plants these at the correct time of the year as they will ‘go to seed’ if sown when it is too warm or too cool.
Step 3 – Correct Sunlight
For quick growing vegetables select a garden area that is exposed to at least 4-5 hours of sunlight each day. Have part of this garden face the south for the best exposure to sunlight, especially in winter. Avoid shade from other plants or buildings.
Step 4 – Garden Layout
This will depend on your time and interest in gardening vegetables and herbs. Start small and extend after success and follow this. A popular size vegetable garden is about 10 square feet. Plant the vegetables you enjoy but remember that climbing beans and cucumbers grow on a trellis and need little space. Tomatoes and capsicum have high yield crops. Silver beet and broccoli and lettuce are good for continuous harvesting.
Step 5 – Fertilizing
Use a pre-planting fertilizer containing phosphorous before each crop to assist with healthy seedlings and roots. Then root and bulb vegetables require no further fertilizing but leaf vegetables need more nitrogen and seed vegetables need additional mixed fertilizing. Most vegetables and herbs need a lightly acidic soil so fertilize with lime after summer crops and before cool season crops.
Step 6 – Watering
Water well across each season to produce quick-growing vegetables. Vegetables can lose large amounts of water during dry hot seasons. Good soakings in hot weather assist keep them in an exclusive herb garden or use them as borders in your vegetable or flower garden. They also grow well in pots but these will need a liquid fertilizer. Harvest when you need them fresh or if you wish to dry them instead, hang upside down in a shady spot.
Step 7 – What About the Herbs?
A wonderful addition to many vegetable and meat dishes, herbs generally need well drained soil and vary in the amount of sunlight they require. Easy to grow, often from seedlings, they can be grown in an exclusive herb garden or be used as borders in your vegetable or flower garden. They also grow well in pots but these will need a liquid fertilizer. Harvest when you need them fresh or if you wish to dry them instead, hang upside down in a shady spot.
Remember also the benefit of crop rotation to reduce the impact of disease in each vegetable family.