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Much like priming a wall before you paint, if you want a healthy home garden it’s vital to prepare the soil and surrounding area first.
Follow these simple steps to grow a great veggie patch from the ground up.
1. Let the sun shine
Most veggies love a bit of sun – up to 6 hours a day – so think about what you want to plant and find a spot in your backyard that is level and sure to receive a lot of light.
2. Mark your territory
Identify the area you’d like to dedicate to your new garden plot and outline the boundary using your garden hose. A length of string will also do the trick.
3. Eliminate the competition
First remove any existing plants and large weeds, then grab a spade and start digging. Begin in one corner and move across the space.
Dig, lift and turn the soil.
If you’re turning over existing sod (grass or turf with a root system beneath), it will start composting down due to lack of light. Continue to ‘dig, lift and turn’ your entire garden bed, then it’s time to add some new ingredients.
Pro Tip: when you get around to planting, don’t forget to add a thick layer of mulch – at least 75 mm – to your top soil. Sugar cane mulch is a fantastic weed suppressant (WA residents should use lupin mulch instead).
4. Preparing the soil
Transforming your garden into a fertile area that will grow a bumper crop of veggies first requires a solid and nutritious soil bed.
It’s essential your soil bed is as rich and ‘friable’ (a crumbly texture that promotes strong root growth) as possible, so that the young plants or seeds you introduce simply take off.
To ensure your new plants thrive and produce, prepping the soil is an absolute must. Adding rich organic matter like compost, manure and fertiliser will add body and nutrition to your garden bed.
Once you’ve blended these new ingredients, turn your garden bed again, this time adding fresh garden soil alongside your organic matter, mixing the new soil with the old. Leave this for a couple of weeks and remove any weeds that pop up during this time.
Make sure you dig it through one more time before planting.
By now your soil bed should be just right – full of all the nutritional goodies that your veggies need to thrive – and begging for a row of new seedlings or seeds.
Pro Tip: allow well-watered, cultivated soil to sit for a couple of days before planting anything. The more time you give your compost to break down, the better.
5. Raise the stakes
The fastest way to get that deep layer of fertile soil is to create a raised bed. Properly prepared beds can easily yield more than double the harvest of an unprepared bed.
A great way to add depth to a vegetable garden that may struggle because of clay soil or excessive water is to opt for a raised bed. This allows water to drain more effectively. Adding an extra 30-45 cm can work wonders, but don’t forget to turn the base soil, as this is still an important step.
6. Construct a raised bed
It’s easy to create a raised bed by constructing a simple wooden border. Sleepers, corrugated iron, bricks, blocks, piled rocks or even bails of lucerne or straw all make great boundaries, so feel free to get creative. Make sure your garden bed has at least 30 cm of height so that the soil can be packed securely inside.
These days you can pick up ready-made raised beds which you just position and fill – no need to dig out the area and till it first.
Pro Tip: dig deep if you are planning to plant root crops such as potatoes or carrots.
Once you’ve prepared a rich, juicy soil bed for your veggie patch – get planting – your plants will love you for it, and you’ll be enjoying a home-grown harvest before you know it.