If you’re anything like me, you’d get excited when the warmer weather arrives. This is the time that our food garden comes to life and we can grow amazing produce. In our family, during the hot weather, salad is served regularly with nearly every meal and we love growing our own. There is nothing better than picking a salad fresh from our salad garden.
It is easy when you buy your seedlings to simply be tempted by the selection you find in your local nursery. I know I’ve done this before, and I’ve also watched it flourish. However, I end up giving away most of what we have grown because my children and husband didn’t like my selection.
So my first big tip is to focus on growing what you like to eat. Some of the favourites in our house are lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, radish, beetroot, spring onions, capsicum and some herbs.
My children love cherry tomatoes, they pick them and eat them straight from the plants as they are playing outside. They also pick leaves from my basil and the tops of the spring onions (my spring onions always look a bit unusual). The kids also love hunting for cucumber.
You can grow cucumber along the ground or vertically if supported by a frame. This year, as you can see, we are growing them vertically. Have a look at the video to see how we made this support. We used 4 bamboo poles, one which I placed in the middle and the other 3 in a triangle around this. You just need to tie the top of this structure together with some wool and then used the wool to weave support up the bamboo stakes. This will easily support 3 of my cucumber plants.
Step 1: position
It’s important to make sure that your vegetables and herbs have about 6-8 hours of sun a day. Choose a sunny spot that gets some shade in the afternoon so that your plants get a break from the hot summer sun.
Step 2: rich soil
Soil quality is very important when planting food. If you provide your seedlings with good quality, organic compost then they will deliver in terms of the quality and quantity of produce. Having good nutrients in the soil aids with your plant’s growth. You can improve your soil by adding manure, compost or organic pellets.
Step 3: planting
In our salad garden, we consider companion planting. This is a way of grouping plants together like neighbours which benefit each other and aid in pest prevention or improved growth.
- We planted tomatoes, marigolds and basil together. Basil helps to repel pests from tomatoes and marigolds deter pests and attract hoverflies which are a beneficial insect.
- Radish, cucumber and nasturtiums were another trio. The nasturtiums attract pests away from the crops and radish deter cucumber beetle. Nasturtiums also encourage radish to have more flavour and heat.
Step 4: water & mulch
Once you’ve planted your seedlings, mulch them well. You can use sugar cane or pea mulch. Mulch helps to retain water in the soil and is essential in an Aussie garden. Once you’ve put the mulch down give your plants a good water. It’s important to give your plants regular deep water.
Growing your own food is such a great way to teach your children about self-sufficiency and really gives them more appreciation for the food that comes on their plate. I find that when my children grow the food they are more likely to try new things and this makes me a happy Mum. I also know that the food they are eating is chemical-free and has zero miles to plate.
There is nothing more satisfying than growing your own salad garden and I’m sure you will enjoy this too.