Growing your own vegetables is one of the most rewarding forms of gardening as it combines all the pleasures and benefits of gardening with the added satisfaction of producing fresh nutritious food, and October marks the beginning of that time of the year when the widest variety of produce becomes available for planting.
Anyone new to growing vegetables should start small. If you are already a gardener of ornamentals, then just leave aside a little space for some vegetables as there is no reason why you can’t plant vegies next to flowers. If you are a complete novice, I would suggest starting off with seedlings in pots filled with a good potting mix for your first season and if you remain inspired, try establishing a small patch in the ground later. Either way, grow your vegies in a spot which receives the maximum amount of sunlight and don’t forget to weed, feed and water. Cucumber, tomato or zucchini are particularly forgiving vegetables to learn on, and all can be planted now.
Like all forms of gardening, growing your own vegetables provides a connection to the natural world and can contribute to your daily exercise routine and positive mental health. You will have control over the use of any chemicals such as pesticides or fertilisers and will therefore have the option to choose more organic methods of growing. This will result in cleaner produce and, because you can pick your vegetables at their peak ripeness, you will also be enjoying food of a superior flavour. It will make you less dependent on the vegetable aisle of the supermarket and more than likely lead to excess produce that you can share with neighbours and friends or learn to preserve for yourself. Best of all, you will be free to experiment with different varieties of foods, many of which are not readily available in stores. Fancy a purple carrot? No problem. A blue potato perhaps? Easy. How about a white strawberry? A yellow tomato? A watermelon with orange flesh? A green cauliflower? These delights and many more await the GYO gardener.
Meanwhile, although dry, the town gardens are awash with spring colour. Perennial flowering shrubs such as lavender, pelargoniums/geraniums and daisies are sparkling. Bright patches of the exotic succulent Mesembryanthemum spp. (pigface) dazzle like low-growing mounds of tropical coral. The leaves of the azalea plants have disappeared beneath bushes of blooms and clusters of orange trumpet-shaped flowers of Clivea miniata brighten the shady places. Pendulous racemes of creamily sweet, perfumed
flowers hang in colourful curtains and the tall intensely blue flower spikes of Echium candicans sway above their grey-green foliage in the wind.
In the wild places, on the sides of the road around the Triangle region, splashes of purple are appearing as the native, dark green, leathery-leaved twining climber Hardenbergia violacea begins producing its mass of small pea-shaped flowers.
This month in the vegie garden you can get planting with seeds or seedlings of all your favourite varieties of beans, capsicum and/or chilli, corn, cucumber, eggplant, melons, pumpkins, tomato and zucchini. Carry on with the beetroot, carrot, celery, lettuce, onions, peas, potatoes and silver beet.
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