By Eugene Bosini from GreenBos
While it’s true that the South is plagued by sandy soil it is a common misconception that you can’t grow vegetables in what sometimes looks like building sand. Growing healthy vegetables is both satisfying and rewarding and with a little bit of care and attention you will be surprised at how much you can get out of a small veggie patch. And children love to watch things grow! Not to mention how good things taste that come out of your own garden.
I would recommend growing in slightly raised beds made about a meter wide. That way you grow in a contained area that you don’t step in as vegetables don’t grow well in compacted soil. Get creative, use old wood, chopped down alien trees, wine bottles!
It will take a bit of hard work initially but once you get a balance in your chosen vegetable growing area it becomes easier as you go. Funnily it’s easier to grow veg in the rainy winter months than in summer although your choice is limited to the winter veg.
First off choose your patch with care. Vegetables need at least five hours of sun a day, more if possible. A vegetable garden of about 5x5m is a good size to start with. Wind is also an issue. The more protected your area is the better. There is nothing as soul destroying as having a crop wind whipped to bits just as it’s getting ready to harvest.
Clear all weeds, dig a spade depth into the soil and remove all roots. You do have to add more compost than you think. I would go on one bag per square meter, two if possible. The more rotted organic material you can get your hands on the better. We can assist you at the nursery with what compost to use. Fork the compost into the soil and add any nitrogen based fertiliser you can get your hands on. Vegetables are nitrogen hungry. Chicken pellets work well which you can get from any nursery, they come in various brand names. If you have a worm farm or your own compost use as much as you can but in my experience homemade compost is never enough for your vegetable patch, you are going to have to buy in. Wet the soil well once your preparation is done.
Things to grow this time of year are: all the brassicas, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli and brussel sprouts. Carrots, beetroot, potatoes, lettuce, beans, peas, onions, garlic and all of the herbs besides sweet basil which thrives in heat. Carrots and beetroot I grow from seed. The rest I get good quality seedlings as it speeds up your crop by months. Again we can help you get seedlings and seeds.
While usually watering is not necessary in winter vegetables need to be irrigated. Three dry day will have an adverse effect on your crop. Under watered vegetables become hard and bitter.
Once your veg is growing nicely in your sandy soil, keep an eye out for pests! Bugs and worms love vegetables and can cut a crop down in days. Snails and slugs are a plague to be dealt with promptly. While there are pesticides that can deal with this I try to adopt a holistic approach to pest management. I will deal with organic pesticides at a later stage.
Deep south soil is poor and spreading a thick layer of mulch over the ground as your vegetables grow will improve your yield crop after crop. It also will start the process of no dig gardening. A process by which you feed the soil from the top down, as nature intended. Worms and bacteria will move the nutrients down into the soil substrate without the need to dig it in. After a year or two of heavy mulching your solid will be black and rich. A good mulch also inhibits weed grows. Something I haven’t mentioned yet is that you are going to have to weed, weed and weed your vegetables. One year of letting seeds set translates into three years of heavy weeding!
If you have any question or would like any advice please pop into our nursery. Someone is always there to lend and hand and chat about growing your own vegetables. We always have produce growing there in our raised beds.
Good luck and happy growing!
Eugene Bosini is the owner of GreenBos Indigenous Nursery and Landscaping.
Contact GreenBos for some friendly advice and excellent work.