Growing Veggies - The Basics
The three main nutrients required are Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K), referred to as N:P:K on fertiliser breakdowns found on the back of commercial fertiliser packaging. There are many other important trace elements also required by the plants, although they are often in abundant supply in most soils already.
An all purpose fertiliser is a safe starter option, however richer products like chook manure or blood and bone are great additional fertilisers to speed up growth. Make sure you don't over fertilise with any one product and if using commercial products, make sure you only dose as often and as much as is recommended - doubling up the amount won't necessarily mean double the growth.
Too much nitrogen may lead to big beautiful leaves but no fruits.
Too much potassium may reduce availability and uptake of nitrogen from the soil etc.
Green manure is a great option for a natural fertiliser - this simply means growing a plant for a period of time and then ploughing them back into the soil. Broad beans, lupins, comfrey, mung bean, soy bean, chickpea, fenugreek and buckwheat are all good options.
Leaf eating insects are probably the most common pests - these include caterpillars, beetles and grasshoppers and can be noticed by holes appearing in leaves or leaves slowly disappearing.
Aphids and mites are also common pests which harm plants by sucking nutrients from the leaves and stem.
Chemical controls are effective but not the most biologically friendly option. Try using a soap based home-made spray with soapy water, chilli and garlic or home-made oil sprays. Numerous recipes can be found online. Pyrethrum spray is another safer alternative, either store bought or using home grown pyrethrum daisies (seeds available in store from time to time)
Companion planting can also reduce pests by using plants that naturally repel insects and planting them next to vulnerable plants. Try Clicking here for a comprehensive list of companion plants
Encouraging beneficial insects like ladybeetles (which eat aphids) will also reduce pests. Try our beneficial bug mix or plants like marigolds and borage to attract them.
Powdery mildew - a white fungus on the leaves of pumpkins, zucchini and squash plants. Treat as soon as it appears, try to remove affected leaves and spray the remainder with a 20:80 milk to water spray. Prevent by avoiding growing during humid times of the year and try to avoid getting leaves wet when watering plants or only water in mornings so leaves dry quickly in the sun.
Leaf blight - common in veg like tomato, again occurs in hot humid weather. Reduce risk by avoid humid times of the year, increasing air flow around plants either by pruning or planting further apart, weeding etc., remove effected leaves or whole plants if badly affected as disease will spread easily.
Blossom end rot - tomato, eggplant and capsicum plants have rotten / spoiled bottom end of fruit - this is caused by infrequent watering and/or calcium deficiency. If plants are allowed to 'dry out' or wilt at any point, this will occur or if the soil is lacking calcium it will also occur thought this is less often the cause. Prevent by ensuring plants are well watered and mulched and fertiliser with an all purpose fertiliser containing trace elements.
Remember to plant different types of plants in different areas of the garden each season to reduce risk of root diseases such as nematodes. Leave at least 3 years before planting the same family of plants in the same place. E.g If you plant broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage in one section of the garden this year, plant them in another section the following year and in another section again the year after that.
*PLEASE NOTE: this information is intended as a general guide only and may or may not apply to your particular garden /climate / situation
- Georgina McFarlane