Some vegetables are very fast growing. In fact, providing you give them the right conditions, you can be harvesting and eating veggies within 1–2 months after planting.
- Radish is one of the fastest growing vegetables. It can be harvested and eat within 4 weeks of planting in spring or autumn.
- Spring onions and carrots can be thinned out when young and the smaller ones eaten. Keep eating /harvesting over the following 2–3 months as the plants mature.
- Lettuce – pick and use the outer leaves as the plant grows. Eventually a heart forms and you can harvest the whole plant.
- Parsley can be picked within a few weeks of planting.
- Silver beet, spinach and Chinese greens – pick the outer leaves as the plants grow.
Buy advanced plants – Tomatoes in larger pots with flowers (even fruit) can be harvested within a few weeks of planting. DON’T be too drastic. If you take too many leaves off, the growth will be slowed.
TIP: As a general guide, you can safely remove up to 20% of foliage from a healthy, fast-growing leafy vegetable such as lettuce, silver beet or parsley.
How to Maximise Growth
A fast-grown veggie will not only mature faster, it often tastes better and is more tender.
- Feed properly – overfeeding burns roots; under feeding slows growth.
- Water properly – keep soil moist NOT waterlogged; NEVER dry! Cover the soil with mulch to conserve moisture.
- Ensure drainage is good – if not, plant the veggies in raised beds, hydroponics, pots or no-dig beds.
- Use good quality soil – this is imperative for healthy, fast growth. All soils can be improved with lots of well-rotted organic matter (such as compost, animal manure).
- Grow in full sun – all veggies like lots of sunlight.
- Control pests and diseases – particularly snails and slugs. Try to use safe chemical-free products to control your pests and diseases.
- Control weeds – they compete for space and nutrients. Pull them out by hand or with a hoe before they flower and set seed.
If the weather is cold, give the plant a head start in a greenhouse or with some other type of cover (e.g. a cloche).
How to Feed Veggies Properly
Prepare the soil before applying the fertiliser by digging in compost, manure or some other organic material and make sure it is thoroughly mixed into the soil.
Follow the instructions on the fertiliser packet.
Be careful that concentrated fertilisers (even organic fertilisers) never come directly in contact with the plant foliage or roots – they can burn and kill plant tissues.
Liquid fertilisers applied often but in a weak solution (organic or inorganic) are generally more effective at maintaining consistent fast growth than longer-acting fertilisers.
Crop Rotation – a Natural, Healthy Way to Control Pests and Diseases
This involves growing different groups of vegetables each season in different beds. By rotating your crops in different beds, you can discourage some pests and diseases and reduce the need for using chemical controls.
Look at the list of 'groups' of vegetables below. Don't grow a vegetable in a particular area if another vegetable out of the same group was grown in that spot recently. Keep alternating the type of vegetable in a particular spot!
- Brassicas – Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Sea kale, Kohl Rabi, Turnip, Swede, Radish, Horseradish
- Cucurbits – Cucumber, Marrow, Pumpkin, Squash, Cantaloupe (ie. Rock Melon), Zucchini
- Onion, Leeks, Garlic, Asparagus, Chives
- Legumes – Peas and Beans
- Celery, Carrot, Parsnip, Fennel
- Chicory, Lettuce, Endive, Globe Artichoke
- Silver beet, Red beet (i.e. Beetroot) and Spinach
- Tomato, Capsicum, Potato, Egg Plant
Plant Vegetables Anywhere and Everywhere
Vegetable gardens can be very attractive, as can some vegetable plants when incorporated into ornamental garden borders. You can plant them anywhere you want; and they don't need to be out of place anywhere.
- Plant vegetables in your front garden.
- Replace your lawn with vegetables
- Grow big tubs of vegetables around your verandah or patio
- Plant them among shrubs and trees in garden beds
- If space is limited; plant them vertically (Create a "green wall" of vegetables on a fence or the wall of your house
Veggies do not necessarily have to ONLY be planted with other veg and you don’t need to only plant vegies en-mass. In fact why do we have to grow many asparagus, plants side by side creating mini monocultures in our own gardens? Why don’t we scatter them round the garden, among other plants? Think outside the box and change your approach to vegetable gardening and you could produce an attractive and sustainable, healthy garden, that also attracts lots of beneficial insects and feeds you and your family at the same time.
Thinking about vegetables and herbs this way can open up possibilities within the garden: brightly coloured kale, lettuce, rhubarb and herbs can be used to replace, or combine with flowering annuals (use edible flowers such as calendulas to extend the possibilities even further). Plants such as chives and parsley have attractive foliage and also make lovely border plants; garlic chives is evergreen and produces umbels of white flowers in late autumn and winter, it looks stunning and is an easy care, drought tolerant, edging plant. Garlic is great planted under roses and may help ward of insect pests; traditional ornamental plants can also be mixed with vegetables and herbs to create wonderful harmonies and contrasts. Think wispy grasses with the rounded cabbages; colourful chard stems with flat ground covers e.g. prostate thymes; Blue-grey kale with miniature red dahlias and so on.
Making a Vegetable Garden Really Attractive
However what if you like the idea of a dedicated vegetable plot, but don’t like the way it can be messy and look tired by the end of the season? The best approach to this problem is to provide the plot with some structure; a neatly hedged vegetable garden with well-arranged beds and paths, and a central focal point as such as a large pot or arbour, or even a sculpture, can solve this problem. The eye is drawn to lines; hedges and paths and timber raised beds all produce lines in the garden – this gives the garden structure and interest. It draws the eye away from the more ‘messy’ aspects of vegetable gardening such as floppy plants and dying foliage.
Here are some ideas on how you can add structure and interest to your vegetable garden:
- You can arrange beds and paths in a formal pattern – this adds structure to the garden.
- Create long vistas – use a long central path that is paved, grassed or mulched – place a focal point at the end, such as a pot or statue or sculpture, to draw the eye down the vista. This makes your garden seem bigger and adds of sense of grandness to the design.
- Place a pond at the centre of the garden – it adds interest, creates humidity and cools the immediate area; it attracts insects, frogs and other wildlife to your garden – and thereby improves its environmental health. The pond could be a formal square or rectangular shape for a formal approach or could be shaped less formally for a natural garden.
- Create beds at different heights – this adds interest and an ‘arty’ look. Try painting the outside faces of the beds in vibrant colours. Kids love this too.
- Use rounded edges – round or curved garden beds and curved paths – this is an informal approach and would be suitable within a natural or bush garden.
- Use low hedges to provide structure around your vegetable garden, or in place of timber beds. Choose the smaller varieties of box e.g. Japanese box (Buxus microphylla), which can be maintained easily at about 50cm high. Remember that if you use plants to edge your veggie beds, then they need to tolerate regular watering – Japanese box will do this, but plants such as lavender may less accommodating preferring drier conditions. You can use plants that need less water for the outer hedging – lavenders, rosemary, spindle bush (Euonymus japonicus var. microphyllus ‘Tom Thumb’) for example are most suited to this purpose.
- Use step-over or espaliered fruit trees as a border to the garden, under-plant with herbs or annuals.
You will learn so much about vegetables in this course.
You will see possibilities for growing things you might not have considered growing before; and through a much more in depth understanding of how to grow vegetables you will be able to plan, create, and manage vegetable growing with far better productivity, for less inputs of time and money.