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veggie patch berries

Get more from your veggie patch

One trend that isn’t going away in a hurry is growing more fresh produce, from kale to blueberries. 2020 was all about a virus and staying at home – not that it was a trend, but a necessity. One of the trends for 2021 that was borne out of the 2020 lockdown was food gardening, and it is one trend that we expect to become entrenched in society from now on. If you haven’t yet got around to growing your own fresh produce, or if you started and want to increase the quantity you are growing in your veggie patch, or even if you gave it a bash and failed, we’ve got some advice for you.

Grow to Eat

Apparently 67% of adult Americans are growing or planning to grow edible plants. Some 52% of them are growing vegetables, 33% are growing herbs and 31% are growing fruits. And berries have become a big thing! The first thing that we recommend is this: decide what you and your family eat, and then grow it. The alternative (which doesn’t work!) is growing random edible plants and then trying to persuade your family to eat them. If your family eats carrots, grow carrots. If they don’t like broccoli, don’t grow broccoli in the veggie patch.

Go small

There is a move towards city gardening, be it indoor plants, small gardens or patio gardens, and this trend can easily be translated into city food gardening. The range of miniature edible plants is being expanded continually, and there is already a great selection to try: ‘Tumbling Tom’ and ‘Sweet n Neat’ tomatoes (actually, there are loads of mini tomatoes), ‘Honeynut’ butternut, ‘Patio Baby’, ‘Gretel’ and ‘Hansel’ brinjals, ‘Pot Pepper’ capsicums, ‘Patio Snacker’ cucumbers, ‘Easy Pick’ zucchini, These plants have all been grown to do well in small spaces, but can obviously be grown in a large garden too.

Berries

When South African gardeners hear the word ‘berries’, the majority of them think that they can’t be grown in their own gardens. Times have changed, people! These days buying berry plants is almost as easy as buying roses, and the new varieties give you a very good chance of success with exciting plants like chokeberries, blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, cloudberries, huckleberries, currants, elderberries and tayberries. I know what you’re thinking – you don’t even know what some of these berries look like, never mind taste like, so how can we expect you to grown them? Do a bit of research to discover what berries will do well in your particular climate, and buy good-quality plant stock – it’s the same as any gardening!

Make sure to purchase your berry plants from a reputable nursery as there are some berry plants that are on the alien invasive list.

Give blueberries a go

Blueberries are an exciting plant to try. Here are some tips:

Blueberries need acidic soil with pH levels of between 4.2 and 5.5.
They are resistant to pests and diseases.
The bushes live for about 30 years in good conditions.
While blueberries come from cooler climates, new varieties can cope with warmer temperatures, even the sub-tropical conditions of our coastal areas.
Depending on where you live, you can grow a few varieties of blueberries that fruit at different times of the year, resulting in up to 8 months of fruit a year.
Blueberries need good drainage and like a sandy loam substrate.

Visit www.berriesforafrica.co.za for more information and to see what is on offer.

Don’t forget fruit in the veggie patch

We all grow spinach and tomatoes, but not many of us expand into growing fruit other than maybe strawberries or a lemon tree. If you have space and the right climate, consider planting fruit trees such as plums, mangoes, bananas, figs, nectarines, peaches and avos, as well as the other members of the citrus family. Fruit is a wonderful thing to share, should you have a glut in the height of the season, and picking fresh fruit and eating it then and there is one of life’s great joys.

Spread it around

One of the trends that we foresee continuing in the future is moving edible plants out of the traditional veggie patch. Yes, many of us will still have a bed or two where most of the plants are edible, but many people are also interplanting veggies and herbs in their ornamental beds. A lower concentration of any one particular plant makes it more difficult for pests to get established and wipe out an entire crop. Also remember to leave some of your herbs and veggies to flower, so that the pollinators have something to feed on and you can also collect seed for next season.

Feed the soil

Gardeners world-wide are continuing the move from traditional fertilising where they feed the plants, and instead focusing on feeding the soil for optimal plant health. By doing this you grow plants that are strong and resilient, and don’t need to be pampered through the tough times. Moving towards a no-dig system is one important aspect of this, as is applying as much organic matter to your soil as you can. The easiest way of doing this is by placing a 5cm layer of compost as a mulch on your soil, and leaving the soil organisms to draw it down where it can benefit your plants. Another option is using premium products such as EcoBuz Humigro, which adds much-needed carbon to the soil.