Lunchtime Gardening Advice

Yesterday, during my lunch hour, I met a lovely lady called Jacquie, who had contacted me via internal email at work. She was after some gardening tips, and had seen my profile on our company’s Intranet. I have found that over the last few months, that when a new profile for a different person gets posted, I inevitability get an email or a call because my profile listed in the archive of that web page.
Anyway, we caught up, and Jacquie mentioned that the area she had available for her vege-patch was about 1 metre x 2 meters. She said that she was already growing herbs successfully in a window box, but lately they were going a little brown. I asked how often she watered them in winter, and she replied once a day. I suggested that she water about twice a week in winter, and that she might be over watering. I used to kill many plants in pots with too much love, with them getting root rot and dying. I also suggested that every two months she adds a little liquid organic fertiliser with the water such as Powerfeed, and water it in well but with out lots of it dripping out of the bottom. That way they should receive enough nutrients to grow strong, even with the occasional picking for meals.

For her 2 sqm garden, I suggested a method called ‘square foot gardening’. This is a method of dividing up a small plot and getting the maximum yield out of your available space and was first developed by a guy called Mel Bartholomew. I have read that it works very well and is one of the best ways to garden in a small backyard. Jacquie then went on to ask what vegetables should she plant. I suggested she starts with seedlings from a nursery, and then as she grows in confidence, that she tries planting her crop from seeds. I recommended a few different types of tomatoes, a cucumber cultivar called Spacemaster, Sugar baby watermelons (if she had some space around the patch), and to just stick with veggies that her family normally eat in Summer. We discussed the different types of tomatoes I grew in the Summer season, from Tigerella to Tommy Toe. She was amazed that there were so many types, and had never heard of heirloom vegetables before she had met me. Neither had I until I started my journey either! From my own experience, just plant what you know you like and you will find ways to eat, preserve or just give away excess. That way she could barter the excess if she a glut of something.

I also recommended a book to start her off, from the Digger’s Club. I may have mentioned it in the blog before, but as I use it all the time, it is an essential part of my home library, so I will mention it again. The book is “The Australian Fruit & Vegetable Garden” by Clive Blazey and Jane Varkulevicius. It is one of the best introductory books for a budding Australian food gardener. It helped me understand just what I could and couldn’t attempt to grown in my specific climate with the book using cold and heat maps to help you understand the various climates around our big brown land. I must have read it about 3 times before I even put anything in the ground when I first started gardening, just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything! Jacquie said she would look it up and seemed very keen to get started. I have no doubts that she will get going as quick as she could. She was bubbling with enthusiasm!

She also mentioned that she had seen some TV gardening shows use plastic as mulch. I have only seen it used with strawberries to keep them clean, and she said she would love to grow strawberries. I suggested that she try and get some terracotta strawberry pots so that the berries keep off of the dirt or even try hanging pots. Either way will work, but during the hotter months she must remember to water them most days as all pots dry out quickly in the heat. I said that she could use the cold water at the start of a shower which should give her 20 litres easily from her family of four. That would get her around the water restrictions here in force in the Greater Melbourne area. I also recommended that she mulch heavily in Summer to keep the moisture in the ground by reducing evaporation.

We finished off by talking about the difference between shop bought vegetables and home grown, and that the taste and sweetness is to be believed. I said that once she gets going, she will find it hard to stop, and once she tastes her first crop, she will be hooked for life. Life doesn’t get much simpler than that! We parted after about an hour, and she said she would keep in touch and let me know how she gets along. I promised that she could drop me an email any time if she had a question or got stuck with something. I just wish more people would ask for help with gardening tips. I believe that in any endeavour in life, it is good to have a chat with someone who has tried it before you. That way, you can learn by their mistakes, and some of their enthusiasm usually rubs off. However, I have found that it is by making mistakes (and writing down what works and what doesn’t) you do learn a heck of a lot more when gardening yourself. Sharing gardening knowledge is fun, and to keep it to yourself is a crime as far as I am concerned.

My final advice was to grow more than you need and you will be so proud of your efforts that you will be happy to share, not only produce, but your experience as well. Well that is what I have found happens to me!


  1. says

    I really want to have a stab at square foot gardening once my garden’s sorted out. At the moment it’s just an untidy mess and I don’t have either the strength or the energy to change it. One of my goals is to save enough to pay somebody to come and give it a make-over so that I can actually start using it properly.

  2. says

    That’s great you were able to help her out – and just the name of the watermelon sounds mouth watering!!

    I want to restart my veggie and herb gardens but it will have to wait another five weeks. We’re planning to move next year (hopefully buy our own house) so it will be a container garden.

    Also – I fixed up my post, it was supposed to link back to your blog but I had messed up the html! :)

    — Cat

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