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Grow Your Own

Judith Sleijpen

To start, choose an area of your garden that gets plenty of sun, preferably near the kitchen. Remove any weeds and improve the soil by forking in lots of organic matter, such as cow manure or compost, to a depth of at least 15 centimetres.

Tomatoes are a family favourite for salads, snacks and sandwiches. Grow them in a sunny spot that’s protected from wind and frost.

The variety ‘Gross Lisse’ (Lycopersicon esculentum) is best planted between August and December and grows to a height of about two metres, producing delicious, large, red fruit about 12 weeks after planting.

The first step is to take the seedlings carefully from their container and plant them at intervals of about 50 centimetres in rows about 50 centimetres apart. When planting, put in a stake or tripod to train the plants so that you don’t need to do it later when you could damage the roots.

To avoid fungal infections, water the plants regularly and deeply in the morning, rather than the evening, watering under the plant, not over the foliage.

After planting, mulch the soil around your tomatoes with a five centimetre layer of lucerne or pea straw to help keep the moisture in the soil and suppress weeds, keeping the mulch slightly away from the plant stems. Place some shallow containers of stale beer or some coffee grounds around the young plants to protect them from slugs and snails.

At first, apply a fertiliser high in nitrogen to encourage healthy leaf growth and when flowers appear, switch to a fertiliser high in potassium.

To encourage strong, upright growth, leave two leaders on the plant by removing the side shoots, sterilising your secateurs between pruning each plant to avoid infections.

Tomatoes are a good source of Vitamins C, K and E.

Belonging to the same plant family as spinach, Beetroot Baby Beet (Beta vulgaris) is another summer favourite for salads, sandwiches and snacks.

Planted in rows about 15 centimetres apart, they prefer a sunny spot in organic-enriched soil. Water and fertilise your beets regularly, apply a layer of mulch and protect them from slugs and snails.

They should be ready to harvest in about five to six weeks after planting. Baby beets are bite-sized, nutritious balls of flavour and their young leaves can be used in cooking, just like spinach.

Baby beets are rich in Vitamins A and C as well as calcium and iron.

One of the best ways to beat the summer heat is to grow your own cumber. Cucumber Bush Bonanza (Cucumis sativus) is a compact plant, suitable for growing in both the garden and containers, as it doesn’t produce any runners. However, it does produce masses of pale green, cylindrical fruit around 20 centimetres long in nine to ten weeks after planting.

After improving the soil in your garden, plant seedlings at 40 centimetre intervals in rows about 60 centimetres apart. Alternatively, plant the seedlings in quality potting mix in containers at least 30 centimetres in diameter.

Cucumbers are not only crunchy and delicious but also contain Vitamin C, Vitamin B1 and potassium.

Growing your own vegetables is easy and very rewarding. It guarantees you the freshest produce possible as well as saving you money. And, if you have children, it helps them to understand where all the vegetables in the supermarket really come from.


Judith Sleijpen is an experienced horticulturist, columnist and garden designer, advising clients on all aspects of their gardens. For more information phone 9907 6460.

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