Magnet columnist and gardening guru, Rachel Anderson, gave an enthusiastic group of garden-lovers an insight into how she prepares her vegetable garden for spring planting on Monday.
Gathered at the Uniting Church Hall, right next to beckoning, raised veggie beds, Rachel drummed in the key ingredients to veggie garden success.
“The buzz word for the whole thing is compost,” Rachel said.
“Make it at home, or buy it, but start digging it into the soil now.
“Once it’s in the soil it will start to invigorate it, it will bring the worms in, aerate the soil, and help with water-holding capacity of the soil.”
Rachel’s next tip was, wait a few weeks to let the compost do its thing, and then add a little dolomite or lime to balance the soil.
“Compost is nitrogen rich – you may need to add a little dolomite to keep the soil at a neutral pH of 6.5.
“If your soil is too acid or too alkaline, the plants will not like it.”
If you don’t; know your soils pH, then you can get a soil testing kit or take a sample to a garden centre and have it tested.
Then Rachel advices, “get a god plan”.
“Whether you are growing in a pot or raised garden bed, think about what you’re going to grow, how much and where you are going to put it.
“Make sure your tall plants aren’t shading your smaller plants, or deliberately use them to shade plants that need it.
“I use tomatoes and beans to shade other plants.”
With so many tomato seedling varieties already in the nurseries, does Rachel have a favourite?
“The best tomato for flavour is Tommy Toe; it’s so intense, and really good yielding.”
Rachel and her husband Chris grow up to 20 plants of six heirloom tomato varieties.
That’s a lot of tomatoes.
They also collect seed for next year’s crop from a few they just love, which they pollinate by hand to assure the seed variety.
But be warned.
If you live a bit further inland from Eden and get frosts, there is still the risk of a further big frost.
“Chances are we will get another bad frost in September when the moon gets up to full.
“Because we have so much rain the ground the moisture helps keep the frost away but we usually plant out our tomatoes in mid to late October.”
Rachel runs through the benefits of companion planting, designed to bring bees, nature’s pollinators, into the veggie garden.
Then it’s over to the veggie beds and she shows us how to add compost to the soil.
What a lovely way to spend an hour or so, with the prospect of going home to work on the compost, even more exciting.