It's a well-known fact that gardening is good for your health. There's something therapeutic about getting out in the sunshine and tending to plants that can't be ignored. These healing environments offer significant stress relief, a natural mood booster and get your blood moving – ideal for reaping exercise and brain health rewards. It's the perfect antidote to the modern world. The ultimate escape from the daily hustle and a great excuse to eat healthily.
Regardless of whether you have a small veggie patch or an overflowing jungle of lush goodies, the food you grow is the freshest food you can eat. And once you're in the habit of growing your own fruit and veggies, there's nothing better than harvesting them from your very own garden, rather than another trip to the supermarket. It's healthy for you (and your wallet), and tastes so much better. Ready to get your veggie patch growing deliciously fantastic? Here's how to choose the right fertiliser for the job:
Know What Your Plants Need
To achieve success with your veggie garden, you need to know what your veggies need to thrive well. There's no use in just picking anything off the shelf. The right ingredients will prepare the soil and ensure your plants find them appetisingly beneficial too. Adding plant fertiliser to your garden will keep the soil healthy and feed your veggies the essential nutrients they need.
Because the nutrients are intensively stripped from the soil as they grow, they need something to replace what has been lost to reach their peak. This is where the right fertiliser comes into play.
Tip: If you really want to pump up your veggie yield, the fastest way to get a deep layer of organically rich soil is by building up. Besides nutrients, this a vital ingredient for your veggies to perform well. Opt for raised garden beds to get extra-lush and extra-productive growth. This will make your regular harvests more efficient and cut down on watering and work too.
Although fertiliser requirements differ between growing seasons and soil type, veggies need three main nutrients to flourish; N-P-K. Nitrogen (N) is the key nutrient for encouraging healthy vegetable growth and will load your veggies with protein. Too much nitrogen can suppress the production of fruit, so be careful not to overdo it and check the N-P-K ratings on the back of fertilisers. The biggest nitrogen feeders are cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes and spinach. Here's part of the tomato harvest I got from my veggie garden last year!
Phosphorus (P) is vital for strong root growth, fruit, stem and seed development, and is best added prior to planting fruit and veggies. Potassium (K) promotes lush growth and keeps your veggies hardy for winter, especially great for leafy veggies like spinach and kale. This nutrient is also important for fighting off pests and bugs (yes, your veggies and plants can help combat those nasty terrors on their own!). The best-growing veggie gardens will have a balanced mix of these ingredients, plus secondary nutrients like calcium and micronutrients like copper, which can be found in most fertilisers.
Get to know what your plants are lacking by looking out for deficiency clues. These are sure signs your veggie garden is in desperate need of fertiliser and will help in choosing which one is right for your plants.
• Lack of Nitrogen: Veggie growth will be poor, slow maturing of fruit, yellowing stems. pale leaves and wilting. Diseases are also more likely to attack.
• Excessive Nitrogen: Little to no fruit and lush, dark green leaf growth. Whilst this growth sounds good, the excess leaves take away from a good veggie harvest.
• Lack of Phosphorus: Red or purple tint on leaves. Deficiency signs are slow and not so distinctive, but if they manifest stems will be thin, leaves will eventually bronze and veggie growth will be slow.
• Lack of Potassium: Undersize veggies and fruits, weak or deformed stems/plat foliage and dramatic yellowing of leaves. The edges of the leaves will appear brown as they yellow in the middle, appearing to be sunburnt and fruit will drop prior to ripening.
• Excess Potassium: Similar to excess nitrogen, plants will have an additional growth of leaves instead of veggies/fruit. This emphasis on leaves instead of fruit will make them more attractive to pests too, so expect an influx of them.
• Lack of Calcium: Cavities in tomatoes, stunted growth, weak stems and damaged plant tips. Leaves can also appear scorched. Potatoes and beets will be small.
Don't Just Focus on Veggies
Even if your focus is only on growing veggies, planting herbs your garden can benefit veggie patch growth. Choose organic herbs and flowers that attract beneficial insects, which will help in lowering unwanted pests that love your veggies just as much as you do. Thyme, basil, rosemary, coriander and mint are fantastic herbs to start with (and make a delicious addition to many meals). Adding cornflowers near tomatoes will help ward off pests, sunflowers near peppers and beans or hardy perennials, dill, lavender, lemongrass and dandelions.
Choosing the right fertiliser isn't just crucial for the growth and success of your veggie garden, but also for what you're putting into your body too. This is why many gardeners will prefer to use organic fertilisers over synthetic or chemical. Organic fertilisers add essential organic matter to your veggie garden's soil, which helps contribute to the amount of micronutrients and keeps everything hydrated by retaining water.
The great thing about starting a veggie garden is you don't need a big backyard or a green thumb to benefit from it. Start out with a raised bed or two and a few tasty herbs. Growing your own produce won't just save you a ton of money, but it's the best way to introduce more veggies to your diet, get outdoors and do your bit for the environment.