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The growing trend of vegetable gardens

Written by  Nikki van Coller
| in Tuin
| September 9, 2015

If you don’t already grow your own vegetable garden, what are you waiting for? No matter where you live, how small your space, immaculate your garden, or limited your budget, there is always a way for you to grow your own fresh, healthy,
organic food.

Ten or fifteen years ago, very few urbanites grew their own food – vegetable production was left to big farming companies, poor rural subsistence farmers, hippies and the odd suburban gardener. Even those suburban families who had little veggie patches would plant them in the backyard, out of sight, to avoid disturbing the aesthetics of the perfectly manicured garden.

“Vegetable gardening has become ‘cool’.”

But things are changing. Vegetable gardening has become “cool”. The health food wave, the move towards more organic living, and practices like permaculture, raw food diets, juicing and veganism, have all contributed to the growing popularity of own-grown vegetable gardens.

The ever-increasing cost of food has obviously also played a large role in the global trend towards people growing their own; food insecurity in undeveloped countries has given rise to many inventions, innovations and methods of growing food in almost any conditions. 

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Growing Designs

Gone are the days when veggie patches were unsightly and relegated to the far corner of the garden. With innovative ways of thinking - and of course the internet as an instant source of inspiration and information – vegetable gardens are finding their way into main garden areas and even becoming stunning focal points.

“Vegetable gardens are finding their way into main garden areas and even becoming stunning focal points.”

Vegetable trellises and edible canopies are two ways gardeners and landscapers are incorporating food production into garden design. Vegetables like pumpkins, for instance, take up a lot of space when planted in the ground and left to spread horizontally, but weaved into a trellis, the pumpkin plant grows wherever you train it to grow, making for a space-saving, vibrant and interesting-looking food source. Other great trainable plants include cucumbers, lemons, butternuts, marrows, beans, peppers, tomatoes and even watermelons!

With good design, the right materials, careful planning and fertile soil, you can grow an edible canopy or covered walkway, which not only produces an impressive amount of big, tasty, healthy foods, it also adds shade, shelter, privacy, or a visually-pleasing living focal point.

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sep 2015 tuin 6Space-Savers

You can grow vegetables even if you don’t have a garden. Before, if you lived in a flat with a small balcony, you might have had a bit of basil in a pot; a vegetable garden would not even have been a consideration. But these days there are a number of wonderful, environmentally-friendly ways to incorporate vegetable gardening into almost any space, no matter how small or urban it may be.

“You can grow vegetables even if you don’t have a garden. “

Vertical Walls

Using anything from recycled PVC piping to egg cartons, tin cans, cold drink bottles or tyres, you can create a beautiful, manageable vegetable garden with a surprisingly high yield. Another advantage of a vertical wall is that slugs and other insects find it more difficult to get to the juicy plants.

Veggie Boxes

Veggie boxes made from recycled pallets are great for urban apartment-dwellers because of their portability. They can be made to size (or you could make them yourself as a fun DIY project). If you go this route, be sure to plant only the things you are very likely to eat.

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Hanging Plants

Hanging plants are another great way to use space cleverly. On a small balcony or veranda for instance, hanging colanders, planted onion- or orange sacks, and frames with plant hangers are just some of the innovative ways to grow your own food.

sep 2015 tuin 4Mason Jar Herbs

If you have absolutely no outside space at all, you can still grow herbs – in a simple way that is also pleasing to the eye. Large mason jars, filled with good quality soil and your choice of herb seedlings placed at a sunny window are a great example of how, even with limited space, you can get at least a small intake of fresh, organic greenery.

Design your Fresh Food Garden

With spring here, it’s the perfect time to plant. So look around your space and come up with an idea for growing your own veggies that works with your unique space, fresh food needs and resources. Use natural or recycled materials wherever possible and ensure that your growing-design makes the best use of space, sunlight, rainfall and so on. If the task seems daunting, start small and enlist the help of friends, gardeners, nurseries, books and online tutorials.

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Why Grow your Own?

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More than being trendy, growing vegetables is about a move towards sustainability, from relying on big corporations to relying on ourselves. With rich soil, good seeds, and your own compost heap, there is no doubt that growing your own vegetables saves money. A butter lettuce for instance, costs around R20 in a supermarket. For around the same price, you can get a tray of six butter lettuce seedlings, which you can eat from for weeks.

There is no doubt that home-grown vegetables taste better, are richer in nutrients and are obviously fresher than you can get them anywhere else. By making your own organic pesticide spray, you can also be sure that there are no poisonous chemicals on your veggies.
And finally, it is universally acknowledged that growing things is a natural stress reliever.

“There is no doubt that home-grown vegetables taste better, are richer in nutrients and are obviously fresher than you can get them anywhere else. “

Whatever your reasons for planting a vegetable garden, make sure you plan your design, use environmentally friendly materials, buy good quality seeds and do plenty of research to ensure the maximum yield and the healthiest food.

Happy planting!