We chatted to Starke Ayres for their valuable advice and tips on how to get started with a vegetable garden this summer. Many people are looking towards starting their own vegetable gardens. Which seeds would you recommend for beginners who aren’t blessed with green fingers? Vegetable seeds are fairly easy to start growing. For beginner gardeners a seed size that is easy to handle would be advisable. Spinach, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, beans and even pattypans would be good choices. If space is a problem, you can easily watch them grow in smaller spaces, like in pots on your patio. When is the best time of year to start planting new seeds? Certain varieties will neither flower nor produce fruit in winter, so spring and summer is ideal. There is sufficient sunlight to flower and pollinators are frequently available. What would you say is the key to growing a successful vegetable garden? Healthy soil, sufficient water and regular fertilising. What is the best way to keep pests away from a vegetable garden? Plant herbs such as parsley, basil, garlic, chives and coriander, as insects don't like herb fragrances. What does companion planting entail and can you give us a few examples of good combinations? Companion planting means growing plants together that benefit each other and have a real impact on the health and yield of plants. Here are a few examples:
- Broccoli and cabbage companions: celery, chamomile, bush beans, mint, dill and rosemary. Dill attracts wasps that help control pests, including cabbageworms. Rosemary repels the cabbage fly.
- Spinach companions: strawberries, celery, cauliflower, eggplant and radish. Leaf miners prefer radish leaves as opposed to spinach.
- Tomato companions: celery, spinach, carrots, parsley, basil, marigold and garlic. Garlic protects against the red spider, while marigolds control nematodes in soil.
- Zucchini companions: nasturtiums and flowering herbs. The flowers attract bees for pollination.
For more information about growing your own vegetables, visit starkeayres.co.za. Compiled by Astrid Sanders Photograph ThinkStock Images