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Veggie Patch Tips

One of the big food forecasts for 2012, as outlined in our Trend Report, is the garden to table trend where people are choosing to grow their own vegetables, as opposed to purchasing them from the store. The return to a much more wholesome way of eating seems to be taking off in many households, as people become more conscious of where their food comes from and how it gets to your plate. We asked 'Urban Farmer' and local blogger Matt Allison for his advice about planting and growing your own veggie garden. Having created a thriving veggie patch of his own that produces more than 40 varieties of herbs and vegetables, Matt really is the guy to talk to... Here are his 10 tips for planting, growing and maintaining your own veggie garden: 1. You need a minimum of 6 hours of sun a day, preferably North facing, without obstructions that may cast shadows. 2. Good soil is essential. To blend your own, use an equal part mix of compost, river sand and peat. Mix in kraal manure and bone meal. 3. Adequate watering is a must. A good gauge is to insert your index finger up to the first joint and if the soil is moist, it's adequately watered. 4. Drainage is also extremely important. Just as too little water can kill your plants, overwatering will have the same results as it will cause root rot. 5. Start with easy to grow veggies like lettuces, salad greens and culinary herbs (try chives, mint, thyme and basil). Start small and build up your confidence towards more temperamental plants. 6. Observe plant spacing. This is critical - that baby cabbage seedling is going to need over 50cm of space to grow to harvest size. 7. Practice companion planting. Companion plants are plants that are mutually beneficial to one another, like basil and tomatoes or beetroot and lettuces. Do a search for companion planting charts. 8. If space is a limiting factor use pots, boxes or even bags. Many plants only need 15-20cm of soil to grow in and culinary herbs like basil, thyme, mint and chives are quite happy on a sunny windowsill. 9. Avoid pesticides! To make your own 'organic'  pest control mixture, mix 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1 crushed red chili, 1 tablespoon of cooking oil and 1 teaspoon of dishwashing liquid to 1 litre of water, and spray onto infected plants as needed. Refrigerate the mixture and keep it for up to a week. 10. Practise regular garden maintenance: remove dead leaves, water daily, and mulch in excessive heat. For more information you can contact Matt via Twitter at @mattallison or visit his website at