Last week we discussed the preparation needed for starting your own vegetable garden. This week we’re going to move on to the next stage – planting!
You’ve got the garden bed or planters ready to go – weeds removed, borders built (if you want them!), compost and/or worm castings dug through, and you’re ready to plant. What to plant, though? That all depends on your space and preferences, but let’s look at what can be planted, and when! As mentioned last time, don’t expect to be able to fill your table immediately, but once the garden gets going, with a bit of love and care, you’ll have beautiful fresh produce year-round. First and foremost, though, make sure to start by planting vegetables you know you’ll like and use. Doing so ensures you’ll get the most benefit out of your garden while learning what works for you – and will help keep the motivation going. Of course, you can plant new veges you’ve never had but want to try, but keep those to a smaller number until you know they’re worth the time and effort you’ll need to put into growing them. And don’t forget – your local garden store is the best source of information for your particular circumstances. Pop down to see what they have and what they recommend for your area! Just don’t forget – different plants will have different growing times, and nothing happens overnight.
Spring might be the time of year most plants go through explosive growth, but there are more than a few that just love the cold! That means you can start your spring planting while it’s still winter – these plants will sit quietly growing so that when spring arrives, you’ll have a crop ready to harvest. If you live in a particularly cold area and are planning to do some winter planting, you might want to think about either starting your seedlings in pots near the house for warmth, or getting some cover for them. Cold frames can be ideal, and can be made yourself or bought from your usual gardening centre or DIY store. A cold frame is essentially a miniature greenhouse – it’ll keep your tiny seedlings safe from cold and wind. They are often used to ‘harden off’ any seedlings that had their start inside – that is, you can use them to get used to the cooler temperatures of the garden. Your garden centre staff will be able to explain how best to use them for your particular needs.
The standard cruciferous vegetables – cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower – can all be planted in winter for a late spring harvest, while their relatives kale and bok choy may even be ready by late winter! Potatoes can be started from September to December, plus or minus a month or two depending on your area – just make sure to plant from certified seed potatoes to ensure you have a healthy crop. Carrots are great for getting in the ground any time in autumn, winter or spring, making them close to a year-round crop. If you’re the patient type, asparagus can be planted at this time, though be warned – patience is indeed the key, as those spears take around three years to be ready for harvesting. Garlic and onions can be planted in the colder months to be ready for a fresh summer harvest. An old rule for garlic (though not one you have to follow to the letter) is to plant garlic on the shortest day of the year, then harvest on the longest – if nothing else, it’s a good indicator for rough sowing and harvesting times for that particular treat. More delicate options such as coriander, parsley, lettuce and spinach can be started in pots close to your house, then shifted once they’ve grown a bit hardier and the weather has warmed.
If you’re new to gardening, radishes are an excellent easy-grow choice – plus they grow quickly (they’re usually ready to harvest in 4-5 weeks!). Their quick growing time and easy results make them an excellent way to get kids interested in gardening, as it’s easy for them to see the growing process. They tend to prefer spring and autumn but depending on your local climate can be planted almost year-round. Finally, if you’re in the more northern parts of New Zealand, kūmara does best when planted from spring to early summer. It is frost-sensitive, though, so it doesn’t do well in cooler locations.
Once summer arrives – or even late spring – you can really get things going. Beans, cucumbers, mesclun and pumpkin all do well being planted in early summer, along with tomatoes and sweetcorn. If you want to mix things up a bit, rhubarb (technically a vegetable, though used as a fruit) can be planted from late summer right through to mid-spring. Rhubarb is another patience crop, though not to quite the same extent as asparagus – the lovely ruby stalks should be ready to bring in for your desserts or breakfast toppings in about a year. Mid-autumn is a great time to get started with peas and leeks – peas are especially fast-growing, generally taking between 45-70 days until they’re ready to harvest.
Your older kids might love the process of growing something themselves, but another tangible benefit to growing your own vegetables is knowing exactly what is going into your baby food – after all, you’ve grown those vegetables with your own hands! Once harvested, you can cook and purée your crops in batches, then store them directly in Haakaa’s Baby Food and Breast Milk Freezer Tray. Made from 100% silicone (no plastics to leach into the food!) and with the choice of a 6 x 70ml or a 9 x 35ml tray, these are a fantastic way to keep your hard work safely stored. They’re soft and flexible, meaning you can pop out only the servings you need for each meal and are effortless to clean. What’s more, they come with their own silicone lid to keep the contents safe – no more having to muck around trying to get cling film secure around your old plastic trays!
Alternatively, you might want to freeze some in our Pineapple Silicone Nibble Trays. These trays are designed to create snack-sized portions – and what’s more, those individual snacks will fit perfectly in our Fresh Food Feeder! You could also grab those fresh vegetables and make vege smoothies for your older ones – the Silicone Yummy Pouches even have an optional Sippy Spout Accessory to make it perfect for drinking your homemade smoothies!
Whatever you decide to plant in your garden, get advice specific to your climate and circumstances from the friendly professionals at your local garden centre – they know exactly what you’ll need not just to get started but to be as successful in the long term as you can. There are also a growing number of community gardens around the country, especially in areas that don’t have a lot of green space. They can be a wonderful way to learn how to grow your own food and get to know others in your community. However you choose to garden, it can be an enormously rewarding activity. Let us know what you grow, and how your Haakaa products help when it comes to preparing your vegetables and feeding your wee ones! You can find us on Instagram and TikTok - @haakaanz