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Raised garden beds with growing vegetables in backyard.
Cultivate delicious fruits, vegetables and herbs at home, all year round.

Homegrown hacks

Nurturing, harvesting and preparing your own food produce is inherently fulfilling – not only does homegrown taste great, but your gardening efforts will also help to ease grocery bills. While a large-scale vegetable patch is only a dream for those of us short on time and backyard space, there are big gains to be had from small outdoor plots and pots. Just be smart about the fruit and vegetables you choose to grow and you’ll be reaping the edible rewards before you know it.

Picking the best fruits and vegetables to grow

Deciding what produce to grow in your backyard veggie patch is your first step, according to self-sufficiency expert Sheryn Dean. “Look at what you eat that you can easily grow, or look at what you can easily grow that you want to eat,” she says.

You also need to consider how much growing space you have in the outdoor area you’re working with at home, as well as working out how to be efficient with growing times in the garden. While you may really love cauliflower, in the two or three months that it takes you to nurture three cauliflower from seedling to harvest in your garden patch, you could grow and harvest three crops of bok choy that will stretch much further than three or four meals. Why not get the best of both worlds and interplant the space between your slower-growing crops with fast-growing greens? Waipu-based market gardeners and foodies Jen and Gus Ross of Left Fields suggest bagged greens that are pricey at the supermarket checkout are often the easiest varieties to grow. “

Delicate salad greens such as lettuce and rocket are perfect to grow at home,” they say. “Kale and silverbeet are ‘cut and come again’ and will yield for several months as the plant continues to produce after the outer leaves are harvested for meals.” Don’t forget about the importance of adding flavour to your food either. Fresh herbs are simple to grow inside and out your home, so are ideal as potted plants on your kitchen windowsill, outside deck or balcony. Try growing herbs frequently used in your family’s favourite recipes, such as parsley, rosemary, basil and coriander.

Assortment of plants grow in a backyard vegetable garden.

How to prepare your garden veggie patch

As long as you choose an area in your yard that gets at least six hours of full sun a day, you can grow your own food. If you’re starting a new vegetable garden in existing garden beds, remove the weeds, add compost and sheep pellets and start planting seasonal produce.

You can also convert an area of lawn into a productive vegetable garden. Use a spade to scuff off the grass, turn the soil lightly, incorporate compost and well-aged manure and plant seeds or seedlings directly into that. If you have a heavy clay soil or your available growing space is concrete or paved, raised garden beds are a great option. Wooden raised beds will cost a fair bit to construct and fill (note: don’t use treated pine for raised beds), so if you’re trying to save money, opt for affordable steel or composite models that you can purchase for less than $60.

Using compost to help fill a raised garden bed is a great idea as well, says Scott Bromwich from Daltons. “Change out one-third of the mix with compost,” he suggests. “Also, you don’t actually have to fill the entire raised bed with soil,” he adds. “A half-filled raised garden will still provide the same crops as a full one. Do this in stages – fill it halfway, plant your crops for the season, then next season add another layer of mix and plant out again.”  

Green, leafy vegetable plants growing in a backyard vegetable garden.

Grow your own food in pots

As long as you choose the right garden tub or container, you can grow most edibles successfully in outdoor pots – or anything you can drill drainage holes into. “Plants growing in pots and containers have limited access to nutrients and water,” says Scott. “Therefore, it’s crucial to select the right growing media.” For containers of 50 litres or more, he recommends using garden mix. For smaller containers, he advises using a high-quality potting mix for optimum growing conditions in terms of nutrients and drainage.

Sweet, Purple and lemon basil growing in pots alongside greenhouse tomatoes.

The cost benefits of growing vegetables at home

When you compare the cost of a packet containing 100 or more seeds to the price of a six-pack of seedlings, it’s clear that growing from seed is more cost-effective. You just need to be prepared to put in the mahi (work), gardening hours and nurturing efforts. Gus and Jen Ross recommend installing a small greenhouse in your backyard to provide a warm, light space for seed-raising to make homegrown produce as successful as possible.

You can also save seed from plants that have fruited and flowered. “I sow short rows of mesclun mix and rocket fortnightly or so, and once they get past perfect, I leave them to flower,” says Sheryn. “Then among all the beneficial insects dancing around, I harvest the flowers for my salad, too, then leave some to set seed for the next cycle.”

Greenhouse built in a backyard.

Cultivate produce in small outside spaces

No garden? No worries. If your available growing area at home is a sunny patio or balcony, take advantage of vertical space. Cucumbers, beans, sugar snap peas and different berry vines can all be trained along strings, trellis or growing frames. You can also grow salad greens, strawberries and herbs in vertical planters and wall gardens with self-watering systems. Some are designed to be attached to a wall or you could try freestanding models in frames.

Vegetables growing in pots placed in a wooden pallet.

Plant fruit trees for long-term cost savings

Even just one fruit tree will help lower your grocery bill. You don’t even need as much space as you might think to grow fruit, you can plant them in raised beds or pots. Fruit trees need at least six hours of sun a day and well-draining soil. You will have a more successful harvest if you fertise regularly with a citrus and fruit fertiliser containing the right mix of nutrients to support growth. Apple trees are a good choice because they’re generally disease resistant and can be stored for a few months.

Growing citrus fruit is another great option. Meyer lemons are hardy and fruit year round, and easy-peel Satsuma mandarins – look for varieties Miho, Kawano, Silverhill or Okitsu – are other great options. Create a harvest calendar with a rough estimate on when each tree will produce fruit. With careful planning, it’s possible to harvest almost year-round.

Apple tree growing in backyard.

Keep in mind…

Wear gloves and a mask when handling potting mix, mulch and compost. Store all garden chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.

Ready to harvest your own bounty?

Find the right tools for the jobs with our range of gardening products.

 

Photo Credit: Juliet Nicholas, Getty Images, GAP Photos, Alex Reinders

Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.