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I love gardening! Specifically, I love vegetable gardening. For me, there are few things that give me more pleasure than going down to the patch and harvesting a basket full of fresh produce ready to prepare for the evening meal.

But, some people can lose that love of gardening by not following a few simple tips that help to ensure that the vegetable garden doesn't become overwhelming - instead of it being a "love", it becomes a chore.

The following tips will help you to ensure that harvesting that basket of produce is not preceded by extended periods of time when you question if it is all worthwhile. Well, it is worthwhile; you just have to keep it simple and following these tips:

Tip 1 - Not all vegetable crops are easy to grow.

Start your vegetable gardening journey by acknowledging to yourself that some plants are easier to grow than others. 

In the first instance, focus on planting 'simple to grow' crops like lettuce, spinach and bok choy. While it doesn't always apply, a general rule is that leafy greens are relatively easy to grow and require relatively minimum maintenance. Many of them also tend to be less susceptible to pests and disease.

More difficult to grow crops include such things a brussel sprouts, artichokes, broccoli. Each of these can be heavy feeders and brassicas such as broccoli and brussel sprouts can be susceptible to pests such as the white cabbage moth.

So, build your love of gardening by keeping it simple. After a while try giving those more difficult to grow plants a go - but, not all at the same time.

Tip 2 - Plant less not more

Remember, you don't have to plant everything at once. The more you plant, the more there is to look after. So when you are planning what to plant, be mindful of what you are happy to look after. Also, if you have planted a lot and you get a 'bumper' crop, you are going to end up with much more than you need. Sure, you can share the excess with friends and the general community, but the extra harvest took more time, space and effort to grow than you actually needed.

A little hint ...... prepare a plan of what you want to plant. Why plant more than you need and why plant things that you or your family are not going to want to eat! Also, many is the time that I have found myself coming home from the local nursery with boxes of seedlings to plant, just because I have seen them on the shelf and thought to myself; "wow, wouldn't it be nice to have .....". The end result is that I have ended up with much more than I needed, with the associated cost being much more than it should have been.

So, plan, plan, plan and then stick to the plan!

Tip 3 - Manage weeds by doing little bits often 

Weeding your garden after allowing it to become overgrown with weeds is not only difficult, but also exhausting. One sure thing to zap your enthusiasm for gardening is the task of weeding a garden that has become overgrown. I avoid this by turning weeding in to an enjoyable task and in my view, the only way to do this is to do little bits often. I have found that after a difficult day at the office, there are few things more cathartic than weeding the garden for 10 or 15 minutes. How much weeding is necessary will of course be dependent on how big your garden is, but generally, I would recommend 10 to 15 minutes minutes, 2 or 3 times a week.

The alternative is to let it go. But that will result in a back breaking full day of getting the garden cleaned up - I know which one I prefer.

Some further tips on weeding to make it even easier:

  • Never let weeds go to seed - ensure that you remove them before that happens. Allowing weeds to go to seed only creates even more weeding for you during the following season as all those seeds germinate.
  • Always mulch - not only does mulch help with moisture retention in the soil, it also reduces the growth of weeds.
  • Weed after it has rained - weed roots are less able to hold the plant in the soil when the soil is wet making the action of weeding much easier.
  • Keep the garden paths clear - weeds will alway work their way on to the garden from the paths, so keep the paths clear of weeds - It also keeps the garden looking nice and tidy. Keep the paths clear by using a mulch to cover the path. Good mulches to consider include; cardboard, wood chip, bark chip, or gravel.

Tip 4 - Don't vegetable garden to save money

Don't fool yourself; it will rarely cost you less to grow your own vegetables than to buy them at the supermarket. Even if you grow your vegetables organically (like me) and don't purchase a multitude of fertilisers and treatments for pest and diseases, it will still not be cheaper. Consider the following: You will need: 

  • garden tools.
  • seedlings or other starter plants.
  • a good water supply.
  • ways to manage pests and diseases.
  • Mulch.
  • good quality soil.

And, the list doesn't stop there ............

Now I know that you may already have some of this equipment, or you can provide or make them at no cost, but my point is that there is a cost. Generally, my advice is to not grow vegetables in order to save money - it is unlikely that you will. My reasons for growing my own vegetables do not include cost savings but do include:

  • I know where my vegetables have come from and what has been used to help them grow.
  • I can grow varieties that are not available in the supermarket.
  • There is usually only minutes between the ground and my plate.
  • They always taste better
  • It is great exercise
  • Lastly but not least ..... it is great for my mental health!

To my mind, the reasons more than compensate for any additional costs that might be incurred by growing your own vegetables.

 So, to summarise; garden in ways that make it easy and pleasurable. Don't make it a chore! Remember; keep it simple and don't grow more than you need. Lastly, don't forget to weed small amounts frequently. Doing these things will help to ensure that vegetable gardening is never a chore and is always pleasurable.

Happy gardening!

About the author: Steven McLean

I am an educator and passionate gardener and traveler. Throughout my adult life, gardening has been my passion, therapy, drive and source of purpose. Even as a child I had an intrinsic interest in plants and a desire to understand what makes them grow.

I distinctly remember the moment this began - my family was on one of our regular road trips from Hervey Bay; Australia. We were driving past a field of sugar cane. Dad pulled the car over and we cut a couple of sugar cane stems and brought them home for a treat. To be honest, I didn’t really like the taste, but I did want to try and grow it; and that is exactly what I did. It was then that my fascination, interest and passion for gardening and understanding plants began.

Fast forward a few years and I studied biological sciences and began what would be a 36 year career as a Biology educator. From this, I don’t only love gardening, but I also love helping others learn about gardening. I am also always looking for new ways to develop my own gardening knowledge. I like to think I am truly a life-long learner.

Fundamental to my beliefs about education is that learning is often best done as a part of a community - learning from others, and helping others to learn. It is this type of community that I hope iCultivate will be for its members - a community of gardeners, keen to share their gardening knowledge and wanting to learn about new ways to garden - a community built on the love of gardening.

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