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Veggie Gardens in Canberra

By Hoo Haa - 23 October 2011 38

Mrs Hoo Haa and myself are about to try our hands at setting up a veggie garden but we know very little about it.

Does anyone have any good tips or can anyone recommend any good resources/links/books to learn more about the subject (specific to our climate)?

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38 Responses to
Veggie Gardens in Canberra
RedDogInCan 12:35 am 24 Oct 11

The thing I hate about veggie growing in Canberra is the ridiculously short growing season for summer crops. Frosts can still catch you by surprise up until early November but if you play it safe then nothing is ready until after New Year. By the end of February everything has cooled down again. By the time the capsicums have ripened they end up frost damaged.

But not this year. We finally got around to using the cold frames we bought from Aldi a couple of years ago and boy what a difference. The lettuces we planted in early September are now ready and we currently have so much lettuce that its BLTs and caesar salads every day. Our tomatoes are just beginning to bear fruit and should be ready to harvest next month.

Watson 9:48 pm 23 Oct 11

Postalgeek said :

Canberra Organic Growers Society

They also provide planting calendars for the Canberra region on their website

Hm, I only have a fairly old edition, but I never got much out of the Canberra Gardner. There are resources online to find out when to plant things in our climate. I also buy my seeds from the Diggers Club and follow their planting advice.

enrique 9:31 pm 23 Oct 11

One of the best starting points is to go out to one of the many garden/landscape supply stores around town and get two things…

A steaming bucketload of compost – perhaps go with CSG’s mushroom compost – it’s pretty bloody rich and will have your produce going nuts in its first year.

A big bucketload of mulch. You can’t have enough of the stuff in our dry climate.

After you;ve got all that, plan out how you’re going to get water to your plants in a regular, efficient and sustainable way. Direct line drip irrigation from your own water tank is a good option. Does anyone else have any other good ideas?

Postalgeek 9:31 pm 23 Oct 11

Canberra Organic Growers Society

They also provide planting calendars for the Canberra region on their website

enrique 9:26 pm 23 Oct 11

I haven’t read it in a long time but this book had some great localised hints and tips…

“The Canberra Gardner”
ISBN: 9780646540610

mrwoz 9:24 pm 23 Oct 11

‘One Magic Square’ by Lolo Houbein is a wonderful book that I would recommend. has some good resources and a fantastic variety of heirloom seeds. ABC Canberra local radio has a plant and harvest guide on their website at
Lots of other resources around, but these are probably a good start.

Hosinator 9:15 pm 23 Oct 11

We bought a book from Dymocks, which was specifically targeted to growing plants and vegetables in Canberra. I can’t seem to locate it on our bookshelf to give you the name.

There are a lot of tips however the simplest are:

– Sunny position preferably somewhere that will get 6 to 8 hours of sun a day, including winter.
– In the ground is a lot better than pots. We always find that veggies and fruit grown in pots never yield as much or even grow at all. Whilst in the ground they get regular nutrients from different sources.

For the most part we grow our crops by trial, error and a lot of patience.

Welcome to the market garden!

Sammy 9:04 pm 23 Oct 11
astrojax 8:42 pm 23 Oct 11

abc666 saturday mornings.

garden centres – not major hardware retail chains’ versions of them – for good advice.

hard work and time for good results, but as stinger notes, nothing beats home grown produce so all worth it. oh, and get a worm farm – worth its weight in gold [well, mebbe not that much – they weigh a tonne!] for the worm wee alone…

Grail 8:18 pm 23 Oct 11

A good book to pick up is The Canberra Gardener, produced by the Horticultural Society of Canberra.

miz 7:18 pm 23 Oct 11

Most of the other material available in gardening magazines and the like is aimed at more temperate climates than ours, like Melbourne. We have extreme heat and cold and thus need more specific info. Canberra Gardener is the best reference – it has a calendar on when to sow and plant. Most bookshops carry it. There is a 2010 edition out.

You can also get gardening advice on 2CC 1210 (Sat and Sun 7-9am) and ABC 666 (Sat 830-10am). Both programs take questions from callers.

Basically though, put your patch in full sun (6 or 7 hours of sun a day), keep the water up to it if it isn’t raining, and watch out for snails when your seedlings appear. (Beer – or vegemite water in low plastic containers attracts ’em and they get sozzled and die).

Your beds can be as simple or fancy as you like. You can start off simply or fit more permanent vegie beds into your landscaping, eg prefab steel or the awesome ones shown on Costa . You can also use sleepers. If using treated pine, use the ACQ arsenic-free sort.

I just have two ‘beds’ (just allocated space, really) surrounded by a layer of left over second hand pavers – it looks rustic and does the job. I also put various herbs like parsley and chives in amongst other garden plants, where they look after themselves.

Have fun and enjoy eating your own produce!

Watson 7:08 pm 23 Oct 11

Sorry, that was a ridiculously long post. 😮

Watson 7:07 pm 23 Oct 11

Pots were a disaster for me because I have the memory of a goldfish and always forget to water them. Miss one day and your plants are dead.

I started last year and after umming and arring for ages about raised garden beds etc. I just got a couple of friends to come over one afternoon, dug a couple of patches along the fences and planted seedlings with some cow manure sprinkled around them. I then installed a watering system (took me a few hours, but the most time-assuming thing was to keep going back to Bunnings for the right bits) added a digital tap timer and my veggies took care of themselves. I had a bumper crop of tomatoes, zucchinis, carrots, beetroot, potatoes, cucumbers and capsicum. Even had a few rock melons. This was all without adding anything more to the soil than some cow manure and a couple of applications of seaweed fertiliser to boost some of the stragglers.

But my soil seemed quite good from the start.

My best crops were the ones that I planted in the existing flowerbeds in between the native bushes. Against an East facing fence, mind you! And I reckon it was because they had been mulched with fine forest litter a few months earlier. The mulch has now pretty much broken down and that soil looks so fertile I could eat it. Full of worms and very easy to dig. So I would highly recommend the mulch to boost your soil. To start now, you probably want to dig in some compost too. There’s a couple of landscaping places that sell both by the cubic meter and can deliver too. I’m a bit weary of the Mitchell place though as their soil introduced couch to my garden.

I didn’t really get much from the books I’ve read. They all take it way too far and it put me off, the amount of work they seem to say you have to do. The one resource that got me fired up was a blog post that basically advised to do some minimal digging and stick your seedlings in. They’ve since changed that blog to the usual “test your soil, add all sort of expensive stuff to get it right, dig for 3 days straight” kind of advice. Pity…

I didn’t use any pest control and the one thing that I didn’t manage to grow was broccoli and cauliflower. Swarms of those white butterflies made sure that none of them survived their ravenous caterpillar babies’ infinite appetite!

NoAddedMSG 6:12 pm 23 Oct 11

Have a look at this website . For a $20 subscription for the year, you get weekly advice on what you should be doing in your vegie garden, with the aim being to grow continuous cropping vegies, rather than those which take up a lot of space for a long time then deliver their crop all at once. For example: cabbage is terrible in limited space vegie patches because you end up with 10 cabbages all at once and then that is it – plants are done. Broccoli is better because you can harvest the central broccoli part and then it sprouts more heads so you can keep harvesting.

I think the vegies the website tells you to grow are spot on, but my experience on growing times/harvesting times is that the website tends to be a little bit out – I find the growing times are usually a bit longer and the harvest times a bit shorter, but it is a really good way of getting started if you are only at that skill level where you would try and plant basil in Autumn and Coriander in Spring.

Right now in my garden I am planting/getting ready to plant: tomatoes, chillies, capscicum, lettuce, zucchini, cucumber, basil, radishes, green beans and corn. With regards to tomatoes and chillies, I don’t bother with raising from seed, I just buy a selection of different varieties at different times from the Farmer’s Markets. Everything else I raise from seed.

Stinger 4:46 pm 23 Oct 11

Hey Hoo Haa

A good place to start is with prefabricated veggie patches. The missus & I picked us some of the Birdies veggie beds from Bunnings and they work a treat!

Alternatively, use lots of pots. Its cheaper and you can clump them for ease of watering.

Nothing beats fresh greens from your own garden!


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