Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Backyard Blitz - building your own veggie garden cheaply

The other month our friend Lowie visited and he helped transform our garden so we can start growing herbs and veggies!! Three months on and all I can say is - why didn't I do it sooner! Okay, I know; threat of too much commitment and I didn't have the first clue of where to start. I had tried growing a few herbs in pots without great success so I didn't have too much faith in it all. Well turns out it's pretty darn simple!

So this was our yard beforehand, it wasn't getting too much love, stuff was stock piling up and it was just looking pretty ordinary!

This is our garden after, you can see the bed at the back being used for our herbs/veggies and the bed closest filled with all our ornamental plants :)

These are the only two herbs I had successfully kept alive before Lowie worked his magic, they ended up going into the garden bed and are extra super happy now

Lowie also helped set up the garden bed outside our house which until now, was just over run by weeds. Lowie definitely knows his stuff so I wanted to write down everything I learnt from the process

Lowie's Garden Tips

1/ Create a garden bed.  We used what we already had (wooden sleepers) to create the sides. You want your garden bed to have sides so you can have depth!

2/ Break up the soil. Lowie used a mattock to fluff up the soil and I think this will help the roots be able to grow deep and ultimately let your plants grow huge!

3/ Add Nutrients. We used compost from our compost bin and we bought a bag of compost (organix xtra). It pays to check the compost, a lot of the cheaper bags just have filler, I think chook poo and lime/dolomite are good/important for the mix.

4/ Mulch. This will retain moisture within the soil. You can buy mulch but all we did was rake the yard and use leaves as our mulch to save money.

5/ Walkway. If your garden bed is quite wide and not accessible from both sides, putting some wooden planks down the middle is a good idea so you can walk through the garden and pick things without trampling anything. Again we just used wood we already had lying around.

The outside bed before and after. In the after photo on the right you can see Lowie planting some seedlings underneath the leave mulch and utilising the walk down plank in the middle!

Super thanks Lowie for doing all the weeding/hard work!

If there is one thing I regret and will do differently next harvest is not to buy seedlings from a big home and gardens store. I did this because I didn't know any better but I later found out our local farmers market sells seedlings WAYYYY cheaper! Also I wouldn't be afraid to grow a majority of things from seeds helping to keep costs down as well another added benefit - which I'll talk about in a second.

I also made little tags stuck on twigs so I would know what seeds were what as they grew. Definitely don't need to do this, even though there are still moments where I wonder if a seedling is a weed or not, eventually it will become clear, well I hope so anyway!  We also put some chicken wire along the back fence so the tomatoes have somewhere to climb.

The animals dug (har har!) that we were out in the garden. You can see the sleeper (wood plank) which made the garden wall.

Another money saving/smart tip is to save your seeds. I had an Oprah aah-ha moment when I was talking to Lowie about buying seeds and he mentioned to remember to save them from my food. DUH! Why buy capsicum seeds when you are having capsicum for dinner and can just scrape out the seeds before you cook with it! I think I needed to feel stupid on this one and make the connection between what I buy and that yes, it has been grown and yes I can probably just grow it myself :p

Lowie's dog Shanti also a keen project supervisor. On a side note she and the cats got on much better this visit, although Peachy does still like to push buttons and be the queen of her domain :p

We had some cool things happen too such as these mystery plants that started sprouting. Lowie said the seeds were probably from the compost and once they were a bit bigger Lowie could identify them as watermelon. So many watermelom seeds sprouted that I probably should of pulled some (or a lot!) but I started to feel bad for them and equally amazed at their determination to grow so I made them their own garden bed :p

Another garden issue that popped up and that people warned me about were bugs! I started noticing some leaves being eaten and spying some grasshoppers (which I'd try and pick off and relocate), mainly from the outside garden which is more out in the open (no fence around). I asked my gardening friends for tips and one idea was to plant marigolds, not sure if they have helped or not but they look so pretty in the garden and you can eat them! I have a bunch of other organic pest control ideas (Ben's mum even sent me a whole fact sheet) but for now, I figure as long as I'm eating my greens faster than the grasshopper there shouldn't be too much of a problem. I've also noticed since the zuchinni and eggplants have taken off they have shielded the basil and spinach - a Lowie tip was definitely to scatter your planting to confuse the bugs - I'll report back if things change there! 

A friend also said his garden during the winter was fine for pests and since we're going into the cooler months here in Australia I might just have timed my planting to avoid them. Oh and guess what I spied a bee friend in our garden the other day which almost made me cry because I know we desperately need them for pollination!

This is what the garden beds are looking like now - so awesome!

I did learn that our veggies and herbs like sun and water, der :P The back garden bed only gets sun in the morning and early afternoon, whilst the outside bed gets sun all day! During the first few weeks, I was pretty confident the back garden bed was going to die, I was watering the plants every day (sometimes twice) but as soon as the seedlings got sun they looked wilted and dead, especially during the really hot hours. At one stage I even resorted to putting up a bed sheet to try and save them. I told Lowie my sad story and my doom and gloom over everything dying and he didn't seem too concerned and guess what, once they started growing they become sun hard and now totally love getting sun. I can even see that the outside bed is growing at a much faster rate and I'm guessing it's all to do with getting that extra sun each day. The outside bed also didn't suffer from the wilted seedling crisis and I think a big part was a lot of that garden was grown from seed and thus they grew up only ever knowing that one environment. My friend told me to never buy seedlings if they are for sale in a sheltered spot because most likely once you transport them to your sunny garden bed they'll die - ahhhh!

I think the best advice I can give a fellow newbie like myself, is to just give it a go (and follow Lowie's above tips). I've already learned so much and I'm even excited to begin planting my new crop when this one dies because I now know what does well, where to plant it, how much to plant, what I really love to eat from the garden, etc. I can totally see above that I may have planted a few too many zucchini and cucumber seeds, who knew they grew so big :p

Corn for Ben! I actually hate corn (don't judge me) I'm hoping when he comes back from work they will be ready for him!

And the best thing ever, walking around your garden and picking a bounty to use in your meal!

Here's to learning and growing!


  1. I am so jealous Fee, in the best way ;) I've always wanted a garden! Friends are amazing, don't they? Really love what he's done to help you start one. Can't wait to see the corns and tomatoes, if you plan to post updates <3

    1. So lucky to have a garden friend :) I also now I know it really isn't that hard! I'll definitely try to take photos as the garden expands and things grow, I'm spying lots of baby veggies at the moment!

  2. Things like this really makes me wish I had a house! I can't wait to someday have a yard where I can actually plant and experiment like this. Your yard looks so dreamy!

    1. :( I've definitely been in rentals with no garden space which makes me feel a little guilty for not doing something sooner where we live now :) What's life without goals though, right? :)

  3. This is so so amazing! We skipped doing a garden this year to take care of our grass but we did go through romaine lettuce and just replanted it and it's growing back nicely :) we can't wait for next year to go back to gardening!

    1. Your gardens have always been an inspiration Jane! I love seeing all those photos of you eating from your garden :) I've actually been searching for a cute little basket like yours to make gathering garden eats easier!


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