The key to growing great vegetables is good tools, lots of sun and proper soil preparation.
By Mark Cullen
All veggies favour a loose, organic rich soil. I spread compost 3 to 4 cm thick over my veggie bed and dig it in at least 30 cm, or 12 inches deep, into my existing soil. Look for compost that is certified by the Compost Quality Alliance. If you are planting carrots or other root crops the key is to open the soil up with generous quantities of sharp sand – ‘builders sand’ – which you can purchase at Home Hardware. Do NOT use beach sand, as it is too fine for the job. My carrot soil is at least 30% sand by volume and I dig it down about 50 cm deep (18 inches) to avoid root ‘forking’.
Use a sharp spade to work the soil. I prefer long-handled digging tools because they save me from stooping and bending. I sharpen my spade with a garden file every time I use it. This makes digging more enjoyable as it takes much less effort to get the job done.
Some gardeners swear by them and others have never used them. I wear gloves to do just about every gardening task, as I don’t like painful blisters and splinters. I also like to keep my hands fairly clean in case I feel like munching on some fresh veggies in between hoeing weeds. Quality gardening gloves are flexible enough that you can remove small seedlings from a tray. They are tough, repel moisture and resist wear at the fingertips. Choose a pair of gloves with a wrist closure – to keep dirt from jamming down the palm. Wearing a good pair of gardening gloves makes playing in the dirt even more enjoyable.
If you’re like me, you are always guessing how far apart each seed should be in a row. A planting meter stick provides the information at my fingertips. I also use a solid aluminum planting stick to keep my rows straight when I want them to be.
Until now, the best method for removing young weeds is still the traditional garden hoe. This year check out my ‘Back Hoe’, a Mark’s Choice product. I am really impressed by this weeding tool! It comes pre-sharpened! Be sure to keep the sharp edge with a garden file. I sharpen my hoe with a file every time I use it: this takes less than 2 minutes. While taking care of weeds efficiently and quickly, it also saves your back from excess strain.