Vegetable Gardening for Beginners

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How to plant a tomato


Tomato Planting Recipe.

A friend gave me a recipe for preparing the holes prior to planting tomatoes. I’ve added to this recipe, tested it and would now like to share it with you all. This recipe should work for Eggplants and Capsicums as well. I’m having great success so far!!

1. Dig a nice deep, big hole. Approximately 40cm (at least) wide and as deep as you can make it.


3. At the bottom of the hole add: 4 x cups of worm castings or well rotted compost.

1/2 x cup of powdered full cream milk.

1 x Teaspoon of raw sugar.

1 x Tablespoon of Bicarbonate soda.

½ x cup of Epson salts.

½ x cup of natural Gypsum.

If your soil is clay based:

Add more Gypsum and Course Washed River sand to the base of hole but also to the soil you add to the planting hole.

If your soil is sandy or dusty based:

Add more worm castings/compost to the mix.

4. Mix all the ingredients up at the base of hole and combine into existing soil.

5. Hydrate the hole thoroughly making sure there are no dry pockets.

6. Add a few big handfuls of damp, plain soil on top of ingredients.

7. Plant your tomato as usual.

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8. Once planted sprinkle more powdered milk on the surface of the soil.

9. Water in well.

10. Water in with liquid seaweed.

11. Mulch with an inch of sugar cane mulch to well outside the drip line.

12. Continue to water with liquid seaweed every few days for at least the next two weeks, and then cut back to once a week for the remainder of the tomato’s life.



Organic matter. Worm castings contain all trace elements and will aid in moisture retention.

For a full list of why WORM CASTINGS are amazingly brilliant for your garden please refer to:


Organic matter. This is a microbial food source that will also aid in moisture retention and attracting earthworms.


Calcium. This is a soluble form of calcium that will aid in luring beneficial bacteria.


This feeds the fermenting process of compost etc. Adds glucose that will attract beneficial bacteria and may aid in flowering.

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Sodium bicarbonate. This will create bubbles of carbon dioxide being released into the soil. Bi carb has been used as a natural fungicide that will help prevent powdery mildew etc.


Are magnesium sulphate. This will aid in photosynthesis and chlorophyll production.


Calcium and magnesium. A form of gypsum that has no heavy metal content. This will also help to break up clay soils and aid in mineral transport and uptake.

Calcium is like the bus driver. He takes all the elements (Nitrogen, Potassium, trace elements etc) to where they are needed. No bus driver and all the elements are just sitting at the bus stop, being useless. You can add all the elements you like to the soil but if there is nothing to transport them…..


This will aid in drainage, aeration and cation exchange. If using for with clay soils it will help keep the clay particles from binding together again. Think of clay particles as hugging themselves tightly. You add Gypsum and the hug releases itself. You add course washed river sand and it helps keep the particles from reforming that bear hug.


Is considered a “growth stimulant and a plant tonic” not a fertiliser as it contains marginal macro nutrients but a large amount of trace elements. Liquid seaweed also contains:

growth regulators, alginates, carbohydrates, naturally occurring plant hormones (auxins and xcytokinins) and essential plant vitamins.

It is considered a plant stimulant which:

• Improves the root system and encourages fibrous root systems.

• Increases the reproductive capacity, therefore encourages greater fruiting.

•Strengthens the cell wall which decreases the likelihood of fungal disease and sap sucking insects been present.

•Increase the cell wall density which decreases the point of terminal wilt and increase the plants frost tolerance.

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• Encourages flowers to stay longer on companion flowering crops.


A bacterial based mulch that is perfect for all bacterial motivated plants: vegetables, small flowers (Cosmo, Allysum, etc), small shrubs, grasses, citrus etc.

You can also help your tomato fight unwanted pests by planting flowers around the garden that will attract beneficial insects:

An Amish Pate tomato that was grown by P. Burroughs that weighed 800 grams!!


Zucchini- Cucurbito pepo

Zucchini- Cucurbito pepo

Family: Cucurbitaceae.

Origin: France.

Growing conditions:

• Zucchini is a warm season crop that dislikes cold weather and frost. They require a full sun position in the vegetable garden with plenty of air flow to help combat fungal disease.

• Humus rich, well-drained soil with a pH of 6-7.5.

• Mulch well with sugar cane mulch.

• The watering requirements of zucchini change throughout their growth stages. Once fruiting has started you need to be vigilant and water more frequently to aid in proper fruit development.

• Watering practices: always water in the mornings, never evenings to discourage powdery mildew. Only water the base of the plants avoiding the foliage. Regular fertilising of liquid seaweed and worm castings will strengthen the plants cell walls and make it harder for fungal spores to attach themselves. Blossom end rot is also caused by irregular watering and/or too much/little water. Lack of calcium also plays a role in blossom end rot so when preparing the planting beds incorporate a dose of gypsum. So the mantra is- regular, deep watering early in the mornings. This will help combat the two most common problems with zucchini.

How to grow:

• For strong plants is best to direct sow seeds. Seeds need to be planted 15-20mm deep into raised mounds with a diameter of approximately 1metre and a height of approximately 30cm. Each mound should be approximately 1.5 metres apart (in hot humid climates) or 1 metre apart (for cooler climates).

• Sow 3 seeds for each mound. Once the seeds have emerged and sprouted their first set of leaves select the strongest seedling and gently cut off the remaining seedlings just below soil level.

• High temperatures are required for the germination of seeds and occur when soil temperatures are approximately 18-32°C.

• Zucchini is a bee pollinated vegetable so encouraging bee populations to your garden will prove adventitious. Refer to the companion flower section later in the book. Nature’s handiwork can be imitated by hand pollinating the plants. Approximately six weeks after the seeds have germinated, the male flowers will appear. These generally outnumber the female flowers. Male flowers- narrow and straight. Female flowers- smaller in size and have a small fruit at their base to hand pollinate and aid in fruit production pick a male flower, remove all of the petals and lightly brush the pollen laden end across the female flower.


When to harvest:

• Picking zucchini while they are small – 15cm will guarantee the best flavour.

• Don’t forget that the flowers are also edible.


How to harvest:

• Choose a sharp knife and slice between the thick stem and the zucchini.

Common problems:

• Common pests include: squash vine borer, cut worms, caterpillars, grasshoppers, wireworm, pumpkin beetle, twenty-eight spotted ladybug and thrips.

• Common diseases include: powdery mildew, pythium, black rot, gummy stem blights, wilt, and blossom end rot.

Tomato – Lycopersicon esculentum

Tomato - Lycopersicon esculentum

Family: Solanaceae.

Origin: South America.

Growing conditions:

  • Tomatoes are a warm season, frost tender annual. Seeds require a warm soil of between 18 – 28°C to germinate. Sowing at too low a temperature will cause delayed or failed germination.
  • Growing tomatoes successfully requires good soil nutrition. Grow in a fertile, well-drained vegetable bed with a soil pH 5.8 – 7. Prepare the soil by adding gypsum, an organic slow released fertiliser and organic matter prior to planting.
  • Adequate, regular water is essential for optimum growth and development of the fruit. Irregular, light watering practices will encourage thick skinned, small, sharp flavoured fruit.
  • By deep watering of the soil (not foliage) and layer of sugar cane mulch you will prevent bacterial and fungal disease as well.
  • Tomatoes can be grown on many different support trellises. This can include 3 stakes in a tee pee shape, lattice, or a chicken wire fence or over any structure that allows good airflow.
  • If staking the tomatoes be sure to place the stakes into the soil prior to planting. This will then minamalise root damage and disturbance later.

How to grow:

  • Seeds can be direct sown into vegetable beds to minimise transplant shock.
  • Tomato seedlings germinate best at a temperature of 15 degrees Celsius and above.
  • Keep moist and at the first sign of emergence liquid feed with a half strength dose of liquid seaweed and half strength worm juice to aid in root development.
  • If raising the seedlings in containers prior to planting sow seeds at a depth of approximately 6 mm deep into seed raising mix. Germination takes approximately 7 – 14 days. Seedlings are ready to transplant into the vegetable garden when the 2nd set of ‘true’ leaves appear. During the seedling development make sure they are not overcrowded and that they receive strong light. Seedlings will become etiolated (leggy) with weakened stems if insufficient light is given or if they are overcrowded.
  • Tomatoes seedlings can be buried up to their first set of leaves (remove this set of leaves prior to planting to prevent rot). This will encourage greater growth and fruit production.
  • Plant approximately 1 metre apart with 50cm between each plant to allow for good airflow, and lessen the chance of bacterial leaf spot occurring.
  • Pinch out lateral growth as the plant develops to encourage greater fruiting and less leaf production. Lateral shoots are small shoots that grow between the main stem and a side stem.

When to harvest:

  • You can either pick tomatoes when they are just starting to turn red and allow them to ripen on a well lit airing tray away from sunlight, or, you can allow them to ripen on the plant. If you choose to let them ripen on the plant you may need to enclose them in grow bags to prevent birds and other tomato loving animals from harvesting the crop for themselves.

How to harvest:

  • To pick tomatoes make sure you cut the stem cleanly with scissors or a knife.This reduces the chance of damaging the fruit and allowing disease to enter the plant.

Common problems:

  • Common pests include: white fly, caterpillars, nematodes, aphids, mites, fruit fly,
  • Common disease include: bacterial wilt, mosaic virus, fusarium wilt, grey leaf spot and damping-off just to name a few.
  • Blossom end rot is also common in tomato growing if you have not supplied the plants with sufficient calcium (gypsum) and regular, adequate water. This can be overcome by incorporating calcium into the planting beds prior to growing the tomatoes. It’s never too late to do this. Simply water the soil, sprinkle the calcium (gypsum) around the base of the plant and water in again with water, liquid seaweed or worm juice.
  • Tomatoes grown in the same spot each year can be badly affected by root nematodes. So it’s vital to rotate your tomatoes each season. They’re grown in the same bed as eggplant, capsicum (bell pepper) and chilli’s (hot peppers).

Rosella – Hibiscus subdantta

Rosella plant flower and calyx red

Origin: Native to tropical West Africa.

Family: Malvaceae.

Plant description:

  • Rosella is a fast growing annual shrub which reaches heights to 2 metres.
  • An attractive plant, with reddish green leaves and yellow flowers that resemble hibiscus. It is widely grown for its edible red fleshy calyx that are used in salads, jams, jellies, syrups, teas, wines and cordials.
  • The young leaves can be cooked like spinach and the fibrous stems can be used as jute substitute.

Growing conditions:

  • Rosella will grow in most soil types provided there is adequate drainage. The size of the harvest will depend on you providing plenty of water and fertiliser throughout the growing period. Once the rosellas starts to show signs of flowering, cease fertilising and only supply the plants with liquid seaweed.

How to Grow:

  • Sow seeds in early September- tropical areas or the onset of warm weather in other regions. Rosellas need a very warm soil, 25 degrees Celsius or over, to germinate. In cooler climates you will need to start the seeds indoors under glass, by using a bottom-heat propagating unit, or the top of a water heater.
  • Rosellas need at least 5 months of frost-free conditions to bear fruit.
  • To produce an abundant crop, three to five plants is all that is needed. These are usually grown from seed but can also be propagated from cuttings, but the yield will suffer from this. Leave approximately one square metre of growing space for each plant.

When to harvest:

  • Plants will generally begin to bear fruit when about they are approximately four months old and may continue to crop may for up to 9 months. It is advisable to remove the first “flush” of flowers. By doing this you will allow the plant to fully develop, which will provide you with more fruit in the coming months. Tip prune the Rosella when it becomes lanky to encourage a bushier, more productive plant.
  • The fruit is ready to pick when they are approximately 2 – 3cm across at their widest part. This is approximately 3 weeks after flowering.

Common problems:

  • Mealy bug and aphids may be your only adversaries with growing rosellas. If you have provided a balanced, regular fertiliser program along the way then these pests will probably not present themselves.

Lettuce – lactuca sativa


Family: Asteraceae

Origin: Lettuce originates from Mediterranean and Near East (Persia).

Growing conditions:

  • Lettuce is one of oldest, most prevalent salad vegetables. There are varieties available for all seasons to allow all year planting in temperate climate conditions. Select the most suitable variety for the time of year and the climate that you live in. A general rule of thumb is to avoid planting hearting varieties throughout the hottest time of year to avoid humidity and moisture problems.
  • Lettuce enjoys a rich, well-drained soil with consistent moisture. Soil pH should be close to neutral as it dislikes acidity.
  • Prepare the soil with organic matter, gypsum, a slow release fertiliser and a little added potash.
  • Feed regularly with liquid seaweed and worm juice.
  • Mulch well with sugar cane.
  • Growing under shade cloth is beneficial in hot areas.
  • Always regularly water in the morning to prevent a bitter tasting lettuce and combat fungal diseases.

How to grow:

  • The best soil temperature for germination is between 15 – 20ºC. Lettuce seed refuses to germinate over 30ºC. In the warmer months, chilling the lettuce seed in the refrigerator for a few days before sowing will improve the germination rate.
  • Direct sow or sow into seedling trays for later transplanting. Cover the seed lightly to a depth of 5 mm deep. This will still allow light and moisture to penetrate the soil. Firm down the soil and keep moist. Space plants approximately 20 – 30 cm apart for good airflow.

Sweet Corn – Zea mays

Sweet Corn – Zea mays

Origin: | Family: | Growing Conditions: | How to Grow: | Harvesting:

Growing conditions:
How to grow:
When to harvest:


Egg Plant

Egg Plant

BOTANICAL NAME:  Solanum melongena


aubergine = berenjena = brinjal = garden egg = egg apple = patlican = melongene = melanzane = Guinea squash.

The Eggplant is a spongy, mild-tasting fruiting vegetable that  has a  meaty texture.  It is low in calories.  Generally it is not eaten raw, but is baked, grilled, or sauteed.   Eggplants are best when they are firm with unbroken skin, have no soggy indentations and are shiny in colour.  Male eggplants tend to have fewer seeds, and are therefore less bitter than female eggplants. 

To recognise the sex of an eggplant, look at the indentation at bottom. 

If the indentation is deep and shaped like a dash, it’s a female. 

If the indentation is shallow and round, it’s a male.  

Smaller eggplants tend to be less bitter.  

FAMILY:     Solanaceae.


The Eggplant has been noted as an aphrodisiac and feared as the cause of insanity.

The Eggplant is believed  to have originated in India .Cultivationhas been recorded in China as early as 500 B.C. The Eggplant was originally taken to Africa by the Arabs and Persians during the Middle Ages and eventually found its way to Italy in the 14th century. c

Eggplants were consumed without hesitation in various parts of the world, except Europe. In fact the Europeans called it “mala insane”—the mad apple or bad egg. Because it belonged to the nightshade family (which contain numerous poisionous varieties of plants) the humble eggplant was considered dangerous and was considered unfit to consume.

Louis XIV during his reign in the 1600’s first introduced the Eggplant to the menu but wa not accepted very well….supurstitious notions that the Eggplant caused fever, epilepsy and even insanity created a belief that the Eggplant was more of a n ornamental plant rather thatn a food source.  This belief continued for more than a century.

The United states was first introduced to the Eggplant  in the early 1800’s by Thomas Jefferson. Once again – because it belongs to the nightshade family it was slow to gain acceptance into the culinary world and to be accepted as a vegetable. It took until the late 1800’s and early 1900’s  when Italian and chinese immigrants entered America to revitalise the potential of the eggplant and make it an socially accepted edible vegetable.



American: Generally regarded as the classic or regular eggplant that you buy in the supermarket.  Large in size, purple in colour.

·        Japanese eggplants and Chinese eggplants:

 have thinner skins and a more delicate flavour than the American eggplants, and not as many seeds – these tend to make an eggplant more bitter. Typically more slender than the American eggplant.  They range in colour – purples, pinks, greens.

Sicilian eggplants

Large in size with purple stripes.  Thin skined with a subtle flavour.  

Baby eggplants: 

 Small in size, growing to only about 8 inches long.  Sweet flesh and thinner skin.

The small size of Indian eggplants means they are tender and easy to slice.

 Garden eggs:   very small eggplant, the size of an egg or smaller. A colour range from white to greenish-yellow.

The Japanese eggplant is long and skinny and ranges in color from dark purple to nearly black. It has a smooth, thin skin and a flavor that is both delicate and sweet. 

 Chinese Eggplant

The Chinese variety of eggplant is easy to recognize as it has a light purple colour and a long, smooth, cylindrical shape. They taste sweeter and more delicate than more common eggplants, primarily because they have fewer seed.

White Eggplant vs Purple Eggplant:

  • White has a hard skin vs purple has a softer skin
  • When cooked the white eggplant has to have its skin removed vs the purple eggplants skin can be left on to be eaten.
  • The white eggplants are considered less bitter with fewer seeds vs the purple eggplant is considerably larger so there is more flesh to eat.
  • The white eggplants are considered creamier vs the purple eggplant is still larger so there is more to eat…


  • Ph 0f 6-7in a rich fertile soil.  Best suited to the warmer months of the year to provide 5-6 months of hot weather.
  • Eggplants are frost-tender and prefer a full sun position.  Early morning sun is advised due to the hairy nature of the leaves. 
  • A deep rooting perennial that prefers a well drained soil.
  • Grow to a height of approx 1m and a width of .5m
  • Hairy leaves, sometimes having tiny spines.  Star-shaped flowers –  usually purple, sometimes white.
  • Edible fruit that can beeither: black, purple, green, white, yellow, orange or red, sometimes striped or shaded.
  • Harvest times can vary  from 45 to 90 days after transplanting seedlings into  garden beds.

Eggplants are generally classified by the shape of their fruit. There are five basic groups:

  • globe, elongated or cylindrical, egg-shaped, specialty and pea eggplants.


Spacing – I generally space Eggplant at approx .5m apart to allow for adequate airflow and sunlight.

Staking is not required if you produce strong healthy seedlings. 

Plenty of liquid seaweed throughout the growing stage will produce a strong root system to hold the plant sturdy in the ground.

Do not allow to fruit until the plant is of an adequate size.  Could you hold up a bowling ball if you were only a baby?

A balanced, organic fertiliser is recommended.


·        This will depend on each variety but tradirional varieties take 50 – 70 days.


·        Cut fruit off with scissors or secateurs.  Do not rip the fruit off s this will create an opening for disease to enter the parent plant.


  • Potato beetle and Flea beetle – will cause holes in the leaves.  Both can be controlled easily with the application of a natural bacteria called SPINOSAD. 
  • Aphids
  • Mites.  These will be identified by “small pin pricks into the leaf surface”.  You will not be able to see mites with the naked eye.
  • 28 spot ladybug – it will also devour leaves.

·         Another way to control insect pests is to encourage ladybugs, lacewings and other beneficial insects in your garden. These “good bugs” are natural predators of aphids, mites and many other damaging insects.   




 A 28 spot lady bug = BAD GUY.