Growing fruit, vegetables and herbs
Fruit and vegetable gardens are traditionally high then backﬁll. Gently shake the tree by the trunk to settle the
water users but there are ways to minimise their water soil around the roots—this helps eliminate air pockets so
needs. Here are some tips to enable you to enjoy the moisture can reach all of the roots. Once this is done, gently
beneﬁts of growing your own produce without using compact the soil with your foot.
too much water. Fertilising—Apply fertiliser generously in a circle around the
outer root zone of the tree. This will encourage the new roots
to grow towards the fertiliser, which will break down and be
General tips absorbed by the soil. The roots will grow towards
Group plants with similar watering needs together. the fertiliser and this will help to establish strong roots for
Avoid plants with high water and space requirements. a stable tree.
Add plenty of organic matter to your soil. This improves Mulching—Use mulch around the tree, but never allow it
both its moisture and nutrient holding capacity and to touch the trunk or collar rot may occur.
allows better water penetration.
Pruning—Prune trees to keep them compact (less than
Mulch well. 3metres high and wide)
Use water crystals to retain soil moisture. Choosing waterwise fruits—Choose drought-tolerant fruits,
Use self-watering pots to prevent the soil drying out. which have lower water requirements. These include ﬁg,
Always check the soil’s moisture level before you mulberry, olive, grape and pomegranate.
Produce gardens don’t have to be large; a few pots on Vegetables
a balcony are enough to grow herbs and a few basic
vegetables. With many dwarf varieties available, even the Preparing the site—Vegetable gardens need sunlight. Select
smallest space can be used to grow tasty vegetables, a growing area that is sunny for most of the day and is
herbs and even fruit. sheltered from strong winds. To make a vegetable bed, turn
over the soil, breaking clods or lumps as you go. Add some
compost, well rotted manure or fertiliser and turn the soil
Fruit trees again to mix it through.
Preparing the site—Select a site that gets direct sunlight for Planting—As with fruit, choose a cool day for planting and
at least half the day, but is protected from strong winds. If plant early in the morning or late in the day to minimise
you have a bare-rooted fruit tree, dig the hole to the depth stress on young plants. Vegetables can be grown in potting
of the new roots. The width of the hole however, should mix or in a hydroponic set up, but the most common medium
extend past the roots. Most fruit trees have roots that feed is still good garden soil. Soil needs good drainage and a
just beneath the surface of the soil, and thus need room to good structure. Regular incorporation of organic matter (such
spread out. as compost) will keep the soil functioning well.
Watering—Water the site thoroughly the day before planting. Watering—After planting your vegetables, water thoroughly
Water your fruit tree a few hours before planting to moisten so that the entire root system is moistened. Thorough
the root ball and prevent damage during planting. You could waterings are more effective than light sprinklings. Don’t
also use water crystals around the root ball to prevent drying. allow plants to reach wilting point; conversely, don’t ﬂood
Once the tree is planted, give it a good watering in, then them as this washes away nutrients, encourages disease,
water daily for seven days. Following this, water frequently and may cause drainage problems.
enough to keep soil moist. Remember to always check the Soil wetting agents will help water penetrate, and water
moisture level ﬁrst to make sure water is needed. crystals will help to retain moisture. Water your vegetables
Planting—Choose a cool day. Plant early in the morning or in the early morning to avoid disease problems and get the
late in the day to minimise stress on young plants. Position maximum effect from the water you have available.
the tree on a loose pile of soil at the bottom of the hole and
Staking—Some vegetables need extra support in order to Herbs grow well together in pots provided you select
grow well. Stakes and trellises can help plants grow tall and compatible herbs. For example oregano and thyme come
strong. Always drive stakes into the ground well away from from the Mediterranean region and are used to similar
the root zone in order to prevent damage to the plant. conditions so plant them together. Remember to use good
Fertilising—Vegetables, more than most other plants, need quality potting mix and a pot with good drainage. Herbs
to be supplied with adequate nutrients. Organic manures prefer a shallow pot—this allows the potting mix to warm
and compost are fundamental to the success of vegetable up adequately and promotes good growth.
gardens. Organic matter provides nutrients for plants as it Herbs should grow fairly quickly, so expect to start
is broken down by soil micro-organisms, eventually forming harvesting in about three weeks. Herbs don’t need much
part of the humus layer in the soil. This greatly improves soil maintenance. Just prune off enough for cooking needs—that
structure and leads to better drainage, oxygen availability, will encourage compact growth. The more you use, the better
water retention and nutrient-holding capacity. the plants will be.
Mulching—Mulching over plants’ root systems, preferably Watering—As for other plants, it is better to water your herbs
with an organic mulch, will retain soil moisture, suppress thoroughly on an occasional basis than to water them lightly
weeds, reduce temperature ﬂuctuations, and prevent but frequently. In hot weather, check the soil daily to ensure
soil crusting. that it does not dry out. If practical, water in the morning
Pests and diseases—Healthy soils, sensible planting and rather than the evening (especially in winter), as water left on
watering also help reduce the incidence of pests and the plant overnight can increase its susceptibility to fungus.
diseases. Seasonal crop changes help prevent the spread Fertilising—If you add compost to your soil or potting mix
of diseases (or insect pests) which may attack vegetables before planting, your herbs should have enough nutrition
belonging to the same group. for quite some time. However, it is beneﬁcial to add more
If you are unsure what control is needed, ask your local fertiliser at occasional intervals. Avoid liquid chemical
garden centre staff member for advice. fertilisers as these encourage too much leaf growth, resulting
in lower concentrations of essential oils and making the
Choosing waterwise vegetables—Choose vegetables that plant more susceptible to insect attack.
are highly productive for the water they use. These include
tomato, beans, cucumber, squash, eggplant, capsicum, Mulching—Mulching helps to keep water in the soil as well
zucchini and pumpkin. as keeping plants cooler. Mulch also reduces the growth of
weeds and improves the organic quality of the soil. Use
Growing vegetables in pots—If you have no room for a 3–4 centimetres of organic mulch on your herbs, keeping
vegetable plot, grow some tomatoes, radishes, capsicum or it away from the stems to reduce the risk of rotting.
lettuce in pots in a sunny position on the patio or balcony,
where they will look good as well as being useful. Most herbs are very hardy and adapt well to different
conditions but, like all plants, they will grow best if you give
Potting vegetables from seedling pots is straightforward. them the conditions best suited to them. To ﬁnd out the
Remove the plants from the small pots and gently separate. requirements for the herbs that you would like to grow, check
Fertilise them initially to provide a good start. Then fertilise the label on the seedlings or seeds.
every two weeks—liquid feeding is ideal to encourage steady
growth. Generally, plants will take about six weeks to grow Choosing waterwise herbs—Herbs with lower water
and be ready to harvest. requirements include thyme, rosemary, lavender, sage
Remember that vegetables in pots need sufﬁcient sunlight.
Also, start with a good quality potting mix (see Growing
plants in pots or containers information sheet). Do not use When to plant
soil, as it will become compacted quickly.
Ideal planting times vary for different fruits, vegetables
and herbs depending on their growing seasons. Generally
Herbs speaking, warm season vegetables are planted out in spring
and cool season vegetables in autumn. Fruit trees, vines
Herbs tolerate a wide range of growing conditions. Many and shrubs, and some root crops are planted in winter. It
of the popular culinary herbs enjoy full sunlight and is essential to plan ahead and ensure space is available
relatively warm soil temperatures so be sure to put them throughout the year for different annual vegetables.
in a sunny spot.
Note: Don’t use untreated greywater on edible parts of herbs,
vegetables and fruit, or allow it to splash on them. Also,
avoid using greywater in pots because salt and nutrients can
build up in the limited soil volume.
Other water-efﬁcient gardening guides are available
on the Department of Environment and Resource
Management website <www.derm.qld.gov.au>.