The Veggie Planner iPad App

Veggie Planner iPad App

The Veggie Planner app is a personal trainer for vegetable gardeners. Using The Veggie Planner iPad app, you’ll know what to plant when, what to do today, what’s going to happen tomorrow, and when you will be harvesting food you grew yourself.

Download_on_the_App_Store_Badge_US-UK_135x40_0801  Click here to go through to the App Store.

The Veggie Planner has planting guides for the most important home garden vegetable varieties – including heirloom tomatoes, pumpkins and carrots, through to lettuce, potato and corn. You not only track when they are planted and when to harvest, but the garden app guides to through the growing seasons, with tasks and reminders, that are plugged in to smart weather updates for your location.

Whether you have balcony pots through to suburban plots, you can organise your garden’s information and tasks, and see what’s going on in the garden at a glance, with this useful and beautiful garden app.
Extra Features in the iPad App

There is in-app subscription allowing you to enter garden plots into the app. From here you can use interactive companion planting and crop rotation information and watch a map representation of your garden grow! We have also added journal/notes functionality and perennial trees.

Best bits in the Veggie Planner iPad App;

  • What to plant when for your local area
  • Smart task manager that takes local weather into account
  • Cloud data backup
  • Forecast and schedule your harvest.
  • Local weather designed for gardeners with smart alerts
  • Timelines for important tasks – like watering, fertilise, trellis, and harvest.
  • Beautiful and clear imagery and navigation.
  • Focused, simple, seasonal management of your gardening.
  • Moonplanting

In-app Subscription Bits in the iPad app;

  • See your garden plots as a map
  • Interactive companion planting and crop rotation data
  • Garden journal
  • Perennial trees

The Veggie Planner is a great garden app for beginners. The Veggie Planner suggests what to plant now in your location, notifies you when it’s time to do important garden tasks, taking weather into account, and shows you forecasts of when your vegetables will be ready to harvest. Experienced gardeners use The Veggie Planner to schedule and track successive plantings to plan for long, productive harvests.

The Veggie Planner helps you grow your own food – sustainably – and helps you learn from your garden. Your iPad thumb grows greener every day.

Dig it!

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Trellising for Shade

Using Trellises and Beans to create shade in your Garden

Because this summer will be a very hot one, get your water into place now. Lay down irrigation pipes, but also ensure that you have shade in place. Last summer I have all my shade props align East – West  with the idea that shade would come into the areas behind those props. Usually I’d have some kind of climbing bean going up 10 feet high. But as you can see from the diagram below, in high summer with the sun directly above you, there’s not much shade.

E-W aligned trellis with shade at midday

So this year I’m aligning my shade props to have North – South. That way, when the sun is in the East and lower, the shade props are giving plants on either side a break as the sun travels over head.

In the morning, it will look like this;

N-S aligned trellis with shade in the morning

And in the afternoon, like this.

N-S aligned trellis for shade inthe afternoon

The idea here is to try and half the pain and water vigourously in the morning and the afternoon.

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7 Ways to Get Good Soil

broadbean

Good Soil is vital. If your soil is poor, then you will have unhealthy veggie plants that are suspect to disease and that don’t produce the kind of yield that you want. Soil needs to be tended and looked after from season to season as the veggies take out the nutrients, moisture and alter the pH balance. Good soil is a long term, on-going and fundamental part of your gardening.

In general, there 7 ways to get good soil. You will need to use all these techniques, all this knowledge to keep your soil and your veggies healthy and tasty.

Crop Rotation

Important for pest and disease control, rotating your crops give soil a break and lets you put in plants that add back to the soil. Beans and other legumes put nitrogen back into the soil which is important for leaf production. See here for our crop rotation infographic.

Companion planting

Knowing which plants benefit from being near other plants helps you to get the most out of your soil. Click here for our (growing) list of companion planting suggestions

Soil Type

Clay soil tends to be high in nutrients but retains water and is really sluggish to work with. At the other end of the scale, sandy soil is porous and doesn’t hold water or nurtrient. A balance needs to be found. At gypsum to clay soil to help break it down. I’ve also found that growing potatoes in clay soil helps to make it more loamy. With sandy soil, add heaps and heaps of organic matter.

Manure

Manure is any sort of animal excrement that has been treated or allowed to rot down. I use chicken manure that has been rotted down but have also used horse manure in the past. Manure should be treated and allowed to rot down so that any seeds that pass through the animal are dealt with and don’t germinate as weeds in your garden beds. If you are buying it from a local plant shop, a 5Gal bag should cover about 30sqF2

Compost

Compost is largely made out of plant matter that has decomposed and it a post/book/lifestyle unto itself. I like this quick guide.  Compost is simply more organic material that is added to the soil to help keep it healthy. It is cheap and you make it yourself with stuff that you would through out anyway. Again, spread across your veggie beds at a thickness of about an inch

Mulch

Keep the water that you have given the soil in the soil. Mulch is usually straw or lucerne or another dried out type of plant.

pH

Having the correct acidity is important for plants to grow and thrive. Certain trace elements become difficult for plants to take up even if they are in the soil because acidity is not correct for a plant. In general, potatoes and tomatoes like more acidic soil, while brassicas like slightly more alkaline soil. You can test your soil using kits that all gardening shops will have.

Crop Rotation

Why Practice Crop Rotation ?

Crop Rotation is an important part of making sure that you look after your soil. If you soil is no good then neither will your plants.

The basic idea is to put veggies in soil that best suits them. Heavy feeding plants (plants that produce large fruits or have large leaves) need richer soil than plants that don’t. So when you finish up with a crop of heavy feeders, you need to either pick a plant that is suited to than depleted soil OR put a plant into the soil that puts nutrients back in. I always plant carrots after potatoes, to the point where I now only plant potatoes in soil in order to get a carrot crop.

Crop Rotation Infographic
Crop Rotation Infographic

Rotating crops like this also reduces the chances of your plants being attacked by diseases/insects. If plant A is attacked by disease B, and disease B is prevalent in a part of your garden, then crop rotation helps. If plant A isn’t there to attack or be fed on (because you have put it some place else), then disease B isn’t able to survive. This is particularly the case with tomatoes and potatoes. There is a nemotode that become present with potatoes that then attacks tomatoes. To remove the nemotode, you need to remove the food it attacks. In this case, it means that you shouldn’t plant tomatoes in ground that has had potatoes in it for the previous 3 years.

Examples of Crop Rotation

In Spring plant your nightshades like peppers and eggplant. They have high nutrient requirements because of the fruit that they produce. Once they have been through, and BEFORE you replentish the soil with a manure or compost, place in a crop that has low nutrient requirement or indeed doesn’t produce the way we want if given too much in the way of nutrient. Carrots are a good example.

So now you’ve have a heavy feeding crop through and a light feeding crop through. It is time to put in a crop that will add nutrient back into the soil. Beans, peas and other legumes are ideal for this.

How to Hill Potatoes

potato
Potatoes that need to be hilled
Potatoes that need to be hilled

Potatoes are very easy to grow but to really maximize your yield, you should hill your potatoes.

What does that mean? It means gathering dirt up around the base of the plant and creating a hill for the plant to grow out of. The tubers (the bits we eat) only grow underground, so increasing the amount of the plant underground = more changes for the tubers to grow.

Step 1 – Plant potatoes

It should go without saying, but you should be actually growing potatoes before you can hill them.

Step 2 – Starting hilling when potatoes are 6 inches high

Hilling too early isn’t really an issue, but waiting too long can be a pain. The vigorously growing plant can start to fall over.

 

Step 3 – Create a cage

Creating a cage means that you can create a column of  dirt for the potatoes to grow in. Maybe we should call it ‘columning potatoes’ rather than ‘hilling potatoes’?

Hilled and caged potatoes
Hilled and caged potatoes

Step 4 – Hill the potatoes

Carefully place soil around the base of the potato plant and work up. I have worked with pea straw and haven’t had much success. When the straw gets wet and is in a pile, it can start to rot and get mouldy. Potatoes are prone to infections so keeping anything that could bring mould into play is a priority.

Step 5 – Wait for more growth

The potato plant will keep growing and putting out tubers. This means that you’ll quickly find yourself with a potato plant that will require more hilling about about 2-3 weeks.

Step 6 – Harvest while the plant is alive

Using this method, potatoes at the bottom of the hill are going to reach maturity earlier than those at the top. And while soil is a very good spot to store potatoes, you can also harvest them is you get the urge. Carefully dig in to the base of the hill until you find enough for dinner. You should wait until at least 3months after planting before doing this.

What do Flowers on Potatoes mean?

potato

If you’ve grown potatoes before, you’ll notice that sometimes you get a bunch of little flowers on the top if the potato plant. This is a good thing.

Flower production requires lots of energy. As a general rule, flowers on veggie mean that the plant has enough energy (acquired from nutrients in the ground and rain) and all things are going according to plan. In tomatoes in means that fruit production has started, but in potatoes it isn’t the fruit that we are interested in eating. So what does the flower on a potato plant even mean?

It means that the potato plant is now growing the tubers under the ground that we are interested in eating. The stem and leaves above ground have largely finished growing. The potato at this stage needs lots of water to use to grow the tubers so flowers on your potatoes means more watering.

Flowers on my PotatoesHeat can be a factor in tuber production. On days when the temperature is above about 100 degs, the plant will stop putting energy in to the tubers so make sure that you shade your spuds to ensure maximum yields.

Another technique to ensure you get lots of spuds is to “hill” the potato. And the time to do that is when the potato has flowers. Hilling potatoes is simply piling up more dirt around the base of the plant in order to give more ground for the tubers to grow under. I’ve used pea straw in the past but have found that when it is wet, it can encourage mildew and fungus, especially because of the extra watering that needs to happen. Use dirt, but NOT manure or anything that might “burn” the plant.

Peppers that last for five years

Peppers
Over wintered Capsicum plant. Spring should see new growth and more food!
Over wintered Pepper plant. Spring should see new growth and more food!

I left my peppers in over winter and they survived. Indeed, they were even producing a little fruit for most of the time. . .at least until the first frosts of the year moved through and killed the leaves off. The plants are still alive and I’m very hopeful that new growth will start shortly. How did this even happen and what’s next?

I gave them a lot of love over spring and summer. This meant water, mulching, rotten chicken poo, and shade. Checking the soil around them now, there are lots of worms and it has that certain ‘good dirt’ feel about it. I also applied Sulphate of Potash frequently, I thought too frequently, but it seems to have worked out fine. I gave them as much shelter as I could from the frosts, and they live in a warm part of the veggie patch.

The plants have a woody stem which means that they are well established. And if they are well established that means I should be getting capsicums sooner rather than later and it is free! According to a few wise gardening heads around the traps, if I can keep give them a lot of love, they should be productive plants for 4 to 5 five years.

Why Don’t I Get Flowers on my Tomatoes?

tomato

Flowers are where we get fruit. Making a flower is a sign of a healthy plant and making lots of flowers is a good sign as to the sort of yield you are going to get. If you have put lots of compost and manure into your soil, your plants should be able to pick up the nutrients that they need.

I thought that I had done that with my tomato plants. Lots of good quality compost as well as some pea straw that had been breaking down in the chicken run. Rain had come through at fairly regular intervals and the plants themselves looked in rude health with lots of leaf growth. I was looking forward to flowers and then not long after fruit. The flowers came through, but then they fell off before they started to set.

tomatoflowersremovedThe flowers had fallen off just at the point where they joined onto the stem. This was a problem that was occurring on all the tomato plants so I needed to sort it out. So why don’t you get flowers on tomatoes?

The most important trace elements in flower production are calcium and potassium. You need water to transport this where it is needed in the plants. So I made a concoction of lime (about a handful per plant) and potash (half a handful) and mixed that with 5 gallons of water. The lime provides the calcium and the potash provides the potassium. You could put these powders around the base of the tomato plant and then water it in, but I decided to do it all in one hit.

You should try very hard to avoid getting this mix on the leaves of the tomato plants because they will get burnt. What should then happen is that the next batch of tomato flowers will be more vigourous (from the lime) and you should get better and more fruit because of the phosphate from the potash.

How to Grow Leeks Twice

leek

I recently hooked up with experienced gardener and horticulturalist Brendan. Brendan has some truly simple ideas for making sure that kids get the best benefit out of gardening. But that’s another article. This one is about how to grow leeks twice.

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A Leek at two weeks after harvest
leek-4weeks
Same leek at 4 weeks after harvesting

 

 

Leeks are part of the Amaryllidaceae,or onion family and so count garlic and spring onions as relatives. I prefer growing them over onions because they are more straight forward to my simple brain. ie, I can’t get the knack of onions but leeks. . .leeks, I get. You stick them in, they grow, you hill them, then you harvest them. Like potatoes really. The kids prefer the milder flavour and I don’t worry about the long and short harvest types.

Last year, I started a batch as seeds in punnets around March for harvesting four months later have found that I can grow them most of the year in my temperate garden. I also started some in June in a patch that ended up having dozen of self-seed tomatoes and they worked ok. The soil in that particular bed was very rich (chookified dirt as well as – sadly – foxified chickens) so I took a chance and let them sort it out. The tomatoes came out in Septemner and the leeks have powered on since then. I harvest when they are about finger and bit in thickness.

The biggest problem that I have, as with most of the Amaryllidaceae, is weeding. The broad leaved weeds I can spot very easily, but the thin grassy ones are a little tricker. They usually come about from the chookifying that I encourage. The chooks work over a patch after I’ve thrown some feed where I need them need to do their business. Keeping the leeks in a very exact grid helps me to pick out the weeds. They aren’t in the lattice, then then they are cactus.

The other minor problem is that they do take quite a while to mature. Four months to harvest. If only there was a way to either make then harvest quicker OR get another use out of them. That’s where Brendan’s neat little trick comes in.

Instead of pulling the leek entire out of the ground, you cut it off about half an inch of the ground. The leek shaft starts to grow again very quickly. Why so quickly? The root system is already established and so the newly sprouting leek has a ready built nutrient gather. These images where taken two weeks apart. Not sure yet when I’ll be eating harvesting these, but in much less than 16 weeks.

Companion Planting Beans

beans

Runner beans are probably the easiest thing to grow in your garden. They sprout very quickly and provide nitrogen fixing. They can clamber up poles and harvest very quickly.

Plants the benefits from beans are any that require lots of nitrogen to grow. So good companions are brassicas, like cauliflower.

Corn benefits from the nitrogen and also provides a trellis for the bean to climb up. Start the corn about one month ahead of the beans though. Corn grows slower than beans and needs to the head start so that quick growing beans have something to climb up.

This is our companion planting guide to beans.

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