How to Start an Easy Vegetable Garden in Retirement

Man holds home-grown tomatoes from his vegetable garden.

A vegetable garden sounds like a great idea, but will it be easy to manage in retirement? Will it actually grow? And is it hard to set up?

Starting a vegetable garden is not only rewarding, it can be easy too! With the right know how, caring for your garden can be as fun as harvesting or cooking a home-grown meal.  

Even expert gardeners make simple changes to their gardening routine as they get older. Here’s how to start a garden that’s easy on your body, and nearly sure to flourish.

A raised garden bed brings the vegetables to you. Image by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Choose the best garden bed for your retirement vegetable garden

The right garden bed is a big part of an easy-to-maintain vegie garden.

If you have space, go for a raised garden bed. Waist-high raised beds mean you don’t have to kneel or bend over when tending and harvesting your plants. Vege Pod beds are one of the post popular and affordable options.

You might consider a vertical garden. Many vegetables like beans, squash, and cucumbers grow well on a trellis. Otherwise vertical planters (or “wall gardens”) allow you to grow herbs and vegetables in planters set against a wall with hooks or a wire frame. Have a look at what Bunnings offers for an idea. Mr Stacky also has great vertical garden options.

Alternatively, you can use pots if you have limited space for your vegetable garden. You can grow nearly anythingyou would have grown in a garden bed in your pots.

Choose easy-growing vegetables to suit your garden

How much sun will your vegetables get? It might be full sun (6-8 hours of sunlight), part-shade (less than 6 hours of sunlight) or even full shade (2-4 hours of sunlight), depending on where your patch is placed.

As you’ll see below, some vegies are flexible about the sunlight they get (think spinach, kale, and silverbeet). The instructions on the seedling punnet or seed packet will tell you what the vegetable needs, and when to plant it.

Here’s a quick look at some easy-growing vegetables for each sun category:

  • Full sun: Cucumbers, squash, eggplant, tomatoes, capsicum, chillies, watermelon, spinach, kale, rock melon, corn, sweet potatoes, green beans, pumpkin, jalapenos, and a variety of herbs.
  • Part shade: beans, peas, spinach, kale, beets, broccoli, cabbage, onions, leek, radish, rutabaga, turnips
  • Full shade: kale, lettuce, spinach, arugula, endive, mustard greens, swiss chard, brussels sprouts

Top tip: intersperse your vegies with herbs to keep pests away.

Prepare your vegetable patch and get planting!

Choose easy-growing vegetables for your garden.
Choose vegies that grow easily in most conditions. Image by André Lergier on Unsplash

What soil do you need to make sure your vegies grow?

The best soil for raised garden beds is “triple mix” soil (a blend of compost, peat moss and loam), or top soil. Both come in bags at garden centres or online.

You’ll add a layer of compost on top of your triple mix soil, or mix it in if you’re using top soil. Look for compost bags labelled “organic” at the garden centre.

After that, cover with about two inches of mulch to stop weeds and keep the soil moist.

For pots and planters choose a well-draining potting mix. Go for ones with vermiculite or perlite, which aerates the soil, and look for potting mixes for vegetables.

Plant your vegies 15-20cm apart, because they’ll grow!

Photo by Chad Stembridge on Unsplash

Set up your vegetable garden for easy maintenance.

Most vegetable gardens need maintenance every day.

Simple substitutions can make your gardening experience much easier and more enjoyable in the long run.

Consider these tools for regular maintenance activities:

  • Watering: you’ll be doing this every day. If you don’t want to cart around a watering can, make sure your hose tap is close to your vegetables. Otherwise, a drip irrigation system means you don’t need to water at all!
  • Digging: A small gardening fork is actually easier to dig with than a trowel!
  • Pruning: if you’re pruning fruit trees, get a good quality ergonomic pruner. Holding your hand so your wrist is straight gives you more strength.
  • Garden cart: This is truly handy for carting your tools and bringing back your harvest. Think pumpkins.
  • Foam kneeler: If you have some lower pots or decided to go with a lower vegie patch, a foam kneeler can really save your knees when weeding.
  • A good hat!

For pest control, have a look at Gardening Australia’s natural pest remedies to keep bugs and diseases away from your vegies.

You may also need to put up nets to keep birds away.  

Whatever your vegetable garden looks like, these simple tips will keep it growing for as long as you want it to.

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