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Gardening A-Z

Harry, the 20 something year old brother of one of our team members, is a long-time Manawatu farmer, first-time vege grower. We're going to keep you updated of his first attempts at building, creating and maintaining a vegetable/herb garden here:

Think mixed veges, and you’ll probably conjure up an image of a frozen plastic bag brimming with peas, beans, carrots and corn – a favourite for many kids.

Have you often thought about creating a vege garden but don’t know where to start? Or have you previously tried your hand at growing herbs and the like but without success? Well, read on because these are my top tips for creating an easy, and bound to thrive, vegetable garden.

What you need

  • Macrocarpa wooden railway sleepers, or
  • Old tyres, or
  • non-treated wood
  • Polyethylene liner
  • Gun stapler and staples
  • Friable soil
  • Awapuni vege and herb seedlings
  • Mulch or pea straw
  • Bird netting with a stake frame

Size matters

First things first, how big should you make your garden? I recommend creating a patch that is around 3x4 metres big. If you make it smaller you won’t have space to rotate your crops and stagger your planting for a continual supply. And, if you make it bigger it may become overwhelming and too much work for a first garden.

Sunny situation

Once you’ve worked out roughly how big you want your garden to be you need to find somewhere to build it. Ideally the spot you choose should get good sun.

Raise your garden

Your garden will work best if raised and filled with good quality, friable soil. Lifting your garden off the ground will allow the soil to drain and stop it from getting too wet.

Non-treated Macrocarpa wooden railway sleepers (available from your local hardware store) are great (and easy) for making a raised garden out of. You can make the garden one sleeper high or as many as you want depending on how you want your bed to look and how far you want to bend to garden. Whatever wood you build your garden out of remember to use non-treated timber so it doesn’t leach into the soil and then into your plants. The garden pictured is made largely out of old fence battons - with a timber framework underneath.

An alternative to building a wooden bed is to use old tyres. Simply stack them on top and next to each other to create areas to plant.

Tyre gardens are especially good for growing potatoes in. Potatoes are part of the root system of the plant, so the more soil you have around the plant, the more potatoes you’ll get. If you keep adding layers of tyres as the potato plant grows, you can keep building more and more soil up around the plant, resulting in more and more potatoes.

Or if tyres and sleepers aren't your thing, simply pop into your local garden centre and see what they have available. Some will stock pre-built planter boxes, which are also great for a beginner garden.

Line it

Use a gun stapler to line the inside of your new garden with polyethylene to prevent the wood leaching into the soil and the water from your garden leaking out. If you’re planting in tyres you don’t need to worry about lining them.

Create a good foundation

Now you need to fill your raised garden with soil. Head down to your local garden centre and get some friable (breaks apart) soil to fill the bed with. And I’m not talking about a few bags of potting mix. If you’ve made your garden around 3x4 metres you’ll probably need about a trailer load of soil. Ask staff at the centre to point you in the right direction. They will have a big mound of local, suitable soil somewhere on premise. If you have compost, dig some of this in now. If you’d like to learn how to make compost too, visit here.

Get planting

And now to the best part of creating a vege garden – buying and planting your seedlings.

You can head to your local supermarket or Bunnings to buy Awapuni seedlings or head to our online shop and get them delivered direct to your door. The rule of thumb with Awapuni seedlings is if it’s available, either instore or online, then it’s suitable to plant at that time. But the absolute best time of the year to plant is in spring when the soil temperature starts to warm up. How can you tell when this is happening? If you find you’re mowing your lawns more often, then the soil temp is on the rise.

If choosing from over 100 different herbs and vegetables seems a little daunting then, and this is my recommendation for any beginner gardener, start by planting quick growing seedlings that you enjoy to eat. Vegetables like lettuce, courgette, cucumber, spinach and silver or rainbow beet are all fast growing and easy to maintain. Stay away from onions and plants of the brassica family (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage etc) as they need a big area and a lot of time to grow. Lastly, plant herbs like thyme, oregano, mint and strawberries around the outside of your raised garden. For instructions on how to plant each variety of seedlings follow the instructions on the back of the Awapuni labels. Alternatively, use the search function in the top right corner of our website to find my gardening guides for growing different types of Awapuni plants.

Stagger your planting

For a continual supply of veges (particularly your fast growing ones like lettuce, rocket and ones you like to eat a lot of), plant a new bundle of seedlings every couple of weeks. This will ensure the veges you like to eat are always ready to harvest. Mixed bundles like the Awapuni mixed mesclun and mixed herb varieties are great if you want a certain type of plant to always be ready to harvest but don’t want too much one plant at one time.

Mulch it

Once you’ve filled your new garden with seedlings, cover it with mulch like pea straw. This will help keep the weeds down and maintain moisture – especially important over summer. When you eventually harvest all your plants dig the pea straw or mulch into your garden. This will save you having to dig over your garden next time you plant seedlings.

Cover it

To ensure your hard work doesn’t go to waste, I recommend covering your garden with bird netting or some sort of net closure. I use bird netting with a stake frame which I purchased from The Warehouse. It stops the birds getting to my veges, neighbours’ cats and dogs doing their business in my garden, and our chickens from digging everything up. If the holes are small enough it may also prevent other pesky creatures like white butterfly from devouring your produce.


If you plant the seedlings I recommended above, at this time of year (spring) you can expect to start harvesting your hard work in around six weeks.

I would like to have a small veggie garden that grows enough to keep me going year round.  I'm not sure how much to plant or when to plant it.  I don't have a large garden area.

I'm wanting to start a raised bed vegetable garden using old railway sleepers. However I'm concerned about the creosote seeping from the sleepers into the soil. Are railway sleepers safe to use for a vegetable garden? Should I line with polythene or use macrocapa or something else.

I've planted some scarlet runner seedlings out into my veggie garden last week, worked general garden fertilizer into the soil as well.  Now the ends of the leaves are growing yellow.  Do you know what is causing it?  We've had strong wind one day since and hot days - although at night I wet them after a hot day so they don't dry out. I've had advice to put some lime in as a side dressing, bur not sure if that's the problem. Thanks.

Daylight saving has finished and, as if in sympathy, the weather has responded with frequent showers and cooler days, to add to the misery of shorter evenings.

However it’s not all doom and gloom, as winter’s approach provides the green thumbed amongst us with a challenge to maintain healthy gardens, irrespective of seasonal change.

With this challenge comes the need to re-evaluate factors such as temperature, pests, soil preparation and, particularly importantly, which varieties should be planted at this time of year to get the best from your garden.

Are your lettuces the size of tomatoes? Do your beans look more like peas? Does your vegetable garden need help – desperately?

Fear not! says our gardening expert, Henri Ham of Awapuni Nurseries. We have some great vegetable growing advice for those who lack a green thumb, and now is just the right time to plant some really interesting veges that will add a little pizzazz to your Christmas table.

As every parent knows, getting kids to eat anything that’s good for them can be an uphill battle, especially when it comes to vegetables. The best solution may be to get them to help you plant them.

New reports show fruit and vegetable prices rose 3.6 percent in July, with lettuce up a whopping 32.4 percent on the previous month. Instead of swapping fresh for frozen, or going without altogether, Awapuni gardening guru, Tod Palenski, recommends Kiwis get back into growing their own.