The Good Soil

Vegetable gardening is one of the hottest trends in the garden market. It became more appealing during the recent economic turmoil, when people tried to save money. And it has continued to thrive through an increasing desire to live better and healthier lives, which includes watching what you ingest.

Some gardeners focus on food safety, believing that food grown by them is better. That, in turn, led to a burgeoning interest in organically grown food. The vegetable gardener pushes demand for vegetable seeds, organic vegetable fertilisers, natural pesticides and composts. For retailers, vegetable gardening provides a fantastic opportunity. It is crucial to stock the right products and be able to advise customers well to harness this growing market. As a long term benefit, it also pays to encourage customer interest in this direction. Gardeners who invest in vegetable gardening rarely deviate from that path, as it is said that vegies never taste as good as the ones that you grow yourself. What that means is that a vegetable gardener has the potential to become a garden product customer for life.

Know Your Stuff

You have to know what you’re talking about. Be sure that your staff members are trained in answering a few key questions…

“Where should I start?”

The absolute essential requirement for growing a successful vegetable garden is a sunny location. Recommend that customers avoid planting near trees and other plants whose roots can compete for moisture and fertiliser with their vegetables. Most vegetables will grow in well-drained soil. Adding organic matter is also helpful in creating suitable conditions for growth.

“What do I need to start?”

Customers need only these few things to start a veggie garden:

1) A good soil conditioner, i.e. manure or compost. A soil that is rich in organic matter will promote healthy growth and improve crop yields. Organic matter in soil also holds extra water, ensuring great vegies and reduced water usage. Manures are great for building organics in soil. One alternative is to recommend a premium quality soil conditioner, promoting one that has the red Australian standards logo AS4454. This logo applied to composts, soil conditioners and mulches is the customers’ guarantee that these products have been independently tested and certified to best promote plant and soil health.

2) A shovel. For digging up the soil and allowing it to breathe before organics are added.

3) A watering can or hose pipe. The amount and frequency of watering required depends on the crop, its growth stage, the weather and the type of soil. Most crops require consistent watering, and it is crucial that vegetables have access to enough water so the plants won’t become stunted or suffer reduced yields and quality.

4) Some seeds. As for which seeds, it depends on the season. Most seed packets include information on the best time to plant.

Once crops are planted, good maintenance practices require customers to keep several more products handy:

1) A good vegetable fertiliser. Regular application of fertilisers is essential for strong vegetables. The type, rate and time of application will depend primarily on the particular crop to be grown and the soil type. A good fertiliser that is applied during the growing season will ensure vigorous and healthy growth in vegetables. It will also help build the health of the soil.

2) Mulch. Most vegetable roots stop growing if soil temperatures are too high. Covering garden beds with good quality mulch will keep the soil cooler, resulting in active root growth.

3) Wetting agent. Often overlooked, but a great product to have on hand for the ongoing healthy growth of vegetables. Applying a wetting agent, especially during drier conditions, will ensure that the plants remain healthy and get all the water they need for maximum growth.

4) Pest control. Most vegetable gardeners cringe at using strong chemicals in the garden, so it’s best to recommend that they keep an effective natural insecticide. When it comes to pests and diseases – especially in a vegetable garden – prevention is better than cure. Snails love veggie gardens and can destroy entire yields.
“What is the right vegetable to plant now?”

Most vegetable seed packets include information on when to plant them. One handy accessory in stores is a wall garden calendar with a list of common vegetables and the best time for planting them. Some common year-round vegies are carrots, lettuces, celery and beetroots.

Entice Your Customers

Customers can be inspired to start something new only after they’ve entered a store, and a nice vegetable garden display might just be that little push they need to get them going. Set up the display with the few key items they need to get started. Keep it simple by including the basics – some bags of manure or compost, shovels, packets of seeds, watering cans and hose pipes. Approach your garden supplier for point of sale materials or information that can be placed strategically around the display. Posters of healthy veggie gardens can be a great inspiration.

Promotional packets could also provide added incentives. A ‘Start your own veggie garden’ pack isn’t expensive to prepare and set up, and it could be a great tool for an in-store promotion. It is important to create some excitement to generate and capture interest.

Vegetable gardening has grown at an incredible pace in Australia and the trend towards ‘green’ living indicates that edible gardens are here to stay. This creates amazing opportunities for garden retailers. Managed correctly, it could also lead to some incredible growth in the category.

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