With the soaring cost of food, more people are turning to growing their own. The easiest vegetables to grow are leafy greens and salad vegetables, with seedling punnets ready to plant at all 10 of Flower Power's Sydney garden centres. To ensure successful growth of these leafy veggies – such as lettuce, spinach, silverbeet and chard – follow our handy tips.


Silverbeet and Swiss chard are popular leafy greens - and with the right approach, you can grow them in abundance at home!


Tip 1: Plant them in a sunny spot

Veggies need a sunny spot to grow. Leafy greens tolerate some shade, particularly afternoon shade, but ideally plant seedlings where they’ll get at least six hours of sunny conditions (for example from 8am-2pm). This is usually in a garden bed with an easterly to northern aspect. A southerly aspect is usually too shady to grow veggies in winter, but may have enough sunny hours during summer. If you are unsure about which direction your garden faces, use the compass on your smart phone or simply observe where the sun rises (which is the east) and sets (the west) – if you have the east on your right and west on your left, you are facing north.

It is also possible to grow leafy veggies in containers such as troughs or pots that can be moved into the sunniest part of the garden, which may be the back steps, under the clothesline or in the middle of the lawn! Vegepods are purpose-built for this need, and their built-in netting Vegecover makes them an excellent way to grow leafy greens while keeping pests at bay.


Tip 2: Any old soil won’t cut it

Use a specialist veggie mix in containers or raised beds - Flower Power recommends Supersoil Professional Herb & Vegie Potting & Planting Mix. Otherwise, grow vegetables in garden soil that’s been enriched with organic matter like aged compost, aged manure or soil improver. To enrich soil, simply dig in extra organic matter before planting. As leafy veggies are grown for their leaves, not their roots, the soil doesn’t have to be very deep, so digging organic matter in to a spade’s depth is usually enough. Don’t allow the roots of seedlings to come into contact with fresh fertiliser or manure.


Short on space? A Vegepod is a great way to grow salad veggies and can be moved around your garden to chase the sun.


Tip 3: Take care getting seedlings out of the punnet

Seedlings are small plants with delicate roots, so be gentle as you transfer them from the punnet to their home in the veggie garden or a larger container. A good tip is to soak the punnet in water before trying to separate the seedlings. Seedlings growing in individual cells can be removed by pushing the plant upwards from its base, rather than tugging it out which can break off the roots. If you have more seedlings than you can fit into your garden, plant the excess in pots or give them to a friend or neighbour.


Tip 4: Pay attention to spacing

Veggies need plenty of room to grow, so don’t plant them too closely together. Seedlings start off small but quickly grow to a mature size. The lettuce or spinach you buy at the shop can give you an idea of how big veggies can grow. Even though seedlings look lonely, space them out according to the mature size of the vegetable. Recommended spacing is always included on the plant tag on the punnet, and is usually around 20-30cm apart for large vegetables. Click here for more reasons you should always keep the plant label!


Don't be tempted to plant your leafy greens too close together - give them room to grow!


Tip 5: Reduce transplant shock

Even with careful handling, transplanting seedlings can give them a ‘shock’ and delay growth. Watering them in with a liquid seaweed tonic such as Seasol helps avoid transplant shock and gets seedlings off to a good start. Make sure water is soaking in. If it is hot after planting, or cold and frosty, also give the young seedlings extra shade or shelter, just until they re-establish their roots to further reduce transplant shock. This could involve covering them with a temporary shadecloth screen, a cone of cardboard or simply pushing in some leafy twigs around the new plants.


Tip 6: Feed regularly

After planting, feed seedlings regularly with a liquid plant food such as Powerfeed. Follow the directions on the fertiliser container, but generally leafy plants appreciate a liquid feed every 10-14 days. In between, water using a gentle spray from a hose or watering can. You may need to water new plants twice daily, especially if it’s hot.


Salad veggies appreciate gentle watering - no jet blasts from the hose!


Tip 7: Protect from chewing pests

Young seedlings are tasty and attract chewing pests such as snails, slugs, caterpillars, birds and possums. It is very disappointing to plant seedlings one day and find something has eaten them overnight. Most gardens have snails or slugs, and many also have birds and possums - all of which are likely to eat seedlings. Cabbage white butterfly caterpillars (green) and other caterpillars may also eat the leaves. To protect seedlings from pests, cover the row with a temporary shadecloth tunnel or fine netting until seedlings have established. If you're growing in a Vegepod, be sure to use the included Vegecover to your advantage. Use organic snail baits if snails are a problem. Regularly check through foliage and around plants (including under pots and pot rims) to find caterpillars, snails, slugs and other pests. A good way to protect plants from possums is to cover plants with an inverted wire wastepaper basket. For more possum deterrents, click here.


Tip 8: Harvest loose leaves regularly

Growing loose-leaf varieties? Make small, regular harvests to eat and to stimulate new growth, but only take what you need. Avoid taking too much leaf away from the plant while it is growing as it is using its leaves to power its growth - both above and below ground. Usually, a few leaves can be harvested from the outside of a plant after around 4-6 weeks from planting, depending on how vigorously plants are growing.