Can I grow tomatoes in it? (What about other high-stakers like beans and peas?)
Yep, you sure can. If you scroll through all of our voluminous Facebook and Instagram posts, you will come across lots of pics of our customers growing tomatoes successfully. For smaller varieties, like Romas and Cherries, we don’t even stake them. Just let ‘em go wild and push out against your canopy till it’s bursting. Most of these smaller fruits don’t drop to the soil anyway. For your larger varieties, it’s best to get dwarf plants. You can stake them as high as the canopy. Otherwise, there is a simple and effective way to snake your tommies, beans or peas around the canopy. Just train the veggies to the stakes that you have going up, across, down, diagonally – you tell them where to go and make the most of your space!
What can I grow in my pod?
You can grow just about anything in the pods – definitely all your leafy salad greens and most herbs are easily contained (and eaten down) within the pod. We’re great believers in packing the hell out of them. Silverbeet, spinach, parsley, chard, lettuce etc. are great for continual harvest.
Most of your rooty veggies can be grown as your pod has a full foot of soil for them to grow in.
Winter crop brassicas such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale etc are all good to go. Shrubs and fruit trees, however, are clearly a no go.
Please scroll through the hundreds of pics on our Facebook and Instagram to see all our fellow podders out there growing all sorts of wonderful things in them.
Lastly, we recommend the website and app called GardenAte. It’s a free Aussie resource advising what, when and how to plant based on your climate zone.
I have grubs in my pod! I thought you said these pods were pest-free…
Usually, this means you have brought the eggs and/or grubs in with your seedlings from the garden centre. This is not uncommon and can take time to manifest within the pod, especially if the pests are only at the egg stage. Most nurseries do not protect their plants like our canopies do.
If it’s curl grubs, these are brought in via your soil. They will mow down your seedlings like a chainsaw and also eat and destroy roots. Either give your soil a good raking through to clean them out, or get new soil.
The most common green grub is the notorious and ubiquitous white butterfly. Most new podders are indeed flummoxed, because you have already rationalised that it’s impossible for the butterfly to squeeze through the canopy. How did they get in there, you ask?! Well their eggs are deposited as tiny single sporadic eggs, so they’re not as easy to see as bigger eggs or batched eggs. You need to look hard. They are the size of a pin head, yellow and cylinder shaped. They are also often on the underside of leaves, to make it even trickier!
Always check your seedlings and rub off any eggs and/or their green grubs before transplanting to your pod. (Their favourite dish is kale and the other brassicas like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.)
Should I be leaving the canopy open at times?
No! Leave it down all the time…apart from when you are working with the plants of course.
The protective mesh has the lowest shade rate we could find in commercial grade crop cover (only 17 %). In general, veggies need as much sunlight as possible to grow well. At least 4 hours of direct sunlight is recommended for most veggies and herbs. Having said that, the 17% shade provided by our mesh does help against those real scorcher days.
The canopy is permeable so it breathes and allows airflow for plant respiration. In other words, it doesn’t cook and kill your plants on hot days, like many non-permeable greenhouse plastic covers out there. So, it’s fine to keep the canopy down all day. Likewise, the permeability allows rain to go through, so no need to open for watering during those periods.
Apart from creating a perfect micro-climate for plant growth, the main point of the cover is to keep pests at bay. It clearly therefore needs to be down to achieve this.
What sunlight should my Vegepod be in?
The best choices for a vegepod that is only getting sun for part of the day is to grow crops where the leaves are the harvested part of the plant. In other words parents like spinach, silver beet, lettuce, rocket and herbs such as mint, basil, thyme and oregano. Avoid crops such as tomatoes, beans and eggplants that rely on flowering and fruiting to produce because the reduced sunlight hours will reduce the amount of flowers and therefore fruits that are produced. On the flip side of the coin, lower light levels tend to result in extra foliage to try and catch the available light and hence you will get a reasonable harvest of leaves.
What Soil Should I Use In My Vegepod?
Have a read of our blog post by Angus Stewart on the best growing mix for your Vegepod
How much should I water the pod?
For Mature Plants
It does depend on the weather and how established your plants are. For a start, note the canopy is permeable, so if it’s ever raining, it’s getting watered like any other garden. Also, once your plants are established you don’t have to water them as much. They are being serviced by the water reservoirs below, and the wicking system. I.e.: even when the top soil looks and feels dry, you will notice the plants still thrive. They are drinking from the wetter soil below via the wicking bed. Don’t overwater the Vegepod – the beauty of the wicking system is its water efficiency. It doesn’t need the typical amount of watering that a standard garden would.
As an example, a customer didn’t water their pods last year for the 6 months of autumn / winter, as Sydney had regular coastal rain every couple of weeks and the weather was cool. This continually replenished the reservoirs. The warmer months obviously use more. Even in a Sydney summer though when you go away the established plants will be self-watered and okay for up to 2 to 4 weeks without rain or watering! Every time you get rain or use the misters or manually water the pod, your plants are getting watered and the water leaches down through the soil to replenish the reservoirs .
Having said all that, when your seedlings are just babies, or the summer days are really cooking, we recommend using the mist spray for at least three minutes per day until the seedlings establish. Once they have decent roots sent below or the super hot days are finished, you’ll no longer need to spray. If in doubt, remember, the plants tell the story. Are they drying or wilting? Give ‘em a water!
What about pollination with a pod? Won’t there be problems with the canopy blocking bees?
We have never really had any problems with pollination or fertilisation over the years, and we have grown pretty much everything in the Vegepods. This is due to a few factors:
- So many fruits these days are self-pollinating varieties.
- The bees get all the glory but pollination is not solely performed by the larger pollinators like bees and butterflies. Tiny insect pollinators, such as ants and small beetles, are still active. (We are bee lovers too by the way, we have both native and euro hives at Shedquarters!)
- Pollination also occurs via wind / movement which happens thanks to the permeable canopy.
Also remember that for all the leafy greens, herbs and root vegetables we don’t want or need to go to flower / seed anyway!
The only things we have ever really bothered giving some attention (i.e: some finger poking) are cucumbers and zucchinis just to make sure. However, for such big vine growers, we sometimes take the canopy off once they are bursting against the canopy walls anyway. Once the cover is off the bigger pollinators can have access.
What are the pods made of?
The pods are made of excellent quality and food-safe materials, tweaked and enhanced over the years.
For a start, the wicking bed bases and raised walls are all virgin polypropylene (right down to the nuts and bolts!), which is certifiably food-safe plastic. This ensures no leaching of chemicals and maintain organic status for soils, unlike treated timbers or iron beds. Some think it may be better to utilise recycled plastics to help the environment as an added bonus, but unfortunately such plastics have a myriad of unknown plastics in every single batch and could not warrant a food-safe check for every lot. Having said that, polypropylene is recyclable (if indeed someone ever wanted to recycle down the track, but it should just keep going!).
The mesh is commercial grade crop cover as seen on fruit tree farms. The poles are made of galvanised steel to ensure no rust and a powder coating for good measure.
The stands are also all made of gal steel and powder coated.
How do fungus gnats appear? How do I control them?
Firstly, note the fungus gnats or sciarid flies are not bred in the water reservoirs below to make their way up into the soil and plants. The larvae are either brought in with your soil or flies are attracted to damp spots with lots of organic matter (which is what is in abundance in most potting mixes, or rotting leaves above the potting mix) if the canopy is left open. The flies will fly in and lay eggs in the top layer of the potting mix. The Vegepod reservoir wells don’t stagnate as they have an overflow hole to allow regular flush outs when there is lots of rain or you can purposely water the pods through from the top.
If you notice them then also STOP watering. The top layer of soil in a Vegepod should generally be dry. You should always place your vegepods in sunny locations that gives as at least 6 hours direct sunlight a day, that is best for veggie growing anyway, and will ensure you don’t get any wet/damp related pests or fungi probs. Dead foliage attracts the gnats so always clean away anything you don’t intend eating.
One solution to rid the gnats altogether is a biological control in the form of a nematode that is introduced to the soil. Apart from using the predatory nematodes (check your local producer for supply), another option is to kill any adult flies that are hanging around above the potting mix. They lay eggs which hatch into the larvae that do the damage. A sticky trap is a good non-toxic way to get the flies (see for example https://www.bunnings.com.au/trappit-yellow-sticky-insect-garden-trap-5-pack_p2960969). Stopping the flies will stop the larvae that cause the problem.
Here is a photo of fungus gnat larvae which could be in the potting mix. Run your fingers through your top soil and look for these as a tell tale sign.
My cover keeps coming off. What's going on?
Firstly, please refer to our assembly support videos for clear instructions on the link below: https://vegepod.com.au/assembly-videos/
You must ensure the hinge clips click over the edge of the walls to secure in place. This requires some decent force to click the little lip over the wall panel.
You must also ensure to put at least two of the hinge clips on the front wall and not use all of them on your back wall. This ensures wind does not simply blow the cover up and down.
Ants are in the pod. What do I do?
Ants generally like to live in really dry areas so you could try using a wetter soil agent and/or soak the pod continuously for a bit until they bugger off. Google and people will mention various deterrents such as cinnamon, lemon, borax / food grade diatomaceous earth etc. But don’t necessarily malign the ants, they are often helping out or at worst innocuous. They will help pollinate inside the pod whilst the bigger pollinators like bees can’t get in. Have a look to see what they are doing. They may be feeding on nasty pests like scale insects. But if in plague proportion or destroying your plants, then you could try Ant-Rid which usually works well.
My mist sprays are not wetting the far corners of my pod top soil. Do we have a problem?
The misters produce a high volume of super fine mist. The mist will cover most of the plants and soil area in your pod, but you are correct, they do not necessarily reach into the corner extremities of the pod. This is not a problem for established plants because what we are basically aiming for is to have all the water leach down through the soil, and replenish the wicking reservoirs at the base. That’s where established plants get the vast majority of their water from. Even if ALL the top soil was dry, for example, it doesn’t really matter. Technically you could have all the water enter from beneath the soil and the wicking job still does the job. We didn’t design it like that, however, as it is indeed natural to have soil dampened from above too. We emulate nature as much as possible.
Having said all of this, if your plants are still tiny seedlings without decent roots to drink from the wells, it is recommended to water by hand the whole lot until they establish.
What do I do on the extra hot days? Do I need extra shade cloth? Watering?
If you are getting say a few days of plus 33°C heat in a row, then a bit of shade cloth over the canopy can be a good touch during those periods. You can either drape the cloth over the canopy or peg it to the Vegepod’s poles. Remember, we chose the lowest shade rate in commercial grade crop mesh, to allow as much light in as possible for ideal veggie growing…and to cater for those customers who only get a few hours sun a day. However, on hot days, the cover is only 17% shade, so adding a bit of green shade cloth on those days is recommended.
If your plants are still young seedlings and unestablished this is particularly recommended. Whilst still small seedlings, their roots have yet to take a good hold or grow much towards the lower and wetter regions of the wicking base. Until they get a bit bigger and more established, a good 3 to 5 minutes of daily mist spray or manual watering is also recommended.
I have aphids. What to do?
Aphids are about the only pest tiny enough to get through our super fine protective mesh. They are the size of pin-head in green/grey/brown colours and typically infest in large numbers on leaves of the leafy green veggies. There are many “quick-fix” spray suggestions out there (such as organic options of garlic/chilli/milk sprays or the pyrethrum oil spray), but really, we never find those truly effective and besides, who wants to spray the very leaves we are going to east with all that stuff!? The sprays don’t stand up to a good ole bit of elbow grease anyway. Take your time and literally run your fingers over top and and bottom side of every leaf and squish all of those buggers for good. It’s the only sure-fire way to really ensure they are kaput in our view. It’s a good way to spend time with your plants and get to know them, it’s therapy and education! However if your greens are decimated already or you have a timid heart or you just can’t be bothered, then rip out the infested plants and start again. (You can often just wash all the aphids off the pulled out plants out under a running tap and eat them rather than tossing too).
Can i use two medium trolleys to make a trolley stand for the large vegepod?
“Vegepod does not recommend nor endorse doing this, but it has been witnessed before and does technically ‘fit’ into place. Note the large vegepod is weighing approximately 450kgs when full of wet soil and full reservoirs, so any such unintended use of such trolleys is at your own risk. Vegepod will not be held responsible. The surface would definitely also need to be absolutely smooth, hard and level like a concrete slab as even a fairly small ridge could place undue pressure on the separated trolleys.”
What about adding worm juice?
The benefits of worm juice come in several ways as follows:
It has a very well balanced nutrient content usually depending what your worms have been fed. If they have had the usual diet of things like kitchen scraps and manure these materials have the same balance of nutrients that plants need for optimal growth. Humus which is the end result of the breakdown of organic materials. Humus builds a soil's ability to store more water and nutrients Beneficial microbes from the worm's gut is in the juice.
Storing the juice for more than a week or so will greatly reduce the quantity of beneficial microbes and for that reason we like to use it as fresh as possible. However, your stored juice will still have the full benefits of points 1 and 2. So for that reason it will still be good to use.