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Creating an Edible Garden

Creating an Edible Garden

stage 1 : autumn

At present with the world situation, more than ever home – grown food is even more important.  Over the coming weeks I will be bringing to you a comprehensive guide to growing your own edible garden. 

Whether you have a large vegetable garden, a group of planters on a veranda or a few spaces within existing garden beds, you can at least grow some of your own food. Don’t get discouraged if you think you don’t have the space or the resources.  There are plants suitable for every location and budget.  I will have to warn you that once you start producing your own fruit, vegetables or herbs it does become quite addictive so be warned this may become your lifetime passion.  I have to say personally it is a very relaxing activity to go outside and weed the veggie garden or even better pick your home – grown food or flowers.

If you already have a veggie patch then the hard work of construction and deciding on a location is basically done.  At this time of year all the Summer vegetable crops are starting to come to the end of their cropping season so you need to sacrifice or pick what is left and start preparing the garden for the winter crops.  See below for more information on moving from warm to cool season crops.

Transitioning from Warm Season to Cool Season Crops

If you are having to manage the old with the new.  You need to start making room for the cool season crops.  If there are any vegetables that have finished or already gone to seed or just are really looking sad then be tough and remove them. Don’t throw this foliage in the green waste bins, cut it up into smaller pieces and use in your compost bin or worm farm.  With the empty space turn over the soil, dig through some organic fertiliser such as Rooster Booster and or add in some organic compost.   Ensure you are giving your veggie patch good regular waters, even if there is nothing planted out yet.  You need to ensure that the water holding capacity of the soil is maintained.

You do not want the soil to dry out and become water repellent.  If you think it will be a week or two before you have the chance to plant out your vegetables then you could also spread a thin layer of straw mulch or sugar cane mulch over the soil.

Step 1 : Location

Pick the spot that provides the most ideal conditions.

Finding the right spot for your edible plants can sometimes be a bit of trial and error however in general most vegetables will require about six hours of good direct sunlight for them to crop well.

There are a few exceptions to this rule but in general six hours is the key.  You can modify nearly everything else in gardening but you can’t modify or increase the amount of sunshine an area will receive unless you get into grow lights etc which is a whole other topic.

Ideally if you are going to grow vegetables in the ground, in pots or planters you will need to also have a fairly flat area with no great slopes.  If you are going to construct your own above ground beds you will have a little bit more flexibility as you can build the beds to adapt to a slope.  The other issue to think about is that you will be spending a fair amount of time in this space, so you need to ask yourself.

So often people build their vegetable gardens at the very back of the block in the furthest location away from the house but it will end up being one of the most visited parts of the garden so I don’t see any reason why it can’t be close to the house.

Also if it is close to the house it is an area you will see regular so this will encourage you to use it, maintain it as well as it saves you time and energy if it’s close by.

Step 2 – The design or layout of your patch

Vegetable Gardens can be any size or shape you can plant them out in purpose built raised beds, in pots, old fruit crates or even old corrugated iron tanks.  You can really use any vessels that can hold soil and have a drainage hole.  If you don’t want to have the veggies growing in a defined garden you can space them out throughout existing garden beds.  Vegetables themselves are quite beautiful, in their own right so they would be a lovely addition to other ornamental plants.  You need to think about if you want a defined garden or do you want to grow veggies throughout your garden?

There are pros and cons for both ideas. 

You can dedicate an entire space to being a vegetable garden where you have the beds, the compost bins, worm farms, potting up benches, glasshouse etc or you can plant out veggies amongst your existing perennials and shrubs.

What is the advantage of having a dedicated area as a Vegetable Garden ?

What are the disadvantage of having a dedicated area as a Vegetable Garden?

What is the advantage of having veggies amongst your existing garden plantings?

What are the disadvantage of having veggies amongst your existing garden plantings?

What if you just have a balcony, terrace, veranda or small courtyard?

Layout Ideas

If you do want to have a dedicated area in the garden for growing your fruit and vegeatbles you need to think about the actual layout for the planting areas.

You can have an in bed system where it is really just grown as you would any garden area or you can do raised beds either by building them up with materials such as timber sleepers or just by mounding the soil up like a burrow and furrow style

What is an in bed method?

An in bed method can be really any shape or size but the trick is that you can access all beds without having to step on the soil too much as this will compact the soil and cause drainage problems.  You need pathways around these beds and then you are best to keep them only 1.2 metres wide at the most so you can reach across the bed easily.

What is a raised bed method?

These will be mounded up soil areas or built up by constructing planter boxes. Most likely they are going to be rectangular in shape if you use a linear type material such timber sleepers – you could also use bricks, pavers, stone

The advantage of these is it will give you better drainage.  They are  good for areas with high rainfall or heavy clay soil which doesn’t drain very well.  It will allow you to improve the soil more easily when you are digging through compost or fertiliser.  Also the soil might get warmer more quickly than ground temperatures in ground in early spring.

What is the story with treated pine use in veggie garden?

Arsenic is part of the treatment used to preserve the most common sort of treated pine – CCA treated pine (which stands for ‘Copper Chrome Arsenate’).  Peoples fear is that the arsenic will leach into the soil and enter the plants. Also when people cut the timber there is a concern that if they breath in the sawdust not good for their health – research completed says that the evidence isn’t strong that it causes a problem but I would just prefer to have peace of mind that this isn’t in the timber so I would recommend that you use the use the ACQ Treated pine – no arsenic

What is ACQ Pine?

ACQ indicate the use of Copper and Quarternary Ammonium Compound to protect against in ground pests such termites and wood-boring insects and also fungus. ACQ treated pine looks much the same as CCA treated pine. Both start out green in colour, then weather to grey over time.

STEP 3 – Soil Preparation coming soon 

IN THE MEANTIME… be on the hunt for the plants you want to grow either in seed, seedling or plant form. 

The cool season crops to plant out now are Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale, Carrots, Leeks, Radish, Broccoli, Spinach, Onions, Parsnips, Artichokes, Turnips, Broad Beans, Garlic, Beetroots, Leafy Greens such as Mesclun Lettuce, Silverbeet, Jerusalem Artichokes, Asparagus, Potatoes, Sprouting Broccoli.

Also you can plant out perennial herbs such as Parsley, Thyme, Rosemary, Sage.

Don’t forget some edible flowers such as Nasturtiums, Calendulas, Violas and Marigolds could also be planted to brighten up your edible garden.

 

Glenice Buck
glenice@glenicebuckdesigns.com.au