Edible Gardens

Edible Gardens
Edible Gardens



Garden to Table Recipes

Garden to Table Recipes
Garden to Table Recipes

Garden Plan

Today marks the first day of Day Light Savings and so it felt like a fitting day to make a plan for my gardens this Spring. I'm a very visual person so I actually sat outside on the edge of my garden in the sunshine and put together the following design. I've really put my heart into this and have tried to make the best use of all of the new things I've learnt over the past couple of months. Some things that I took in to consideration when planning my gardens were - companion planting, how to best use the spaces I have, crop rotation, what vegetables we will actually use; as well as choosing a few new things that I thought would be fun to grow with my two year old. 

Because I want to make the most of the garden space I have, I've decided to try square foot/metre gardening and growing some things vertically too. Our two largest garden beds are 4 m x 1.2 (each bed) so I sat there marking out the different sections this afternoon so I could get a visual in my head of how things might look. I've read a lot of gardening books, blogs and websites lately so this is how I decided how many plants to grow in each section. Of course this depends on the size of the plant e.g. 1 broccoli per section or 4 lettuce. Each square metre will be divided into nine equal squares. I'll still have extra space leftover at the front of the gardens so have decided to put in a border of marigolds and herbs there. 

Companion planting is something that I've become really passionate about. I think it makes sense to plant plants together that will support each other in different ways as they grow. I also love the idea of including bee friendly flowers in the vegetable garden. I have never done this before, but am looking forward to incorporating this aspect.

Here are some companion combinations that I'll be including in my vegetable gardens:

The Three Sisters (sweetcorn, beans and a miniature pumpkin) - a traditional way of gardening that was practised by the North American Indians. Beans help to add nitrogen to the soil for corn. Corn acts as a support for beans and pumpkin.
Sweetcorn and lettuce - the sweetcorn provides shade for the lettuce to keep it cooler during the hot months and help prevent it from bolting. 
Broccoli, beetroot, radishes and nasturtiums - broccoli has a high calcium requirement. This can be met by growing beetroot, nasturtiums and radishes nearby. 
The Italian Combo (basil, parsley and tomatoes) - a great companion group.
Corn and tomatoes - corn is known to lure away tomato plant pests. 
Bubble and Squeak (potatoes and peas) - peas make good companions for potatoes. 
Borage, marigolds, nasturtium and calendula - all bee friendly flowers that will help to encourage pollination. I've also ensured that these have been planted closely to crops with smaller flowers e.g. capsicum and eggplant. 
Rosemary and sage - these two help each other to grow well. They also support carrots to grow healthy. 
Beetroot and silverbeet - leafy greens and beetroot go together well. These two are also good friends with most plants. 

Not only do the flowers I've selected support pollination, but they also help out in other ways too.Aphids love nasturtiums so hopefully they'll be attracted there instead of to the beans. Nasturtiums also keep caterpillars and whiteflies away. Marigolds deter pests with their strong smell, especially aphids and greenfly. Borage makes a great companion for strawberries. 

What I like about square foot (or square metre) gardening is that I'm not going to end up with an overload of one type of vegetable at once. Once one crop finishes I will replant a new crop. In one of the large raised garden beds I'm going to do quite a bit of vertical gardening. The reasoning behind this is that it's easier to go up than out when you have chickens on the other side of the garden fence. Beans and a miniature pumpkin will be part of the three sisters garden. Then I have zucchini, golden midget watermelons, eggplants and an apple cucumber that I will set up tee pee style frames for. I'm sure some of it will work well and some may be a flop, but that's all part of the learning.

When I was designing my gardens I did put some thought into crop rotation. It's been suggested to me before that I plan where crops will go for the following year in advance. I haven't done this as I know I will change my mind a million times before next Spring. I have ensured there will be plenty of options though. Root crops have been planted together where possible e.g. carrots and radishes. The potatoes are either in bags or a separate garden. Brassicas e.g. cauliflower and broccoli have been planted in one section. Tomatoes and cucurbits will be able to be easily rotated too. Leafy crops have been mixed around a bit, but there will still be lots of places for them to go the following season.

As I browsed seed catalogues and the shelves at Mitre 10 I considered what we would grow in our garden and why. I know there's no point growing things that we simply won't eat. Some easy to grow vegetables e.g. bright lights silverbeet I'm also growing extra of for our animals e.g. bunny, cockatiel and chickens. I eat most vegetables so that didn't really help to cut down the list. Really we've ended up with a bit of everything. We've got our staples covered e.g. lettuce, carrots, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, capsicum, tomatoes, silverbeet, beans, peas, corn, pumpkin, potatoes, courgettes, beetroot, cucumber and eggplant. I've also got a range of herbs and edible flowers going into the garden as well as hanging baskets. I know I will have to water these once or twice a day, but I'm okay with that. It will provide some colour around that side of the house. I can't have any pots of colour or gardens because our lovely Samoyed dog pulls everything out! Back to the gardens though.

I also wanted some unusual varieties and things that would be fun to grow in the garden with my toddler. He already loves being outside and in the garden so my hope is that this is a passion that we can grow together. Because gardening is quite new to me it's also a great way for him to see me learning alongside him and making mistakes along the way. Here are some things we will be planting in our garden to spark a bit of extra enjoyment and fun - Zephyr zucchini (they're lime green and yellow), strawberry popping corn, black popping corn, golden midget watermelon, rainbow carrots, purple dragon carrots, easter egg radishes and watermelon radishes, bright lights silverbeet and some interesting tomato varieties e.g. green zebra and sunrise bumble bee. I'm also planting pepino, giant sunflowers and luffa. In another garden we have a berry garden filled with strawberry plants and soon to be three different blueberry bushes. I know this garden patch will also be a popular over summer. Most of the strawberry plants have been in for over a month now so the roots should be starting to establish well.

We have an unused slope that I have been wanting to use, but it gets covered in kikuyu grass. After talking to other gardeners I've come up with a bit of a plan. This week I'm going to pick up several large boxes from Plumbing World. I have family that work there so have access to their leftover packaging boxes. I'm going to place the boxes over the ground and then cover with compost. Following that we will add black builders plastic. From there I'll cut holes through the plastic and cardboard to plant melons, pumpkins etc as needed. I may also add some netting to the side of the water tank to grow peas or beans up. We'll have Sugar Baby Watermelon, yellow watermelon, rockmelon, Collective Farm Woman Melon and a giant pumpkin!

Our last two gardens are raised vegetable gardens that we put in last year. Each garden is roughly 2 m by 1.2 m. One garden is going to be the bubble and squeak patch - potatoes and peas, with the addition of some marigolds and nasturtium. Some of you will recall my rookie gardener moment last month when I purchased three 1.5 kgs bags of seed potatoes that I'd planned to put into four different 50 cm potato bags haha. Let's just say I've learnt a lot since then. I've put 3-4 in a couple of bags, have given seed potatoes to family members and still have so many of them! In the other garden I'm planting beans, a couple of tomatoes and popping corn. As well as maybe a few herbs, depending on the space underneath the tomatoes. If there's enough room I'll add some basil and parsley as companion plants.

As of this weekend the garden beds are almost ready. We've gone with the no dig approach to filling them up. Yesterday morning I lined them with brown cardboard boxes and newspaper. Layers of quality compost, top soil, sheep pellets and pea straw are now in the process of being added. Hopefully all this hard work with pay off and we'll get some decent crops this year. I'm sure there will be lots to learn from too, but that's all part of the adventure.

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