It is important when you start to plan a garden, to know what you want the garden to do. For instance, if you are hoping to feed a family of four all year round, you will need to plan a garden that is approximately 100 square meters of space (not including walking paths) that produces more than once. If you live in a cold climate, you will not be able to grow year round. So asking yourself a few basic questions is a good way to start.
Where do you Live?
Climate can be broken down into three basic categories when planning a garden. Cold, temperate and tropical/sub-tropical. Of course there are many shades of climate in these categories and only you can determine exactly how where you live, fits into the mix.
What will grow Where?
Different plants have different requirements so take that into consideration when doing your vegetable garden planning.
Plants like beans, broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, cauliflower, turnips, onions and peas grow best at temperatures between 10-20C. These plants prefer a cooler time of the year to grow and will usually tolerate frost.
Vegetables like cabbage, carrots, radish, parsnip, leek, lettuce and celery have intermediate temperature requirements. They will grow best in temperatures between 15-25C and they can be fussy. Grow them out of season and they may run to seed without producing anything for your kitchen table.
Warm season vegetables grow best in temperatures above 20C and will die if exposed to frost. These include corn, capsicum, potato, tomato, eggplant and beans and all the vine crops. So make sure the majority of their growing season is in the warmer months.
To help with your planning, I've developed a range of sowing guides (www.no-dig-vegetablegarden.com/sowing-guides.html). The guides indicate which months are the best for sowing popular vegetables and how many weeks growing you have before harvest.
A few other considerations. . .
- Protect your plants from harsh winds. Cold winds will stunt growth, hot winds will dry the soil and harm the plants, strong winds will make them break. If you don't have a natural sunny protected corner in your garden, prepare a windbreak of garden lattice or slatted timber.
- Make sure your vegetable garden gets plenty of sunshine. . . at least 5 hours a day of direct sunlight.
- Make sure your taller plants don't block the sunlight for the smaller plants. Consider planting your garden rows in a north to south aspect so all rows receive equal amounts of sun during the day.
- If you are planning to plant successive crops, rotate where you plant what. Different plants take different things out of the garden soil. This will also reduce the potential for a particular type of pest or disease to take hold in your garden. Keep replenishing your compost and mulch!
- Water, water, water, water, water! Vegetables need water to grow and lots of it. A drip water system is best to give the plants a good, deep soaking and to discourage leaf fungus. This will encourage root growth. Do NOT let your garden bed dry out. Your no dig garden will have good drainage anyway, so keep it wet and top it up with mulch to keep the moisture in.
- Vegetable plants should grow quickly to produce well. Water, sunshine and fertilizer all have a role. If your plants aren't sprinting ahead, then they are lacking something and your results will be disappointing. Find out what it is and fix it.
By following these simple vegetable gardening tips, your no dig garden will be off to a flying start. Spend some time to work out what you will grow over the growing season that you have available to you. Then back time the weeks you will need to grow your seedling before planting.
Judy Williams (http://www.no-dig-vegetablegarden.com ) splits her time between being an executive and an earth mother goddess.
No Dig Vegetable Gardens represents a clean, green way to grow your own food. The site covers all aspects of growing, cooking and preserving your harvest.