It’s everyone’s dream. Even if they don’t admit it, everyone secretly wants their own oasis of an edible garden out the back that is perpetually bathed in soft afternoon light and has a neverending supply of beans, pumpkins, tates, beetroot, broccoli, peaches and berries. Chuck in an apple tree or two. That’d be the life. It’s a shame, then, that so few of us ever see this dream become a reality. So how do you get around the hurdles of building your own edible garden? The first step? Start small.
Choose a veggie. Any veggie
Head down to your nursery (these guys are going to become your best friends so be polite and ask plenty of questions) and check out what seedlings are on offer. Ask someone what you should plant in your current climate and season and then choose a veggie or two. The first key to you building your own edible garden is forgetting about your garden of Eden that you have constantly projected on the wall of your mind’s eye.
It’s about choosing one or two things to grow so that you can practice your skills as a gardener. You may not have a fully functional garden this year, but starting off small will ensure you get a full appreciation for what it takes to create something lasting.
A general guide to choosing things by the time of year:
Cool months: root veggies (beetroot, turnips etc.), cabbage, lettuce, carrots
Warm months: Beans, corn, tomatoes
These are just a tiny example of what you can plant, but remember, just choose a couple and focus on rearing them like you would your first child.
Reap what you sow
So you’ve chosen some magic beans and like Jack, you’ve got high hopes. Here is what Jack did: he prepared his soil. Test your soil for its ph levels by buying yourself a soil testing kit (at a nursery, remember they will become your second family down there). Once you know the makeup of your soil (clay, acidic, high or low in nitrogen, sand, etc.) then you can plan your farm life. You may need to add things to the soil to achieve a balance, so seek advice about what suits your specific garden soil.
Following this, make sure your seedlings have the best chance to grow. Research whether it is best to house the seedlings in shallower pots within a certain environment that mimics a greenhouse before you then transfer them to the garden.
If you had chosen 10 different veggies, you wouldn’t know where to start, which is why it is best to stick to one or two so you can get to know the processes involved in growing veggies and fruit.
Isolate your farm
Create a clear space that is your veggie farm and protect it from the critters that love to eat your crops. One way of securing the chances of your crops is to build your own garden patch in a separate planter box so that you can add the exact soil type and filtration systems (such as layers of stones if necessary) that suit your crops.
If you are a renter, creating such a mobile garden can be ideal for when you next need to move. Just remember to build the planter box on top of a palette with wheels.
Be consistent in your care
There are some great apps that help you manage your garden duties, but you simply need to be consistent and care for your plants as they need to be cared for, and when they need to be cared for. If they need a lot of water at the start but less so after sprouting, make sure you stick to this rule.
See what you can do to help
As long as you don’t overload the plants and soil with certain types of nutrients, research what additional measures you can take to protect and promote the growth of your veggies. This can include natural insect repellents, mulch, nets and of course, compost. If you aren’t composting, then you are only doing half the job when it comes to growing a veggie garden.
There is a ‘circle of life’ kind of thing going on with your garden, where the scraps you don’t eat end back up in the garden as compost to feed the growth of new crops.