Following on from previous article in our Edible Garden Series creating an edible garden part 2
Step 4 – Selecting/Buying your Plants
I would normally advise my clients to get a range of seeds, seedlings and plants for their vegetable garden, however this does all come back to budget and availability. I know at the moment there is an Australia wide shortage of vegetables in any size so you need to keep your eye out. For example, I was able to pick up some organic garlic bulbs from Woolworths the other day. These are being sold for consumption but they will be fine for me to plant out in my vegetable garden.
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 and sprouting broccoli. Also, you can plant out perennial herbs such as parsley, thyme, rosemary and sage. Don’t forget some edible flowers such as nasturtiums, calendulas, violas and marigolds could also be planted to brighten up your edible garden.
Step 5 - Planting
At this time of year, you will have four main groups of vegetables available to plant – I would normally try to group these together in the vegetable garden. They don’t always have to be planted out in rows or with furrows and burrows. Depending on where you have chosen to build your vegetable garden and the design layout you have chosen, you can also plant them out in groups or even circular patterns of the one species. The idea with this style of planting is that the different species will support each other in their growth. This form of planting is called ‘guild planting’ and is based on permaculture principles.
The four groups of plants you have are the brassica family such as cauliflower or brussel sprouts or cabbages. These all need a large amount of space to grow. You then have the leafy greens such as lettuce mixes, Asian salad mixes and kales. The third group are the legumes such as peas, beans and broad beans. The fourth group are the root vegetables such as radish, carrots, beetroot and onion.
By understanding these different groups, you can also do some planning for your future vegetable garden plantings. If you keep a record of what you have planted and where, then you can introduce a form of crop rotation to your garden beds. Crop rotation has been used for centuries. The basic concept is that you never grow the same plant in the same spot every year. It is most useful if you have four distinct areas for planting where you can rotate the crops each year. The main reason for doing this is that you don’t want to deplete the soil of the same nutrient every season. For example, beans will use the same nutrients ever year so they will be harder to replace each season. It also helps with reducing the likelihood of soil born disease becoming established in your gardens.
In short, you need to know what group your vegetables fall in and then work out a crop rotation plan. For example, in Bed 1 you could use a plant from the legume family as they have a nitrogen fixing bacteria within their roots. The roots can be left in the ground after the crop has finished and they will provide the nitrogen for the next planting season say for the Brassica group as they enjoy a high level of hydrogen. Then the next year in that bed, you can plant out plants that don’t need as much nitrogen such as the root vegetables as the nitrogen will be depleted.
Companion planting is the process of planting out a combination of different species in close proximity to each other. This placement of plants in turn will have beneficial effects for each plant on either a chemical, physical or biological level. The use of companion planting can reduce the amount of insect attack and/or disease found on plants. This is very helpful in helping reduce the amount of chemicals used on your plants to control those issues in the garden. Companion planting will also help in attracting insects such as native bees, butterflies and beetles that are pollinators for your vegetables.
Some proven successful combinations of plant species are:
Marigolds (Stinking Rogers) planted out in veggie beds will repel a number of bugs with their somewhat smelly foliage and are proven to kill nematodes in the soil.
Chives, thyme and catnip planted with roses will deter aphids and other typical rose diseases.
Basil works well with tomatoes by repelling flies and mosquitoes.
Dill, chervil and coriander growing in between carrots will help to deter insects.
Alternating leeks and carrots in rows will protect each other from insect attack. Beetroot, onions, silverbeet, lettuce, cabbage and dwarf beans all work in combination with each other to create a mini ecosystem and will battle through insect attack well together.
Step 6 – Mulching – NEXT ARTICLE
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