Creating an Edible Garden – Part 4

Creating and edible garden
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Following on from previous article in our Edible Garden Series creating an edible garden part 3

Step 5 – Mulching

Mulching is an essential step with any vegetable garden as it will help retain the moisture in the soil, slow down weed growth, moderate soil temperature in the heat and the cold. This is especially important in cooler climates when there is a heavy frost.

The steps for mulching are:

  • Always water your plants and the surrounding soil well before mulching.
  • Lay a layer of newspaper over the open soil areas in between your plants and then spray this down with water. This paper layer is an extra layer that acts as a physical barrier to help smother any weed growth. It will break down over time. Do not use black plastic as a layer under the mulch. This will not allow the water to permeate in to the soil and it will never break down. The newspaper later will over time break down.
  • Spread your chosen mulch over all open areas but be careful not to bury any plants in the mulch.
  • Water the mulch in thoroughly.

There are so many different types of mulch, however for a vegetable garden I would recommend straw or a sugar cane mulch. They will both decompose at a moderate rate, not take out too much nitrogen as they decay and as they do decay they will help improve the soil’s quality. They both will also help increase the number of helpful soil organisms. Fallen autumn leaves can also be gathered up and used as mulch. If the leaves are larger and or heavier, you should shred them first because whole leaves often blow away or you can also compost those down in your compost bin. These would then be applied as compost to the beds.

Step 6 – Ongoing Maintenance

Once the plants are in and growing, you need to be aware of the soil moisture conditions. Autumn showers are always beneficial for the vegetable garden, there is nothing like rain to push along the garden. You will need to supplement this rain with hand watering. Whenever possible, I would encourage gardeners to water their vegetable garden by hand as you can assess the water needs of plants individually, however if this is not possible an irrigation system which is monitored regularly is fine but make sure in times of rain it is switched off. The biggest destroyer of vegetables through the winter months is over watering, which can cause fungal diseases.

After the plantings have been in for about a week or so, I would recommend fortnightly applications of seaweed emulsions such as Eco – Seaweed from organic crop protectants. This is not a fertiliser as such, it is a root revitaliser that will help stimulate good plant health and condition along with many other benefits.

Applying fertiliser to the vegetable garden is best completed with a liquid fertiliser such as Eco amino– Gro, Yates Nature’s Way or Amgrow’s Harvest. This can be done once a fortnight or as per packet directions. You can also use your home-made compost tea on your veggies whilst they are growing.

Other garden activities that you can use in your vegetable garden:

Make Your Own Compost
Making your own compost is a worthwhile activity to start in your own garden. Compost can be added to your vegetable garden or any part of your garden. Compost will improve your garden soil.

There are a few ways you can make your own compost. You can have a compost bin, or a compost bay or a worm farm.

The key to good veggie growing is the soil that it grows in, the best way to build the health of any soil is with compost. Compost is biodegraded organic material. Organic material is broken down over time by a lot of different organisms, many are microscopic like bacteria and fungi or other insects like beetles and bugs and then you have the amazing underground creatures - the earthworms. The finished product of compost creates humus – this is what makes the soil “rich” and delicious for vegetables to grow in.

Adding compost to any soil will always make it better. If the soil is poorly drained it will open up the soil and improve drainage and also improve air and nutrient flow. In a sandy soil which drains too quickly, it will improve the water holding capacity of the soil. Compost in all soils will give more nutrients to the plants, help retain moisture levels, slows down the runoff and in turn prevents erosion. Another side benefit of composting is that you can reduce your waste that will end up in landfill by adding all your green waste to the compost piles.

Making compost is a little like making a cake, you need to have the right balance of ingredients for it to be successful. Ideally a basic ratio of 1:3 is best – this means 1 part green waste to 3 parts brown waste – you will need to turn regularly, this will aerate the mixture. You may also need to add some water when you turn the pile. The pile should not be wet but just moist.

The green waste that can be added will give the nitrogen content to your compost bin. This can include all of your vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, green clippings shredded down to a small size and grass cuttings (check there is no seed in with these).

The brown wastes will be what adds the carbon to your soil for example toilet or kitchen paper rolls, newspaper, cardboard boxes. You can also add deciduous leaves, dead foliage, twigs that have been broken down into small pieces. Any branches added should not be any thicker than your small finger.

Only ever add items that come from an organic source meaning from nature. Do not ever add any dairy or meat products as you may attract vermin. You also don’t want to add any plants that have been diseased as this may spread throughout your compost. Be careful adding any animal manures, only ever consider adding manure from herbivores and check what source they have been eating from. For example, if they have been eating from crops that have been treated with a pesticide then you may be adding an ingredient to your compost that contain chemicals. This is not ideal, especially if you will be using the finished product – compost to grow your vegetables.

For your compost ingredients to start breaking down, it will need to reach a temperature of around 60 – 65 degrees. By adding ingredients that are small enough, giving the mix the right amount of moisture and turning the pile weekly you should be able to achieve this. The compost pile will be ready to add to your garden beds once all ingredients are decomposed and you cannot recognise or identify what they are.

Compost Bays
If you have the space, a bay system for your compost will give you the most opportunity to create compost. The bays could be created out of a hardwood recycled timber or old pallets. Always check that the timber is not treated with chemicals. Normally 3 or 4 bays would be ideal. In a bay system, you add all your waste to one section at a time, until each is full. You should turn each bay regularly. Once all three bays are full the first bay will be ready to use as compost. You can also move one bay’s contents to the next bay, this gives you the opportunity to aerate and turn your pile over well.

I hope this Edible Garden Series has been helpful to you in your vegetable growing.

Next week, more on composting with worm farms.

If you have any areas of gardening you would like me to focus on in upcoming articles, please let me know. If you would like to read the total Edible Garden Series in one go, you can subscribe to my free newsletter by going to www.tinyletter.com/glenicebuckdesigns or email glenice@glenicebuckdesigns.com.au or phone or text me on 0417 077 386.

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