A simple guide to creating a Food Garden
Food gardening can be overwhelming at first glance. Fear not, it is far simpler than you think! Let’s take it step-by-step. The first step is creating your beds and ensuring you have the best soil. The soil is the place that feeds your plants, therefore creating the optimal environment for nutrients and water to flow becomes your foundation.
We have created a simple process to get your beds ready for seedlings.
- Pick a spot
First things first, where are you going to be planting your vegetables? Most vegetables like a sunny spot with at least 4 to 6 hours of exposure per day. If you don’t have that option, pick a spot that has sun for the hottest part of the day.
- Mark your bed
Your vegetables will benefit from their own isolated area, separate from the rest of the plants and especially grass. You can earmark 1 x 1 m or ideally, 2 x 1 m per bed if your space is limited. If you have more space then keep 1 m as the width and go wild with the length.
- Create a barricade
Your beds will benefit from having a border surrounding the entire outside. You have a plethora of choices here from wooden planks, old tiles, and latte poles, to rocks repurposed from your garden. Get creative and see it as a kind of exterior décor! Bordering the beds not only isolates them from the outside further, creating a mini-ecosystem but also allows you to slightly raise the beds above the main ground level. This can be anywhere from 20 to 40 cm depending on the height of your border material. It is not a necessity, but certainly an added bonus to the health of your beds.
Most people are familiar with earthworms being vital to the soil. They are, however, not the only organisms living in your soil. The soil has one of the most complex ecosystems on our planet that not only includes visible creatures but millions of invisible ones too that all function in harmony with each other. Supporting this harmony will support the success, growth, and nutrient base of your plants.
We like to look at a ratio of 50/50 with compost to the existing ground soil. Begin by turning your soil with a spade or fork to loosen and lift it. If there are too many stones and rocks, try to remove some. Leaving some stones in will help water drainage and storage, so don’t remove them all, look for a 1/3 ratio. Remove any other matter like grass or weeds. You want the soil clean of excess plants for now. Once the soil has been turned and loosened (tilled), add your 50% ration of compost and mix it well with the top layer of loosened soil. If you are raising your beds, add excess soil and compost until the desired height has been reached. Your beds are now ready for your seedlings!
- Planting your seedlings
Remove your seedlings with a knife, fork, or spoon by placing the utensil between the wall of the tray and the outside of the seedling soil. Push the utensil in until it touches the bottom of the tray, tilting slightly towards the seedling to begin lifting it out of the tray cavity. Try to avoid pulling the seedling from its leaves and rather lightly grasp the top of the lifted soil, pulling out the root system intact with as much of, if not all of the soil. If your seedlings are dry, compress them a little to loosen the soil. Dig a small hole the size of the seedling roots and soil you just removed from the tray, place it inside the hole, and fill it with soil. Ensure the top of the seedling soil does not go past the bed top layer and that you can effectively place a bit of soil on top. Press the soil with your fingers around the newly planted seedling with slight pressure to tighten and “pack” the soil. You can use your flat hands to do the same to the rest of the bed once all seedlings are in. Depending on the plant, you want to plant in lines leaving 15 to 20cm between each plant, understanding that they will grow and need the space to do so.
To “hothouse” your soil and seedlings, which not only keeps all the moisture in the soil but protects it from the environment and even some pests, use a mulch. Mulch can be in the form of sawdust, woodchips, nutshells, or even straw. Apply a thin layer of compost on top of the soil and around the seedlings, then sprinkle a layer of mulch to seal the deal.
Now that your bed is ready, get watering! It is a good idea to water straight after planting as the soil will have dried out from being exposed. This will also welcome the seedlings to their new home. Water daily, ideally in the morning to avoid evaporation and equip the seedlings with enough moisture to last the hot sun. If it rains, skip watering that day.
Well done! You are fully equipped to grow your own food! We wish you all the most exciting abundance on your food gardening Journey!