Step 1: Assess your home
Don’t assume that you can just buy a few gardening materials and have at it. Before anything else, you must determine the size and location of your garden, because this dictates pretty much everything else about your garden set up. If you live in a house with a backyard and a big space for gardening, you have more leeway with big plants and fruit-bearing trees. If you live in a small apartment, you might only manage a windowsill herb garden in your kitchen.
Step 2: Figure out what you want to plant
What can you plant in an edible garden? While there are loads of herbs, vegetables, and fruits to choose from, you’re better off going for the ones you really enjoy eating and cooking with – otherwise these plants will just go to waste. Imagine growing pots of coriander only to realise you hate it!
Another thing you need to consider is seasonality. Some fruits and vegies only grow in certain seasons, so do your research before purchasing seedlings. One tip for beginners is to stick to perennials first. These are fruits and vegetables that live for over two years and are generally hardier plants. Some examples of perennials are garlic chives, potato onions, asparagus, basil, wild rocket, and avocados.
Step 3: Designing your garden
As we mentioned, your edible plant garden’s layout will depend on your space and the kinds of plants you want to grow.
Those with big yards can incorporate edible plants into their landscaping. For example, you can line walkways with berry bushes and small fruit trees or use herbs like basil and parsley as edging plants. Meanwhile, those with smaller spaces like apartments and condominiums can try square-foot gardening – this is when you divvy up a planter box into a grid of 1-foot squares and grow different in each square.
Gardeners who live in even smaller spaces can try layering their planters or going vertical. A vertical garden doesn’t just save space – it looks good too! Another way to utilise space is by letting vines like cherry tomatoes or grapes grow on posts and trellises.
Edible garden plants
How to make a tomato grow frame
Tomatoes need help as they grow up to keep fruit off the ground to prevent soil-borne diseases. This does the trick!
Gather your supplies
- 90 x 90mm x 2.4m H4 treated pine posts (2)
- Quick-set concrete
- Black exterior paint
- Stainless steel eye bolts (2)
- Stainless steel wire rope
- Swage and turnbuckle
- Tomato plant
You'll also need
- Post-hole digger
- Tape measure
- 10mm bit
In a spot that gets full sun, dig 2 post holes, about 1500mm apart, 200mm wide and 400mm deep.
Set posts in holes with quick-set concrete.
Apply 2 coats paint to posts with brush, leaving to dry after each coat.
Use 10mm bit to drill holes for bolts in both posts about 80cm from top, then insert eye bolts.
Insert turnbuckle in 1 bolt, attach wire, connect to other bolt so wire is taut, run wire into swage and secure with crimper.
Tie twine to centre of wire and allow it to meet ground. Cut.
Plant tomato as per label. Attach twine to main stem gently
If you think vegies can only be grown outside in a plot of soil, you’re mistaken. Here are just a few vegetables that can be grown indoors:
Just make sure they’re kept in an area that receives ample sunlight, like a large window or a balcony.
Not a lot of fruits are easy to care for, especially for beginner gardeners. There are a few exceptions though, including ones you can keep inside. Here are some small indoor fruit trees you can try your hand at growing:
- Raspberries (needs six to eight hours of direct sunlight)
Gardening newbies often choose herbs as “starter plants” because they’re small, low-maintenance, and easy to grow. A lot of them grow indoors too, like basil, mint, oregano, bay leaves, parsley, rosemary, and thyme. This is perfect for urban-dwellers who live in high-rise condominiums!
Other herbs you can grow in your backyard:
How to build a laundry tub herb garden
Old laundry tubs are ideal as large planters. And they come with ready-made drainage holes.
Gather your supplies
- Sand and cement mix
- Concrete laundry tub
- 450 x 450mm concrete pavers (2)
- Breeze blocks (2)
- Geotextile fabric
- Vegetable potting mix
- Assorted herb seedlings
You'll also need
- Mortar hoe
- Tape measure
- Rubber mallet
- Spirit level
Use hoe to mix sand and cement with water in barrow, as per instructions.
Measure tub base, then mark location on ground and trowel mortar beds for pavers where edges of tub will sit.
Sit pavers on mix, hammer in firmly with mallet and ensure they’re level.
Trowel a mortar bed on each paver, then top with a breeze block, ensuring tub drainage holes match block cavities. Tap firmly with mallet and check for level.
Lift tub onto blocks with a helper; check for level.
Line base of tub with geotextile fabric.
Fill tub with potting mix.
Plant seedlings and water in well.
More tips for building an edible garden
Instead of using chemical fertilisers, compost!
Turn fruit and vegetable scraps from your kitchen into compost. This, in turn, can be mixed into the soil to enrich it. It also helps stave off pests.
Know your tools
Using the proper garden tools will make the job easier, safer, and faster. Essential gardening tools include gloves, scissors, watering can, hand rake, shears, spade, Japanese gardener’s knife or hori-hori, hand weeder, hand pruner, and a stool or bench.
Avoid using chemical pesticides
The point of growing your food is so you can avoid the harmful chemicals found in mass-produced fruits and veggies. Instead of using artificial pesticides, opt for natural remedies like chilli spray.
Add flowers to the mix
According to landscape designer Lauri Kranz, flowers “do the vital work of bringing pollinators into the garden”. Some flowers that grow easily in Australia include bougainvillea, sweet pea, marigolds, and zinnias.
There’s nothing wrong with mixing edibles and ornamentals in your garden. The most important thing is that the soil and sun requirements of the plants are the same. Plus, many ornamentals, such as rosemary and violas, are in fact edibles, while many edibles, such as artichokes or the many colourful varieties of cabbage, kale or chard, are very ornamental. It’s a delightful mix and match that will save you heaps at the supermarket!
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