Each season you’ll learn and discover new things about your garden. You start with an idea, change it, change it a bit more until you’re quite satisfied and think you have your perfect garden. Mind you it’ll never be perfect. Nature cannot be tamed! 🙂
In pursuit of perfection, you can start by choosing a spot in your garden, and making a ground plan which can be a great basis for crop rotation. In my first post, I showed you a sketch of what I wanted my kitchen garden to look like: 9 main beds, a supporting bed next to the greenhouse and on the left of this all, I’d saved a spot for perennials and fruits. On the sketch below however you’ll see I changed my initial plan a bit so I can move my wheelbarrow between the 2 halves.
You could start each gardening season with a fresh lay-out if you’d like that. However the best thing to do is starting with a well-thought plan and maintaining it. If you constantly change your ground plan, you deny your garden a naturally balanced, beneficial ecosystem. This is important to avoid low yields, diseases and other problems!
A well-established crop rotation (keep an eye on our next posts) will help you get the most out of your organic garden. Sure, you could use pesticides, but honestly? In my opinion that’s lazily cheating and fighting nature instead of using its benefits to your advantage. If you don’t mind killing beneficial insects and befouling the soil, then go your own way.
All shapes and sizes.
A garden should always exist of beds and paths. It’s important you don’t walk on your beds. In time soil will get too compressed causing drainage issues and plants will start having oxygen deficiency. That’s where paths come in handy. These should be at least 30cm (1ft), the size of one’s foot. If you want to be able to use a wheelbarrow, make sure your path has at least the width of it.
For the beds you should maintain a maximum width of 120 cm (4ft). You’ll be able to reach 60cm (2ft) at each side by only using the paths which is an ergonomic distance to bridge.
If you want to bring ergonomics (literally) to another level, you can opt for raised beds. 20cm (0,65ft) will do, to improve comfort. Other benefits of raised beds are a better drainage and quicker heating up of soil in springtime. You can raise them by building small walls enclosing the soil.
As you can see in the picture, I used old brick stones to define the edges of each bed. I had these laying around (another benefit of renovating). I love the way they merge with the surroundings. You can use other (recycled) materials as well to give it your own personal touch:
- Pinewood panels
- Upright tiles
- Concrete curbs
- Braided willow branches
- Scaffolding wood
I haven’t made up my mind yet on what I’m going to lay in between the beds, on the walking paths. For now it’ll remain plain, old soil. You can use all kinds of stuff to define your paths. Just know you’ll also be using them after (or during) rainy days, so think of materials that keep the mud and dirt to a minimum. Also keep in mind when using small materials like gravel or bark, you’ll be getting yourself into an ever more tedious job than weeding, as it spreads out all over your beds. Always choose practicality above beauty! Some material examples:
- Wood bark
- Old carpet
- Bricks, stones or tiles with Creeping Thyme or Nobile Treneague Camomile between the grooves
Before you choose a spot for your kitchen garden, you should think it through and take into account a couple of things.
It should be somewhere with a lot of sunlight during the day. Most vegetables and fruits need a lot of sun to flourish, at least 6 hours (ideally 8 hours) of sunlight. Also try and orientate your beds in a north-south direction to avoid beds casting shadows on each other. In the picture below you can see our garden 3rd June last year, same style, but wrongly oriented beds.
You should also make sure your plants are not constantly fighting aggressive winds by hedging your garden. You could go for wired fence overgrown with creepers (ivy, star jasmine …) or natural hedges (hornbeam, conifer …) which will break the winds and maintain a healthy aeration. Another option is putting up wooden or concrete panels or building brick walls. Brick, concrete and stone walls create a warmer “micro-climate” because the walls store and reflect heat.
One last tip: if you mind distance, locate your garden close to your kitchen. Sometimes you just quickly need something out of the garden and it’ll make your life easier. Our garden however couldn’t be located farther away. Sometimes there just aren’t many other options. But I don’t mind the distance. 🙂