As we enter an age of environmentally conscious living, self-sufficient and sustainable living solutions are increasingly in demand.
The art of growing an edible garden may seem like rocket science to those who lack proverbial green thumbs. However, with some easy-to-follow steps and a little patience, your flourishing garden is very much within grasp.
Before you start to plant that obscure species of rhubarb you have your eye on; you need to consider the logistics of gardening. Consider the space you have to utilise. While most of us envision a sprawling garden rich with greenery and exotic fruit, an edible garden has the flexibility to be as small as a pot on a windowsill.
Courtyards, balconies, porches and window sills are all perfectly viable options for those who don’t have a traditional garden. Just remember you will need to consider sun exposure, access to water, the nature of your soil, and any infrastructure you may require.
Once found the prime location, you will need to consider the kinds of containers your plants will come to call their home. Terracotta and plastic pots are the traditional options. But don't be afraid to get creative with an old wheelbarrow or bathtub for some unique flair! Large pots, barrels and pipes do equally well. If you opt for a raised garden bed, you have the bonus of having something purpose-built to suit your gardens needs.
Whatever containment medium you choose, ensure each container accommodates drainage, which can be done by simply drilling a few holes.
The quality of your soil will determine the quality of your produce. The ideal soil is one that is free-draining (but still able to retain moisture and nutrients). Rich in organic matter, pH neutral to slightly acidic, and rich in soil life, like earthworms. A great way to enrich the soil and sustainably dispose of your food waste is through composting. Composting not only helps the soil retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests. While also reducing the need for chemical fertilisers, encourages the production of beneficial bacteria, and lowers your carbon footprint.
Check out our article on composing for a simple guide to creating your compost here.
Picking your plants
Now for the part, you’ve been waiting for - the plants. When deciding which species to include in your edible garden, make sure to include varieties that you enjoy eating. If you plant what you love, you will be enthusiastic about your garden and devoted to its nurture. In doing so, however, you will need to take climate into account, as certain plant species are weather-sensitive and will only grow in particular conditions.
Furthermore, it would be wise to consider seasonality in your garden design. With some strategic planning, you could create an edible garden that produces results year-round. For a beginner, we advise starting small with the likes of herbs and to plant seedlings, rather than seeds from the packet.
Once the planting stage is complete, patience is the key, alongside attentive care. Remove weeds regularly to prevent their absorption of valuable nutrients from the soil and mulch to conserve water. Use non-chemical pest solutions, like garlic and chilli spray or milk. Rotate your more established crops regularly, either seasonally or annually, to ensure the soil retains its nutrients and risk of disease is diminished.
Creating your edible garden may require some effort and patience, but the results are well worth it, enhancing both your lifestyle and diet.