Every year, in the lead up to Spring, gardeners start plotting and planning how they can gain more room to grow. We’ve put together some ideas to help you maximise your space and ensure that you’re growing (and therefore eating) responsibly. Spring is only 5 sleeps away!
1. Commandeer existing beds
This seems like the most obvious choice as the structure is already there. Before growing edibles in existing beds there are a few things to consider.
Light: Does the area receive ample sun? Most edibles require at least 6 hours of sun per day to produce properly.
Soil quality: Test your soil’s pH, kits can be bought from most garden centres or hardware stores. The optimum range for edibles is 7-7.5. Soil can be balanced if it is not within the desired range using different additives but this can take a few weeks. It is also important to ensure that your soil is free from heavy metals ,and contaminants such as lead, as you will be eating produce grown in the soil. This can be done easily by sending off a sample to Vegesafe or by chatting to knowledgeable agents such as Crop Swapper Paul Harvey from Environmental Science Solutions.
2. Grow in pots
Pots are a quick and easy solution to acquiring more space, and there are so many options available, but be mindful that veggies need lots of water. In the hot Summer sun potted plants may need to be watered every day. Also consider the required root depth of your plants to make sure that they have enough room to get big enough to eat.
3. Go up
Use trellises, cages or arches to maximise your growing space above. Consider what varieties can be grown in this way, and if it is a permanent structure, think about whether you can utilise it outside of peak growing periods, when most climbing varieties are in season.
4. Build yourself some new beds
Give yourself plenty of time! This always takes longer than you think, but the prospect of new beds is always an exciting one. A few things to consider when planning your project.
Materials: Probably the most important factor; will your beds be constructed from. Here are a few options:
Treated pine – Readily available and usually the first thing people think of. Unfortunately this wood is treated with arsenic and other chemicals to deter termites. This can leach into your soil and then be taken up by your plants. If you do use treated pine, be sure to line the beds in plastic before putting your soil in so that you don’t end up ingesting these chemicals.
Hardwood – Beds made out of hardwood are beautiful and long lasting but this wood is heavy! Think about who is going to construct the beds and how you will get the material to site. Similar to treated pine, steer clear of railway sleepers unless you are going to line the beds.
IBC containers – These are large plastic containers used in industry. Make sure you obtain them from a source where you can reliably find out what they were originally used for, some are used to store chemicals and these are therefore undesirable for edibles. Gardening Australia did a popular segment on using IBCs to build new beds. More details here.
Budget: Cost out your project at the outset so that you know what you’re up for. Include building materials, soil and labour. You can always save money by doing it yourself, or crop swapping seeds or plants once you’re ready!
Soil: An easy rule of thumb is that you get what you pay for. If you can afford it, go for a certified organic product or better still make your own compost.
5. Purchase a pre-fab raised bed such as a Vegepod
This system pretty much ticks all of the boxes. They create quite a buzz on social media as gardeners all over the world post pictures of proof that they really work. We setup a large pod a few weeks ago and the growth has been amazing. Some considerations.
Time & money: If you’re keen to get planting, then this is the option for you, as the flat pack setup is quick, easy and affordable.
Water: These beds incorporate a wicking bed system which allows plants to take the amount of water they require from below, when they need it. Vegepods can store enough water for weeks worth of watering. See illustration below.
Ergonomics & position: Available with the option of a stand, meaning that your beds can be maintained and harvested without bending down. The smaller sizes also have wheels so you can chase the sun or relocate conveniently. Note that Vegepods do need to be placed on level ground to ensure that water is distributed evenly. Ours is setup in a very narrow, otherwise unusable space.
Pests: Vegepods come with a protective cover made from a polyethylene knitted mesh to protect your produce from UV and pests. The cover also helps manage temperature by allowing water and air to penetrate.
We’re also using a small pod to raise Spring seedlings so that they’re protected and insulated. Stay tuned for our colourful and blemish free harvests.
And here’s some more Spring inspiration.
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