Organic garden build – Key design principles for a thriving food garden
Organic garden build is a process that is dependent on many factors and for DIY organic gardeners, its very easy to get sidetracked into creating something that does not really serve your needs and motivations.
There are a number of key principles I have worked with over the years with our organic garden build Brisbane clients who are either starting from scratch or want to improve their existing organic gardens.
Get your goals clear
- What are your key reasons for growing food? – Consider reasons that not only relate to the quantum of output, but how you can use the garden as part of your well being. These well being reasons are the ones that will sustain your interest when the bugs get too friendly
- What is your time commitment? – Be objective about the time you have available, a food garden needs attention each day. Be aware that if you start it well, stage it and focus on improving skills, you can enter a zone of growing more high quality food in less time
Be realistic about past experience/knowledge
- What do you know about growing food? – Think objectively on your past experiences, perhaps there are some common reasons why you did not get over the threshold to a consistently productive organic garden
- What is your garden attitude? – Whether you have past experience or not, having attitudes of joy, wonder and openness to learn are much more helpful than frustration and negativity. A negative mind struggles to learn and there is lots to learn in successful organic gardening
Assess your whole space objectively
- Look over all your potential spaces using criteria of: sun, drainage, ease of access, size and potential for expansion, impact from other structures and plants. Rank the spaces
- How much can you grow? – A well managed vegetable garden that also uses climbing frames to increase growing area should produce 6-10kg of vegetables and herbs per year per m2. Relate this potential to your food volume goal and your time commitment.
- What is your starting soil? – It may be existing soil or bought in soil. Is it suitable to use at start or if not, how should it be improved and what is your plan for sustainable soil management over the coming years. How will you recycle your organic material into soil?
- Do you bring in soil or improve what you have? – In most cases bought soil, unless of very high quality, will need to be improved to begin with. If you have a soil base already, its normally better to work on improving it with organic and biodynamic methods
- What type of garden bed structures will you use? – If they are hard edge structures, what will be their height and material, (40cm is plenty high enough for a vegetable garden). Which option is more beautiful, functional and durable whilst not being toxic for the soil?
- Beauty and function – Is the garden being designed for beauty as this has a big impact on its success and how you feel in it. Beauty must be accompanied by function. Is it easy to use, are beds and paths the right size and orientation and is proximity ideal for your living?
- What is your planting plan?- Consider vegetables annual and perennial herbs, native bush foods and fruit trees. What are the ideal times to plant them and be sure they are all the crops you like to eat. Incorporate many flowers for pollinators, beauty and beneficial insects
- How do you plant to maximise productivity – Tactical planting to increase volume for the pace, provide continuous cropping over the year and establish ideal companion planting practices to add with soil improvement, pest reduction and optimising plant growth
Stage your project
- How do you break all of the tasks of getting the garden underway into stages so they match your time, your budget and your skill level and allow you to have time to observe how things are progressing before completing you full plan
As you can see, there are many questions to answer with organic garden build. Like any activity where you want to achieve high levels of success, there is much to learn. Fortunately with food growing, you can do it at any scale depending on your space.
Our organic garden mentoring service is very much designed around helping you to work with all of the points above during the initial planning phase and then supporting the implementation of the plan over a 12 month period so that you can have your questions answered as you go. We often collaborate with experienced garden builders where constructions and materials are required.
PS: Most gardeners have issues with pests and diseases in their food gardens, but the potential to greatly reduce their impact using organic methods only is fundamentally based on the design and management principles described above and in my experience, supported with biodynamic soil and plant preparations.
Happy organic garden build
Authored by Peter Kearney – www.myfoodgarden.com.au