In my previous post, I highlighted the merits of starting an edible garden at home. But how do you get your project underway?
When it comes to planning an edible garden, it’s best to start small and learn as you grow. There’s no point aiming high when you’re a novice, only to meet obstacles and give up too soon.
Here are six steps to help you start an edible garden at home.
How to Start an Edible Garden
1. Decide on the Location
Choose your location and consider how much space you have. Will you be growing herbs and vegetables in the ground, in raised garden beds, in containers on a balcony or patio, or in mini containers on a balcony rail? Most edibles need at least 6 hours of sun. Also, know your plant hardiness zone and what grows at that particular time of year in your area. For example, Sydney is in the temperate zone which is equivalent to Zone 10 in the USA. This will help you inform you what will grow in season.
2. Plan Your Edible Garden
Make a plan of your edible garden. Whether it’s a spreadsheet, a hand-drawn plan of the space you’ve allocated for your garden, be it a balcony or courtyard, or even a set of steps. It will help you visualise what your edible garden will look like in the long run.
3. Seed or Seedlings
Don’t just rush to a nursery or hardware store and buy any seed or plant that takes your fancy. Browse through seed websites (warning: they’re addictive!) and start by looking at what you like to eat. Is it leafy greens such as rocket, basil for pesto, or beetroot? Look for different varieties and you’ll be surprised how many you’ve never seen in supermarkets. The key point here is to grow what you like to eat.
Alternatively, if you’re buying seedlings, always check what grows in season in your hardiness zone. Don’t take it for granted that what’s available in nurseries is in fact, in season. Lesson learnt the hard way.
4. Soil or Potting Mix
When it comes to buying soil or potting mix, get the best you can afford because it’s truly a case of “you get what you pay for”. Don’t waste your time and money on cheap soil like I did. During my first growing season, I bought the cheapest potting mix. Sure, it said it was for veggies and tomatoes but once my seeds reached the seedling stage, they stopped growing. It wasn’t until I was planning my raised garden bed and someone explained to me that the cheaper soil has very little nutrients and to look for one with the Australian Standards red tick. Another lesson learnt the hard way.
If you’re planning on growing in pots, don’t buy garden soil as it tends to clump together. You need potting mix, preferably one with organic nutrients. You’ll also need compost, fertiliser and blood and bone. The more you enrich your soil at the start, the better chance you have at growing a better crop.
5. Gardening Tools
Once you have your seed and soil, the next thing you’ll need is to get some gardening tools. There’s no need to buy everything at once. If you’re growing in containers, at minimum, you’ll need gardening gloves, a wide brimmed gardening hat that covers your head and neck, containers, secateurs or pruning shears, a hand trowel and a watering can. Leave the soil moisture metres and pH test kits for later until you really need them.
6. Start Planting
Whether you’re sowing seed or planting seedlings, it’s time to get started. Dig in and have a go. Remember to label your seed with the name of the plant, the date sown and the number of seed sown. If you’re transplanting seedlings you’ve bought from a nursery, most come with a plant tag with plant care information such as position, watering and fertilising requirements and so make sure you stick it in the pot for easy reference and you’re on your way.
There is one piece of advice that I wish I was given when I started, and that is, “you will make many mistakes and you will learn so much in the process”.
Happy edible gardening!