Growing your own food at home makes sense. The benefits include the following:
When someone mentions "Vegetable Garden" a fixed image in our minds in conjured up. Generally row upon row of lettuce and cabbage, broccoli, tomato plants with lots of timber stakes sticking in the air above them and random size and thicknesses of timber holding back the soil from winding up on the path etc. I want to steer you away from the traditional look of a vegetable garden and show you how to landscape with Vegetables and flowers to benefit each other and show you when you do this what can be achieved. Gardens have been landscaped for a very long time like this in UK & and other parts of the world eg; France they are called A potager garden and is a French term for an ornamental vegetable or kitchen garden, (Edible garden).
It is not something that has ever been widely practiced here in Australia and it is a shame as I am sure that if more knew how to do this we would see many more edible gardens in the suburbs.
These gardens not only look fantastic they are extremely practical and productive all at the same time. So much so that with just a little bit of planning these gardens can become a fruit and vegetable store in your back and front yard and you will be eating from it every day, instead of making the Supermarkets rich and you will find out that your own produce taste a whole lot better and is most certainly fresher than anything you could possible buy.
The traditional vegetable garden, you see has row after row of the same types of vegetables for instance, a punnet of lettuce or two has been planted side by side one another so potentially you would have 12-24 of the same lettuce in a row beside one another then the next row has as many of the same variety cabbage planted in it in the same fashion and so it goes, and this has been the traditional method of vegetable gardens throughout Australia. It is very rare you would see any ornamental flowers planted in the veggie garden.
This "traditional method" (mono cropping) this means on a larger scale a whole field of an acre or two would be used to grow the same variety like cabbage for the sake of this argument.
What happens with this method is that the cabbage takes out certain nutrients and if it not put in a crop rotation system each time it is planted back in the same spot where the last one grew, it will not produce as well each time, and become susceptible to disease, deficiencies, and pests because these nutrients are not allowed to be replenished organically which would require either planting something that would put the nutrients back like Beets, Carrot, Garlic, or leeks etc, along with some well rooted organic compost and some manure of sorts.
In these commercial farms where they mono crop acres of cabbage there is no crop rotation and they use large amounts of petro chemical produced fertilizers. This unfortunately is not sustainable nor is it good for you or the crop as this allows for the produce to be forced to meet deadlines they must meet to satisfy Supermarket orders etc, and unfortunately the flavour and nutrition is compromised. Years ago in the 60's - 70's when tractors would plough these fields birds would flock by the thousands to pick up the worms behind the tractor. Today the new modern tractors still plough the fields but there is not a bird in sight! The soils is dead and there is nothing alive in it other than the plants being force fed by industrial fertilizers, and these vegetables are the ones that wind up on our Supermarket shelves.
Pests and diseases are also a problem in a Mono crop garden as they are both spread very easily from one plant to another as they are next to one another. Different varieties of vegetables are not necessarily susceptible to the same things in this case as cabbages are, and more often than not what might affect one plant species won’t affect another, mono cropping becomes a problem in this instance, and as a result the use of chemical sprays is often to poison of choice to use to rid these crops of them.
The very nature of having to produce large amounts of vegetables, a mono crop platform is the one chosen for the practicalities of water, fertilizer, pests, disease and harvest. But for a school/community/home garden this is the worst method to use, if are looking to grow your vegetables organically.
This all paints a pretty grim picture for what accept as normal but I have to say it has been the driving force behind me becoming so passionate about educating others about these sorts of gardens. If you want to take the time out in the near future and run a search in www.youtube.com for "A Farm for the Future" and have a look in a more detailed way of where our food security lies and let me tell you it is not in the fields of farms it is in our own backyards. This to me has now become pressingly more urgent to educate young and old and as many as I can reach so that they pass it on.
The Edible garden on the other hand is so far removed from this sort of practice it is hard to understand that not more of us are not doing it, it is simple effective and attractive and really lends itself to our lifestyles.
Edible Gardens have many different forms and has no rows of anything, yet has different things-inter planted with one another. The idea behind a mixed planting is to stay away from mono cropping, the complete opposite of the traditional veggie garden. The plants in these gardens are surrounded by other varieties it is rare that there are several or multitudes grown of the same variety side by side.
Have a look on the label to find out about the height that lets say a Broccoli will grow to being much taller than lettuce and basil being taller than lettuce, you might have a red lettuce and a green lettuce, and some parsley and an Eggplant which is taller than them all so you would plant 1 x Eggplant in the centre of the bed and working toward the outer edge you would systematically plant the rest in order of tallest to smallest toward the edge of the bed. You might also do some research on companion planting.
Companion planting is the use of herbs, lowers and other vegetables to attract pollinators or good bugs, to come and eat the bad bugs that you have in your garden. Some companion plants will ward off diseases, nematodes, and other undesirable things from one another, some are nutrient fixes like we discussed earlier peas for instance put nitrogen back into the ground. An easy way of remembering what goes together is what goes well on the plate together goes well in the ground together, like peas and corn, Corn loves nitrogen and peas like to climb so if you plant them together you have great companions doing what they do best. Using this method you will limit the use of chemical sprays fro insect damage and fungal disease. As for fertilizing your garden I recommend that you stay organic and use compost made from waste on site, and animal manures mixed through the compost.
Another great advantage of staying away from mono-cropping is that most pests have relatively poor eyesight and tend to recognise host plants by leaf shape, so if you are planting singular vegetables and surrounding them with companions and other species they become camouflaged and the pest doesn't see them and continues on until it finds something it recognises.
We offer a full consultation service which can include a site visit and design of an edible gardens in Melbourne Edible Backyards in Melbourne that will help you head down the right path.