MY KITCHEN GARDEN IN THE BAY OF PLENTY
M Y K I T C H E N G A R D E N
If you asked me what my favourite part of my garden is, I would have to say my vegetable garden for sure. Just the satisfaction I get from going out to the garden when I'm cooking, picking fresh produce and knowing no sprays were used. I love the productivity of a vege garden - the satisfaction of the rows and rows of lush green veges snuggly bedded in with pea straw, the smells- herbs, onions, tomato plants ... I LOVE ALL OF IT! For a long time I have dreamed of becoming self sufficient in the vege garden. The main barriers being lack of space and time, but I'm getting closer to that goal every year.
Our Kitchen Garden Design
The location of our vege garden was chosen because of it's
1. proximity to the kitchen
2. north facing position.
The only downfall was the steep slope it was on. We solved this by doing a lot of retaining, and essentially creating several different levels, which I think makes it more interesting anyway.
Most of the garden beds have been made a maximum of 75cm wide, in order that we can reach everywhere without having to step on it, which is a no no because it would compact the soil. The pathways are weedmatted then filled with 10cm of pea gravel, with some just being left as grass, we've chosen sloping paths over stairs, so there is access for the mower and wheelbarrow. Edging was originally created using the old rimu framing we pulled out of our old villa. It was all we could afford at the time, and 10years later is falling apart and needs replacing. So we have a pile of old bricks ready to replace it when we get time.
We have several climbing structures that are used to grow tomatoes, sweet peas, beans. These are practical, but also look good, adding height and structure to the design. We also have post and wire structures which we have espaliered nashis and pears on, our peach and nectarine didn't make the cut, as they kept getting brown rot.
We made sure we had taps in close proximity to the vege garden to make watering easy, the garden shed that stores all my garden stuff is close by, along with my 3 compost bins. We also planted a pittosporum hedge along the west side of the vege garden, which we keep trimmed, to give a bit more protection from the westerlies.
What We Grow In Our Kitchen Garden
Veges - I grow only what we will eat. One of my main staples, that we eat a lot of is brocolli, so I've gotten better and better at growing it over the years. 12 plants can last for several months, if we keep picking the small florets . Veges that we grow year round are lettuce and beetroot. In the springtime sugar snap peas and brassicas. Over the summer tomatoes, potatoes, zuchini, lebanese cucumbers, capsicum, onions. In the autumn carrots and brassicas. Spinach, celery, garlic and leeks are veges we have just started growing and are still learning about and working out what seasons they work best in.
Herbs - I just love having herbs available whenever I need them for cooking. I LOVE the smell as you brush past them, and I LOVE the freshness they add to food, particularly salads. The herbs I have in the garden all year round are rosemary, thyme, mint, oregano. The seasonal ones that I grow are chives, basil. I was very excited to grow enough coriander over the winter this year for what I needed for cooking, I LOVE coriander, so we'll see if I can keep up over the summer without it bolting to seed. I would love to extend my range of herbs used in cooking, and learn to grow different herbs. Italian parsley is a new one I'm growing, hopefully I can find some recipes to use it in
The most important thing in a successful vegetable garden I would say without a doubt is the soil. This is relevant to all types of gardens, not just vege gardens. The fact is your plants are only as good as your soil. The best vege gardens are the ones that have been cultivated for 10 or 20 years, that every year have the good stuff added and just get better and better. When I started my vege gardens I got a trailer load of compost to dig in to give it a good start. Every year I add another 10cm of compost from my bins on the vege beds. Also when I plant a new crop, I at least put some compost in the planting holes. I also add pea straw every year to as much of the beds as I can, which will break down over the year and also add goodness to the soil. Some years I have also planted green crops over the winter, which I have dug in to the soil to further improve it. If you have good soil, your plants will be able to reach further down to access water.
The compost bins and making my own compost is one of my FAVOURITE parts of gardening, it's incredibly satisfying. Not only the act of using my own home made compost on the garden and not having to buy any, but the fact that all the paper/cardboard and food scraps are not having to go into our rubbish bin, so less waste. Our 3 bins are currently just kiwifruit bins, but they are falling apart and will soon need to be replaced. Whatever we replace them with will be salvaged from what we can find at home, maybe wire netting and posts? To have a successful bin you need to have (I think) equal amounts of wet and dry ingrediants. Dry ingrediants are usually paper/cardboard or dry greenery.
We put into our bin:
any fruit or vege scraps,
lawn clippings (not too much though)
empty toilet rolls (we have a basket in the toilet, so we empty the basket straight to the compost bin),
weeds from weeding,
paper or cardboard that doesn't have too much ink on, with sellotape removed,
animal poo (usually chicken poo from our chickens and cow poo which I gather from the neighbours paddock) and
Things we don't put on the compost heap is meat, dairy pasta scraps that could attract rats, large twigs, noxious weeds or weeds that I don't want to spread through the garden. I find that if the compost bin dries out too much it doesn't compost well. We had a really dry summer over 2019 and it was probably my least successful lot of composting I've had for a while.
I am a pretty lazy compost creator, I don't bother chopping materials down smaller or adding compost activators, or turn it very often. I just chuck the materials in the bin trying to roughly layer the dry and wet ingrediants ( I always have cardboard sitting next to the heap ready to go in). When I have one empty bin (i.e I have spread the compost from that bin out on the garden) and have one full bin, I empty the full bin into the empty bin, thus turning it over and putting the nearly composted material at the top. It probably takes me 3 - 6 months to have a full bin. I also put a piece of carpet on top of each of the 3 bins to keep moisture in, and stop weeds growing.
So at all times I have the first bin being added to with scraps and paper etc all the time, the second bin is sitting there breaking down, waiting for it to turn to compost. and the 3rd bin that has compost ready for using in the garden.
We also have a small worm farm, which is awesome for producing worm wee to spread on the garden.
Fertilising and Bugs n Diseases
I'm rather lazy when it comes to bugs and disease control, I prefer to use as little chemicals as possible. I do use derris dust on my brassicas to control the caterpillers, and Quash to control the snails. Apart from that it's mainly natural methods e.g netting, and planning the planting so they are not grown at a time of year they will be bombarded with bugs. Soil quality is probably your best protection against bugs and diseases, healthy soil equals healthy plants. I also use sheep pellets and worm wee to give the plants a boost.
Well thats my two cents... HAPPY VEGE GARDENING!!