The following guide contains specific information on how to plant and grow a variety of vegetables that are well adapted to our vast Australian climate. We have included information on where to place the raised garden beds, planning which crops to plant and when to plant them, watering, caring for the soil and getting rid of pests.
There are many ways to plant a garden, so feel free to experiment and try other methods. Talk to other gardeners in your neighbourhood and see what is working for them. Email us to share your experiences or feel free to comment on our Blog. Of course, the best teacher is “trial and error”, so roll up your sleeves and have fun learning!
Most crops need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight in the summer, so it is important to place your raised garden bed in a sunny area. Observe your yard during different times of the day to find which spot gets the best sunlight. If you are planting in the spring, remember to account for trees that may block light once the foliage appears.
It is benefical to have a source of water nearby or you may find yourself having to carry water, which can get tiring in the dry summer heat. Some afternoon shade may benefit the garden by helping to conserve soil moisture. However, it is advised to place your raised garden bed away from the drip line of buildings or structures that have lead paint on them, as the lead can contaminate the soil in the garden.
RaisedGardenBed.net.au recommends using the square foot method to plan and plant your garden. Mel Bartholomew, who developed this kind of gardening in the late 1970s, discovered that this method would produce a greater harvest in less space with less work.
In square foot gardening, the plants are arranged in blocks instead of rows. Each block contains a different vegetable, herb or flower. The number of seeds or plants that are placed in each square depends on how large the plant grows and how much space it needs to develop properly.
The quality of the compost and soil in the raised garden bed also impacts how intensely you can grow. By using this technique, you can easily maintain and replant squares throughout the season without disturbing other areas of the garden. This growing method is also easy to learn, which is especially encouraging for beginners!
THINGS TO REMEMBER:
•The best time to plan a garden is during the winter.
•You may want to choose to grow only the crops that are particularly well suited to growing in small spaces (small plants, quick growing plants, things that can be grown on trellises or vertically save space; plants with a high yield: kale and collards continue producing leaves for harvesting while cabbage only produces one head per plant).
•For vegetables that take up a lot of space in your bed, such as cabbage, corn, winter squash, and melons, consider buying this produce at your local farmers’ market.
•If you have a favourite vegetable, consider planting two or three squares of it.
•If you plan to grow more than one square of something that matures quickly (carrots, radishes, lettuce, beans), consider planting each square 2-3 weeks apart (succession planting) to spread out the harvest.
•Plan to continue to use squares after something is finished producing and has been harvested. For example, after four weeks, you will harvest your radishes and have an empty square. Plant another square of radishes, or perhaps a fall crop of greens.
WATERING - When seeds or seedlings are first planted in the garden bed, they will need regular watering to keep their root systems (but not leaves) moist. Check the moisture level in the top 2” of soil by sticking your finger into the soil; if it is dry, it is time to water. If you have a “soaker hose”, lay it down in the middle of the garden beds and turn it on low for 20 minutes every other day. Water the soil deeply to promote the plants to develop deep roots.
Be careful not to give too much water though, as the soil we use is highly organic and it can become waterlogged. If you do not own a hose, use a bucket and a cup as a scoop to water the individual squares, which works especially well for plants that have just been transplanted. The frequency and amount of watering will depend on the weather and the size of the plants. If it has been rainy, it is not necessary to water as frequently as when it has been sunny and dry. After seedlings are established and growing well, you can water less frequently.
When watering by hand, be sure to pour close to the ground so you do not “rupture” the soil or create large puddles. This also prevents the leaves from getting wet, which can lead to blight and other fungus problems. Water and harvest your garden during the cooler hours of the day – preferably in the morning. If the plants look yellow, they are getting too much water; if they look wilted, they are not getting enough. During the midsummer when the weather is usually drier, it might be necessary to water every day. If leafy plants look wilted at midday, but perky again at night and early morning, they are doing fine.
WEEDING - Removing weeds from a raised bed garden is often easier than from traditional gardens since the soil in a raised bed does not get compacted so roots come loose easily. It is easiest to pull weeds when they are small as long as you can distinguish the tiny weed leaves from those of the crops you have planted. (Labelling what you plant will help you identify the wanted from the unwanted.) Weeding is also easier when the soil is moist, such as after watering or a rain storm.
You can remove weeds by hand or use a tool such as a claw, a co-linear hoe or a hula hoe. Just make sure you get all the roots out so they don’t grow back. If you use a tool for weeding, be careful not to work too close to the base of the vegetables or flowers so that you do not damage the roots. When hand weeding around plants, hold the plants in place as you pull the weeds so that you do not inadvertently pull out the plants you want along with the weeds. When you are finished, you can collect all the discarded weeds and add them to your compost pile.
MULCHING - One advantage of raised garden beds is that the soil warms sooner, so the beds can be planted earlier in the season. However, this also means that the beds are more susceptible to drying out. To help conserve moisture, we recommend that you mulch your garden if you can. Straw (preferred), shredded leaves, compost, and dried grass cuttings can all be used as mulch. Spread the mulch several inches thick over the surface of the bed after the plants have established themselves or put down a layer of newspaper first and then cover it with mulch. At the end of the season, this mulch can be turned under to add organic matter to the soil. A layer of mulch will also help keep weeds in check.
The best way to keep pests away from your garden is to grow healthy plants since strong, healthy plants tend to fight off invading pests. In addition, certain vegetables, such as onions, will help to repel insects if planted around the edge or throughout the garden. Flowers and herbs, such as nasturtiums and marigolds, can also provide protection from pests.
Removing weeds and diseased plants from your garden will also help to keep your plants healthier and pest free.
Not all insects you will see in your garden are there to eat your plants. A number of them are helpful to gardeners because they prey on other insects or they help to pollinate your crops. Without insects such as bumblebees, honey bees, and butterflies we would not have tomatoes, squash, or peppers. Ladybug beetles, tricho-gramma wasps, soldier beetles and lacewings are among the insect predator’s that feed on pests in your garden. You can attract these friendly insects by planting nectar-producing flowers and herbs, such as parsley and dill, around and throughout your garden.