Growing your own food has always been a good idea, but now, few things make more sense.
Food security will become a huge concern but growing your own edibles has many additional advantages such as helping to combat anxiety and depression, alleviating boredom and getting safe exercise.
Planning your edible garden
- What to plant when First take into account that most edibles are seasonal.
- Selecting a site for your edibles. Choosing the right spot to plant your edibles is crucial.
- Consider making a Raised bed garden – it will be easier on your back as well dissuade your dogs from ‘helping with the gardening’.
Note that the soil in a raised bed will dry out more quickly. During the spring and fall, this is fine, but during the summer, add mulch, on top of the soil to help it retain moisture.
Frequent watering will be critical with raised beds, especially in the early stages of plant growth.
- Don’t fret if you do not have ample space for an edible garden. The concept of square foot gardening illustrates how to grow ample edibles in limited space. There are also numerous options for growing edibles in containers.
- Pets in the garden If you have dogs, rather not use bone-meal in your soil preparation and consider a raised bed garden or planting in pots.
Soil preparation is one of the most important aspects of any gardening project. The quality and quantity of your harvest will be closely correlated with the quality of your soil. It will also give plants greater reserves for fighten off pests and diseases.
Read more about soil preparation for pots or garden beds.
Growing from seeds
Many edibles can be grown from seed. They can either be sown directly into the garden bed or germinated in seedling trays and then transplanted. If you do not have access to commercial seed you can use save and use the seeds from your foodstuffs.
- When sowing straight into your no dig garden, make a depression or form a shallow ditch, then fill with fine soil, sow seeds and cover with more soil. Don’t put mulch over these areas yet.
- Whether in pots or the garden, seeds should be sown approximately at a depth of twice times their size. So a pumpkin seed would go in roughly at 2cms . Small seeds just need a light sprinkling of fine soil.
- Onions and most root crops, particularly carrots are best sown directly into the garden as they suffer if their roots are disturbed.
- Other seeds that are easy to sow direct in the garden are the biggies where you can just pop a handful of soil in a hole, place the bean, pea, pumpkin etc seed in and cover over.
Planting edible seedlings
- Mark where you plan to put each of your plants. Use a trowel to make a hole large enough to take the root system.
- Have the soil in the seedlings’ containers damp enough so that the soil clings to the roots of each plant as much as possible.
- Gently prise or tip out each vegetable seedling from its container taking as much of the soil as you can with it into the garden bed.
- Firm the soil around the plant in its new position, cover the area with mulch and water in gently. Initially leave a small gap between the mulch and seedlings so that rot does not set in when the plants are so young and tender.
- It is best to transplant seedlings in the late afternoon or evening to give the plants time to settle before being subjected to midday sun.
Protecting your edibles during winter
- You can use various densities of frost cover. But for winter edibles you would get the best results by building a cover for your bed. There are many options and different design you can choose from:
Whether you water with a hose, bucket, drip irrigation system, or sprinkler, regular irrigation is the edible gardener’s most important chore. There’s no “right” frequency to watering; check on your plants every day or two and irrigate them when the top 3cm or inch of soil is dry or when plants begin to wilt. How often you will water will also depend on the season (water more during warmer months), and daily weather.
Take into account that young seedlings will succumb much quicker when deprived of moisture. Without periodic rains or irrigation, your plants will stop producing fruit and will drop any fruit they have already produced. Adding a layer of mulch on top of the soil will help to retain moisture.
Too much water also has ill effects. Plants should always be allowed to dry out between waterings. Soggy roots quickly begin to rot, causing plants to decline.
Avoid watering in the evenings as this can increase fungal infections and during the heat of the day in summer.
Similar to soil preparation, feeding your edibles will significantly contribute to the health of your edibles and the quality of your harvest. Depending on which stage of growth your edibles are and whether you want to promote root, leaf or fruit growth will determine the N:P:K ratio of the fertiliser you would use.
Three Primary Nutrients
There are three primary nutrients that plants require in fairly large quantities. Regardless of its type, any fertilizer you buy will come with information about the nutrients it contains. Prominently featured on fertilizers will be the N-P-K ratio, the percentage the product contains by volume of nitrogen (chemical symbol N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K)
- Nitrogen helps plants make the proteins they need to produce new tissues. In nature, nitrogen is often in short supply so plants have evolved to take up as much nitrogen as possible, even if it means not taking up other necessary elements. If too much nitrogen is available, the plant may grow abundant foliage but not produce fruit or flowers. Growth may actually be stunted because the plant isn’t absorbing enough of the other elements it needs.
- Phosphorus stimulates root growth, helps the plant set buds and flowers, improves vitality and increases seed size. It does this by helping transfer energy from one part of the plant to another. To absorb phosphorus, most plants require a soil pH of 6.5 to 6.8. Organic matter and the activity of soil organisms also increase the availability of phosphorus.
- Potassium improves the overall vigour of the plant. It helps the plants make carbohydrates and provides disease resistance. It also helps regulate metabolic activities.
Three Additional Nutrients That Matter
Plants also need these three nutrients, but in much smaller amounts:
- Calcium is used by plants in cell membranes, at their growing points and to neutralize toxic materials. In addition, calcium improves soil structure and helps bind organic and inorganic particles together.
- Magnesium is the only metallic component of chlorophyll. Without it, plants can’t process sunlight.
- Sulfur is a component of many proteins.
We highly recommend Talborne Organics range of organic fertilizers.
- Nutritional values of edibles
- The best edibles for a survival garden
- Harvesting, drying and preserving edibles
- Extensive edible gardening guide PDF download.
- Growing microgreens