Preparing the vegetable patch for next season in 4 easy steps

Change of season is one of the best times of the year. One of the things I look forward to in Autumn is to prepare and plant the kitchen garden beds for the cooler season ahead. Are you keen to prep your garden to produce some delicious veggies for the table this winter? This simple 4-step method will have your veggie patch in top shape ready to plant into in under half an hour.

It’s almost the end of April here on the Sunshine Coast in our subtropical climate. This means snuggling under the doona with the nights getting a little chilly, and days that are mild and gently breezy without that hot bite of the summer sun.

Getting out in the garden in this weather is such a pleasure. With the warm sun on my back, it’s a delight to get the veggie patch ready to nurture winter seeds such as spinach, lettuce mix, beetroot and shelling peas.

I was happily surprised today that my husband wanted to join me in preparing the garden beds. Once he started I was secretly hoping that by helping me out he might catch the garden bug. It’s looking promising, as he said whilst lovingly spreading the compost, “you know, this is good therapy”! Let’s hope he is still keen in two weeks when I plant the seeds.

Hubby clearing out last season’s plants – basil plant in the foreground

Using up the seed collection and not buying new seeds

This year I have decided to use up the seeds in my existing cool season collection, as some of them are nearing the end of their useful life. Most seeds last around 2-3 years before they are no longer viable to germinate. I won’t be buying any new seeds, so I will have veggies to eat for practically no cost.

My plan is to save the seeds from the varieties that I plant so that I no longer need to buy seed. Seeds from healthy and strong plants will also be acclimatised to our local area and our garden microclimate, meaning that they will perform well when planted next cool season.

Methods and items needed for preparing the garden beds

I have used an organic no-dig method for making and planting out garden beds for many years. I first learn how to do it when I completed my Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) in 2004 (read more the PDC on my About page).

All I do is layer all garden ingredients on top of each other and water in well. This method for preparing the beds each season takes about 15 minutes, and is light work.

These are the things I no longer do in the garden:

  • Tilling or digging the soil (which destroys soil structure, earthworms and is hard work)
  • Using chemical fertilisers
  • Spraying pesticides and herbicides
  • Planting with chemically treated and commercial seeds (I use traditional heirloom varieties from Green Harvest).

These activities are damaging to soil life, earthworms and environment in general, and digging is hard work for me!

Items used to get the garden beds ready

  • 1 bag of compost per garden bed (I have 4 beds that measure 1m x 1m each)
  • 1 cup Natra-Min rock mineral soil conditioner per garden bed (like a fertiliser but natural as it’s just ground up rocks and can be found in most produce stores)
  • 1 bale of Lucerne hay (bought from any produce store)

Cost of preparation

Total cost of the above items is about $30. Here is a breakdown of costs:

  • Natra-Min $2 (cost of a bag is $30)
  • Lucerne Hay $4 (cost of a bale is $16)
  • Compost $24 (cost of a bag is $6). Next season I hope to have enough of my own homemade compost to use instead.

Preparing the garden beds in 4 easy steps

Step One

Remove all old plants from the previous season. Use them in the compost or larger plants under trees as mulch. Softer or smaller plants can be left to rot on the surface to feed the soil. Any beans or peas can be left on the surface or dug in to provide Nitrogen to the soil.

Step Two

Spread a bag of compost per garden bed. Water in well.

compost-spread

Step Three

Use a cup of Natra-Min per garden bed and sprinkle over. Water in well.

natramin-spread

Step Four

Take a bit of Lucerne hay off the end of the bale and spread it out over the bed. You will need to fluff it out a bit with your hand to separate it so it doesn’t become matted when wet. Water in well.

finished-prepped-garden

Note: next time I am going to soak the Lucerne in a container full of water first. This method is what gardening guru Annette McFarlane recommends as an easier way to work with the hay, and it has worked well for me before.

Now stand back and admire your work and how gorgeous the garden beds look! Go inside and plan what seeds you are going to plant.

It’s such an easy way to prepare the kitchen garden beds each season. If you have children you will appreciate how little time it takes away from childminding, and you can even involve the kids in the easier jobs. Getting them involved in the process will help them to appreciate where their food comes from and make them more likely to want to eat the harvest.

Now to put the veggie roast on for dinner using some of last season’s homegrown potatoes!

Update: I asked on Facebook what other people do to prepare their veggie patch for next season’s planting.  Some of the ideas and methods were:

  • Don’t clear out all of the garden bed, just pull out individual plants are they are finished for the season/harvested.  Plant something new in its spot.  This sounds like a lot less work!
  • Divide the bed into squares after preparing the soil ready to plant seeds into.  Each square will contain a different type of plant.  A good way to divide the bed up and know what you are planting where.

I’d love to hear from you what your kitchen garden setup is like. Do you have a small veggie patch or lots of large beds?

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. You have explained the steps so well for a beginner such as myself. I love the idea of wetting the lucerne before laying as I have the same issue with separating it. I will be doing this next time.

    I prepped our beds in a very similar way just recently. Removed old veggies, applied compost and then lucerne. I did turn the soil though before the compost. I think I’ll leave that step now. I also spread some dynamic lifter over the compost. I’m learning as I go.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Kylie! I see from your blog that you have been gardening over 12 months now and are really enjoying growing food for your family like I am. I’m going to check out the recipes on your blog. Have a lovely night.

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  2. Sherri says:

    I am certainly going to try that tip about dunking the Lucerne in a bucket of water first before applying it to the garden. Even when simply mulching the plants it will help as it can take a lot of time to wet the mulch once it is on the garden. I too have an interest in Permaculture. Last year I completed a Cert IV in permaculture which includes permaculture design but is also includes training on running community permaculture projects, and etcetera. I am about 3 hours north of you.

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    1. Hi Sherri! I dunked most of the bale last time into one of those big plastic storage containers. It was easy to spread after that. I’m pretty hooked on Permaculture. How did you find the Cert 4? It’s nice to see you live in this part of the world.

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      1. Sherri says:

        Brooke, I learnt so much from the Cert 4. Probably the most important part of it for me was the in-depth research I had to do on my local bio-region and the eco-system of my property. Had I done a shorter course where it was recommended that I learn about my bio-region and eco-system I would have thought ‘What a good idea’ but would never have found the time to do it. Of course having completed a permaculture design for my property was pretty important outcome too. And learning the project management skills was very interesting and useful.

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      2. Sherri I would have enjoyed researching my bio-region and Eco-system of my property too. It sounds like you were able to create a detailed property plan and be able to consult and teach Permaculture. Living the dream!

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