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