What sort of soil do you have?

Wednesday, November 09th, 2011 | Author:

One of the first things you must determine before starting on your vegetable garden is what sort of soil you have in the area you will be planting. The soil type can affect the amount of preparation required, what type of vegetables you can grow and how productive the garden will be. As you read through this article two things should stand out: the soil type does not necessarily preclude growing vegetables, and the importance of compost.

Determining the soil type is not difficult as soil can be roughy grouped into 3 types:

  • light
  • medium
  • heavy

Light soils consist of sand and gravels. Although easy to work with they are not considered to be good soils for growing vegetables as they do not hold moisture well and dry out very quickly on warm days. Also they do not contain many of the minerals and nutrients which are crucial to growing vegetables. However, light soils can easily be improved with the addition of organic matter, compost, fertilisers and wetting agents. Another positive is the fact they warm up quickly in spring offering the possibility of earlier planting of spring vegetables than other soil types.

Medium soils consist of a mixture of sand, gravels and clay particles. These are generally considerd to be the best type of soils for growing vegetables for a number of reasons:

  • they hold moisture well and will not dry out as quickly as light soils
  • they drain well and do not get waterlogged as heavy soils do
  • they contain and hold a good mixture of minerals and nutrients
  • they are relatively easy to work

If you are lucky enough to have this type of soil you will find that your vegetable garden will be very productive and produce the best vegetables!

Heavy soils are made up mainly of clay particles. Possibly the worst type of soil for growing vegetables but do not despair, like light soils they can be improved. The problems with clay soils are the fact that they retain moisture and easily become waterlogged and when wet they are heavy and will stick to everything, tools, boots, clothes, etc. In summer they dry out and can become rock hard and almost impossible to work. But the addition of some sand and gravel (light soil) and plenty of organic matter can greatly improve the condition of heavy soils.

It doesn’t really matter what type of soil you have as most problems can be overcome by adding such things as organic matter, compost, fertilisers and wetting agents. Also, it is possible to build a garden bed from scratch with soil purchased from a garden centre, or of course you can resort to containers and pots. So there is no excuse, get out there and start planning!

Note: it is possible to get really technical and bogged down with soil types and soil condition. Soil testing is something you will hear a lot about. Personally I have never bothered with soil testing although these days small cheap soil testers are available and can help you identify soil problems. However, if you prepare the soil properly with the addition of plenty of organic matter, unless there is some inherent problem with the soil such as contamination, you will have no real problem growing vegetables.

Category: composting, soil & soil improvement, vegetable garden planner | Leave a Comment

Not enough space for a vegetable garden?

Saturday, October 15th, 2011 | Author:

Think you don’t have enough space for a vegetable garden? Think again. My Vegetable Garden Planner will give you tips and tricks on how to best utilise the space you have to successfully grow vegetables just about anywhere even in a small area.

You do not need a quarter acre block to enable you to grow vegetables, there are various methods you can use to utilise what little space you have. If you do at least have a garden then you can use the square foot system in which you select vegetables which are rated to grow in a square foot of space. From this you can see that if you have a few square feet of space you will be able to grow a variety of vegetables.

But one of my favourite methods of growing vegetables in a small space is to use containers. This system is particularly suited to someone with no garden or maybe just a balcony. Utilising containers you can grow a number of vegetables on your balcony or deck and it is a lot less messy and labor intensive! Of course not all vegetables are suited to growing on containers and you will have to choose carefully. And of course you are not limited to large containers, or pots, sitting on the ground, they can be wall mounted, on racks or in hanging containers. I once saw a strawberry growing system which was like a large sock hanging on the wall with a number of openings in it which the plants grew out of.

Obviously a family of four with only a few containers on the balcony are going to find it hard to become self-sufficient in vegetable but you can certainly supplement your diet with healthy and tasty home grown vegetables and hopefully cut into your food bills. There are added complications with container vegetable growing, mainly keeping up the level of nutrients in the limited amount of soil but there are many ways of solving this. And don’t despair you can still compost if use something like a Bokashi Bin (see later posts).


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Vegetable Garden Planner – Preparation

Monday, October 10th, 2011 | Author:

As with any project the first step with your vegetable garden planner requires careful thought and planning. In this post we will give you some tips on how best to plan your vegetable garden to get the best out of it and to grow the best selection and variety of vegetables. We will also pose a number of questions which you need to answer before continuing.

Raised Vegetable Garden Beds

Number one on the list for your vegetable garden planner is to select the position of the “plot”. This needs to be an open, fairly flat area with good sunlight, access to water and with good drainage. The soil is not so important now as this can be improved as you go along and we will tell you how to do this in a later post. Actually you can also sort out drainage problems as you go but sunlight, that you cannot adjust!

Once you have a position for the plot, how big should it be? Well that depends on a number of factors including: 1) how many people are you going to feed from the plot? 2) Do you want to be self-sufficient or just supplement shop-bought vegetables?

Lastly, what sort of beds are you going to use: normal flat ones; raised, no borders; raised with border,s no-dig, etc? Other considerations are the type of garden such as whether you want an organic or permaculture garden.

Now you are down to the actual vegetable garden planning and layout. The best layout I believe is to split the block into rectangles with access pathways in-between. This gives easy access to all of the garden areas and the vegetables you grow. You can then separate vegetables according to various criteria. I use rectangles of about 1-1.5m x 3-4m. The actual size will be controlled by the total area you have available. I like rectangles as you can easily reach across the whole bed that way. Also, it is best to try and align the long-side on a north-South axis to maximise sun exposure.

Also consider whether you will need to cover the beds with bird-netting or something similar and account for this in the planning. Do you also need to protect it from animals such as rabbits, deer, etc?

Well now you are on your way to a plan! Once you have answered all of these questions you will need to start measuring and laying out your plot according to your plan. Don’t forget you can be creative as you like, it does not have to be symmetrical, or even square or rectangular. Some gardeners use circular gardens and some follow the fence line.
And don’t forget to allow in the plan for a compost bin/heap somewhere in the plan, it is the best way to improve the soil condition by using your own compost. A good compost will contain plenty of worms which are critical for health of the soil.

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