My friend Loz is moving house and designing her vegie garden. I’ve been helping her with her design, and I think what she’s come up with now is absolutely fabulous. In fact, I’m dead jealous, since my garden is an ergonomic disaster, having gradually evolved in bits and pieces over the years. Just in case you are in the fortunate position of being able to start a garden from scratch, I thought I’d share with you Loz’s garden plans, and what I think is good about it.
For various reasons required by the council, Loz’s garden needs to be enclosed – so it will be contained inside a frame covered with wire. The entire enclosure will be 10 metres x 15 metres – a great size for serious food production.
In case it’s not clear from the picture, the front strip is a chook run with fruit trees. The chook house is on the left, at the end nearest the house, with nesting boxes accessible from outside, so it’s a quick easy trip to collect the eggs.
Behind the chook run is the vegie garden. The fence between the chooks and vegies will be high enough to stop flighty chooks from heading over, but low enough for a “throw over the fence” method of weeding. I can’t tell you how much I’ve loved this when I had it. Every time I spotted a weed or a snail or a caterpillar, I’d call out to the chooks, and they’d rush over to the fence to receive my goodies. I could just toss them from the vegie garden. It means that instead of waiting until I get something to put the snails in, and then cart them down to the chook pen, I tended to do things on the spot – a very valuable habit for food gardeners.
When you enter the vegie garden from the house end at the left, on your right are three compost piles, 1 cubic metre each. Three piles means you can put compost materials and weeds in the middle section as you generate them, can have one pile in current use, and the other pile waiting and breaking down. For more details about how to run this kind of compost system, which is even capable of processing human toilet waste, see composting toilets on my side bar.
On your right, opposite the compost piles, is a small walk-in glasshouse for raising seedlings – very valuable to get summer seedlings started in advance. I plant tomatoes and other summer vegies in an unheated greenhouse mid-winter, and this works well in Melbourne.
In front of the compost bins is a good-sized workstation. I wish I had one of these. There’s a tool cupboard, a worm farm, a sink and tap, and a work bench to use for potting seedlings. This area is conveniently close to the glasshouse where seedlings are raised, the compost, and the tools, so as to minimise carrying from one place to another. When potting up seedlings you need tools, you need compost, you need worm castings, you need water – and with this plan, they are all right there. There’s also plenty of space here to bring in a wheel barrow and even to dump stuff you’ve just brought home, like big bags of autumn leaves, until you are able to process them. There is an entrance to the chook run from this work area, so that to rake out muck from the bottom of the chook yard and pile it in the compost requires minimal travel.
The vegie garden beds themselves are raised, 1m wide, so that every part of the bed can be reached from the path without standing on the bed, ever. The paths are nice and wide which makes for easy movement around the garden, even with a wheelbarrow. Loz’s original design had the beds down the centre of the garden, with an aisle at each side, but by changing to a central aisle we had more garden bed area and less path. Also the path is in a more pleasing position to make it easy to pass through the garden.
On the far right is an extra fruit tree area which the chooks don’t have access to. This is the perfect place for Loz to plant herbs, perennials, and plants that attract beneficial insects. She’ll also put a small pond down here, again to attract beneficial insects.