Once you have worked out the best position to grow your vegetables, the next issue is how? Do you interplant them among your established decorative garden bed, or, would you like a designated herb and vegetable patch? Some people are even beginning to reclaim their front yard or nature strip and filling them with decorative vegetables.
Some design options include:
- Planting herbs and vegetables in traditional rows (hard to keep straight and shows the weeds in the gaps between). Remember if you are a neat freak that it can be tricky to keep the lines straight if kids are helping you plant vegetables. You may need to use a builder-style string line, or use sand or flour to draw the lines.
- A French-style potager, is one where vegetables, herbs and flowers are planted in set geometric patterns closely within beds (for example, circles and squares divided into triangles). This reduces the amount of weeding in the beds and the plants tend to grow out and fill all the spaces, making it look like the garden beds are overflowing.
You will need to set out your permanent plants and then plant your seasonal vegetables in other areas. For example, you may have a border of box hedges, or sage, and permanent rows or triangles of lavender and/or catmint. This is a good way to introduce some companion plants into the garden☼.
- Cottage-style kitchen gardens have a less geometric form than the French potager, but they are still full of interplanted herbs, flowers and vegetables. They look like a lovely, colourful jumble of colour but you have to be careful that you plant with several layers and a structure in mind, otherwise it can end up looking like a bit of a shambles.
- Square foot gardening is an American concept spearheaded by Mel Bartholomew.☺ The basic rule is you plant a series of squares, 1 foot x 1 foot (approximately 30 cm). A single plant variety is planted in each square foot, vegetables, herbs and flowers using companion planting methods. You can make up a large or small square based on as many square foot blocks as you like, and the effect is something like a traditional American quilt. Taller climbing plants are placed on supports at the back, and smaller vegetables and herbs are planted at the front.
Whatever your preference for garden style, if you have the space then it’s best to make a raised bed then kids know that’s the special ‘veggie patch.’
Helpful guide for vegetable structure in your garden
Good border vegetables that are fast and low-growing. Remember to replant these vegetables every 3 weeks for a continuous crop through spring and summer.
Endive, lettuce, mizuna, rocket, spinach
Good border herbs.
These look lovely, are longer lasting than your lettuce and can be used as lovely companion plants☼
Basil, borage, chamomile, chives, garlic chives, parsley, sage, thyme
Good border flowers for vegetable patches.
Again, these are excellent companion plants:
can get very high, so perhaps choose a dwarf variety, catmint, lavender marigolds, nasturtiums
Mid-height vegetable plants for gardens:
broccoli, cabbage, chard, (red, white or rainbow), celery, fennel, kale, potatoes, silver beet
Crops that can grow vertically and are great space-savers:
Artichokes (both Jerusalem and globe), beans, peas and snow peas, zucchini, cucumber, tomatoes, hops.
Poppies and sunflowers also make a magical, colourful backdrop in a vegetable garden.
Other garden infrastructure to consider at the design stage
It’s not just a case of making the garden beds, the design phase is a good time to improve the usability of your garden. When you start on the infrastructure of your garden, now is the time to ask yourself some questions and prepare a vegetable patch to suit your time, design, lifestyle and budget.
Do you have enough taps and hoses nearby?
Do you have adequate water storage for your vegetable patch ? We recommend a minimum of a 5000 litres?
Can you divert some grey water (recycled water not including septic water) to areas of garden that are not growing edible crops?
Can you set up an automatic irrigation and timer and/or sprinkler system?
Will you need to access power for building equipment to make garden beds?
Do you want to have lighting in your garden?
Are you including an area for them to play nearby the vegetable patches? Is it safe?
Are you going to build special garden beds to prevent children trampling in the garden? Garden beds for little people about 40 cm wide are recommended so little hands can reach across.)
Hopefully you’ll be accessing your kitchen garden often. Instead of a worn path on your lawn, perhaps you want to lay some gravel or paving to smarten it up. If you are having multiple garden beds, you may want to gravel between them.
It’s best if you can keep your tools and larger equipment like wheelbarrows near the garden beds. Make an infantry of your tools and work out what you need☼. Keep them clean and organised so you can get your hands on them quickly.
Is there a practical spot for dog houses, guinea pig hutches, cat runs, chook pens in your yard?
Do you necessarily want them on display?
Can the children access them easily?