If you follow my Pinterest board you might have noticed a slight fetish with kitchen gardens lately. When we moved into our new home I thought I wouldn't be vegetable gardening again but after we returned from France I decided I would give it another chance. I really love gardening but in the past I was prioritising time in the garden only when it was necessary such as at the end of each season with a light pruning in autumn, fertilising in spring and the occasional weeding. This year I am trying to be more intentional with each thing I do and a vegetable garden seemed like a great chance to be intentional rather than just wing it and hope the stars align. I now spend about 10 minutes each morning before I start my day wandering the garden and tending to it in small doses.
The first step in having a vegetable garden was choosing a location. There was one garden bed that never really took off in our backyard and is hidden from sight from our main entertaining area. It is reticulated, west facing but still receives enough sunlight and has a huge limestone wall we could attach a trellis to for support for those plants that needed it. Last summer I planted a couple heirloom tomatoes, a couple of zucchinis and a large strawberry patch but I wasn't really intentional in what I was trying to do. The only hard and fast rule I did make was that the vegetable or fruit needed to be one that was uncommon such as an heirloom variety or expensive to buy. For example, zucchinis are super cheap in the peak of the season so I planted gold zucchinis instead of green which are always available. It wasn't a great success as I think I planted too late into the season but it was a start and made me see how much time I needed to give to the garden in order to really have a harvest.
Before I was able to get to the planning and planting though, I did a few things to really help the seeds for my spring garden get off to a good start. In mid-March I started by pulling out all the old plants that were spent (and getting a lovely surprise of beets I forgot I planted). I lightly turned over the soil a little with some compost and my very handy husband installed a trellis across the back wall of the garden bed so no matter where I planted climbing plants (beans, tomatoes, etc), they had some support.
Then I sat down and planned out what I wanted our spring vegetable garden to look like. I decided I was going to follow the concept of intensive or square foot gardening which allows you to plant more in a smaller space, yielding more produce. Fortunately the garden bed is approximately 4m long x 1m wide and would work perfectly with the square foot gardening concept (one foot is approximately 30cm so I was able to have two squares x 13 along the garden bed). This was my plan for planting out the garden bed (click on image for a larger version).
The few vegetables I really knew I wanted were radishes, heirloom beets, heirloom carrots, peas and beans, some lettuces and a few dwarf varieties of cauliflower and broccoli. After discovering that there were some hefty quarantine fees put in place last year for WA when buying seeds into WA from the east coast, I just headed down to Bunnings and bought a selection of seeds to plant.
Already one month later, everything is moving along wonderfully and I'm excited for how it will look next month. I am already harvesting the lettuce, although it is quite young, and the next to be harvested will be the radishes and this is what it all looks like at the moment. It's not so pretty and I need to paint that ugly rendered wall but its productive. The garden bed is about 50cm high x 4m long x 1m deep and that limestone wall is about 3m high in total while the lattice is about 2m high. My husband is a clever cookie! To the left of the vegetable garden is a 1.8m high wall that divides the pool from this area and to the right is a small garden shed.
So what did I plant exactly?
Radish - Two variety's of radishes went in to help me choose which one I prefer best for future plantings - French Breakfast and Saxa 2. Radishes are perhaps the quickest seed to germinate (only 3 days) and they will be harvested in the next few weeks. I've heard they are great for digestion, eliminating toxins and with a high vitamin C content (25% of the daily recommended value), they can help prevent viral infections. I plan on using them in salads and sandwiches probably on a daily basis considering how many I planted.
Cos Lettuce - The lettuce was not from seed but in a punnet as I wanted a quick harvest of one of my favourites, cos lettuce. They really are so easily to grow and you just need to make sure they are regularly protected from snails. I always have a tendency of buying greens and never using them before they begin to go off so with them in my garden I can pick them exactly when I want to use them now. I think I will end up planting more lettuce variety's once the cauliflower and broccoli's are finished and I have that space back.
Beetroot - I planted 3 variety's of beets - Chioggia, Detroit 2 and Burpees Golden. Beets take about 3 months before harvesting so they should be perfectly timed for beet salads in winter or roasted and served alongside roast/grilled meats. I do have a couple of spaces in the garden ready for planting again this month so we have a continuous supply. Grant loves them traditionally pickled so I may give that a go too. Beets are something I've wanted to cook with more regularly as they are real superfoods that lower blood pressure and cholesterol, stabilise blood sugar and even has claims of reducing fatigue and osteoporosis. Of course the leaves are also great for eating too so nothing is wasted.
Peas and Beans - If you want bang for your buck, peas and beans will do it. For one tiny seed you can harvest hundreds of produce continuously over a season. I planted a dwarf pea called Blue Bantam and a climbing bean called Purple King. It is a big plant growing up to 2.4m but the pods are purple until they are cooked when they turn green which sounds like too much fun to pass up. The great thing about peas and beans is they can be frozen after a quick blanching so can be enjoyed well beyond their harvest.
Cauliflower and Broccoli - These were from seedlings and are dwarf variety's and I planted 3 of each and gave the remaining seedlings to my father in law for his vegie garden. If I had put in regular cauliflowers then one plant would have taken up 4 squares which I decided was too much space to give up in my small garden. They should be ready in a couple of months and I will happily live on cauliflower soup for an indefinite amount of time.
So there it is! My kitchen garden is well on its way to overflowing with produce this winter and I can't wait to share more with you as the season progresses. If you have any questions, I'd love to hear from you or even what you are planning to do in your own vegetable garden this autumn.