When you think of landscaping, probably the first thing that comes to mind will be the lawn and well manicured shrubbery intermixed with an array of colourful flowers. But have you ever thought of having a well designed kitchen garden filled with organic food to cater for your dietary needs?
Gardening in itself can be quite an involving and satisfying pastime. Nonetheless, before embarking on such a project, it will be well worth your while to spend a bit of time on your planning.
Consider what vegetables and herbs you would want to incorporate in your edible garden. As it will most likely be mainly for domestic use and not for the market, keep in mind the preferences of the members of your family. While peas thrive well during winter with very little care, there’s little point in growing any if the kids can’t stomach them. We all know most of us had to be coaxed to finish our plateful when we were younger.
Having factored in your favourites, it’s time to analyse your particular climate zone so as to determine whether planting them is viable.
Australia is a vast country with several different climate tendencies. We have the arid areas in the west such as Kalgoorlie and Alice Springs. In mountainous Tasmania and most of New South Wales the climate is more temperate with a mild summer and a cold winter. The tropical areas however experience the opposite – hot summers and warm winters.
Each of these different zones and veggies and herbs will guide the planting periods and choice of edibles you can realistically manage. Areas with hot summers are particularly good for capsicum, so if you’re partial towards chillies and live in Alice Springs you’re in for a treat.
White radish, beetroot and lettuce, leeks and cabbage do well in the winter months and in cooler areas. Plan your garden beds well for these vegetables during the cooler seasons. Sorrel is one of the hardy ones that do well all year round regardless of the climate and location.
Incidentally, it is also important to consider the extent of space you have available for your edible garden. Some of these vegetables require quite a large area to thrive.
Each cabbage, for example requires at least 2 square foot to achieve optimum growth. Most herbs however, like basil and parsley can be grown in pots. This is convenient if you have a modest garden as they can be grown on shelves along the fence of your personal outback. Another space saving tactic for climbing vegetables such as beans and peas is the use of a trellis. This consumes minimal space and a small area can yield quite a harvest.
A word here about drainage – areas that have soil that tends to retain water may have to be tilled and the beds raised so as to allow for aeration. Most vegetables and herbs do not do well in poorly aerated or waterlogged soil.
Having considered your choice of crop, the seasonal conditions in your area and the limit of space available, you are now reasonably equipped to put your edible garden plans into practice. Remember that you will have to replace those that do not do well in winter with those that do when the time comes. That way you will have a thriving kitchen garden all year round.
As you develop your green fingers over time, you may find that you can start harvesting your own seed for the next planting season. True, you can always get seed from the garden store, but knowing which of your produce tasted great and being able to reproduce them the following season is an extremely satisfying experience. Just make sure you store them in air tight packaging and at the right moisture and temperature level for each type of vegetable or herb.
Every culinary enthusiast will relate to the benefits of cooking with freshly picked ingredients. It therefore makes sense then to have your garden as close to the kitchen as possible. A quick nip to the garden and the whiffs of freshly picked parsley and leek emanating from your kitchen minutes later will have your guests salivating before the table is even set!
Who wouldn’t want a regular gathering of diners admiring their cooking prowess and spreading the word far and wide? I wouldn’t mind that at all, would you?