Using edibles incorporated into a design has always intrigued me. This blog will discuss just that. Creating a green landscape that looks as good as it tastes!
Where to start?
Deciding on where the best place in your yard is the first and possibly, the most crucial step in the design process.
Most herbs and veges as well as fruit trees require at least 6 hours of full uninterrupted sunshine. Survey your potential sites and see if afternoon shade is an issue. Neighboring trees and structures are some examples of things to avoid when selecting a site.
Soil and Slope
Got clay? Heavy soils are not the best to grow vegetables in, because they hold on to water for far too long. The opposite is true of very sandy soils; they dry out too quickly. Both situations usually possess little organic matter,. A good way to remedy these poor soil issues would be to build a raised bed planter. Raised beds are easy to construct, and will make it easier to reach down and work the garden. Fill them with a good, well drained soil mixture with plenty of compost, sandy loam or other topsoil, mix in a small amount native soil (dug from the site; just inside the bed frame about 2 inches deep) and you will be on the road to a great harvest. Use pressure treated wood - it will last longer, or redwood, if available. Raised beds are easy to create, and posses a level surface for more efficient watering. Plants on a slope will require slower irrigation method to minimize run-off. One could also use large pottery or wooden planters to do the same task as a raised bed, but on a smaller scale.
All plants require regular that water and nutrients makes their way to their root zone. Seedlings that have been newly transplanted may require watering 2-3 times a day in warm weather. Two methods of flood watering are the furrow and the basin. The furrow is a small channel running along the side of row crops, and the basin is like a ring depression creating an island look around larger bush type plants. Once the plants establish themselves, water deeply letting the soil to go almost dry at the surface before watering deeply again. Water is best applied in the morning, but will be useable by the plants anytime during daylight hours.
Once you have figured out how big an area to use, its time to design. The plot could be made out of several rectangular shaped zones separated by a walking paths. (Usually wide enough for a wheelbarrow or hand cart to squeeze through) Keep the planted ares no wider than 4 feet so one can reach into the center and work, maintain, stake or harvest easily from each side. The area could be completely free-form as well. Accent pottery, benches and arbors can all be used to add detail and interest to the area. Planting climbers on fences maximize the space too.
French Method of Close Spacing
One method that was started around the mid 1800's requires double digging a site.
Cover the site to dig with 1-1/2 inches of compost and a small amount of organic fertilizer as per the manufacturer's directions. I prefer using a fertilizer (5-10-10) with some humic acid and other natural products. Start digging a trench to one shovel or spade depth by turning the soil and compost layer over into the hole just previously dug. Continue on like this from left to right and down to the next row. Repeat the process at 90 degrees the other direction to complete the double digging process. This gets easier every year you double dig.
Now that the soil is ready one can plant more closely with bigger yields. Planting closer together than normal crowds out any weed seeds from blowing in and taking root. The close rows also look intriguing and can be very showy by planting light green next to bronze leaves and so on. Also large textured red-leaved chard planted next to fine textured foliage like fennel creates interest too.