- Plan – Have a grand plan, but break it down into smaller sections. Draw your yard and what you want to go where. This is likely to change over time but it will give you direction. You may only have room for pots on a balcony, but still plan.Think about sun, shade, water, compost heaps, worm farms, chickens, distance from house etc when planning. Its great if you have the resources to build all your gardens at once, but there is nothing wrong with starting with one little patch to sow some seeds and adding to it over time. Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day and either are great and productive gardens.
- Buy some seeds. Make sure they are good quality from an ethical supplier. Personally, if I’m going to go to the effort of growing my own I want them to be heirloom and organic. You may be able to find these at your local nursery, but there are certainly many wonderful online seed suppliers that are committed to supplying a wide range of heirloom stock. Think ahead to the next growing season when you are ordering, that way you will not only save on postage, but will be ready to plant when the next season comes.
- Seed sowing trays. Don’t be the gardener that relies on buying seedlings. Seed raising is economical, easy and just a bit magical. Some seeds are sown directly, but others need a little more TLC. We have a large garden and use three trays, but even my friends with smaller gardens still use three trays. Three seems to be the number. It’s worth spending a few extra dollars to get better quality ones as they will last a long time and the cheaper ones become brittle and break after just a few uses. You will need some soil for your seed trays – see How to Sow Seeds for more info on this.
- Sow your seeds in the trays. This basically commits you to taking the next step…finding somewhere to plant them out. Paddle pop sticks and permanent markers are all you need to label your rows in your seed trays. Seedlings can be planted out once they have a good sized second set of leaves.
- Watering can – You will need a watering can with a shower head. You will use this regularly for keeping your seedlings moist and applying tonics and teas to your garden (not for chemical fertilisers).
- Garden bed – Alright, so you have seeds sown, now you need to get busy finding somewhere to plant them. If you are container gardening it’s time to get one and put it in place. If you already have garden beds, fantastic, time to look at the soil to see what it’s like (see Soil). If you need to install a garden bed it’s time to get that organised. If you have a ‘difficult’ backyard (ie uneven, steeply sloping) you will need to get someone to help you. If your yard is more or less flat, then you can easily build a simple garden yourself (yes ladies, that includes you). See Build a Simple Garden fact sheet. If your yard has wonderful deep rich soil, then use a spade to cut the turf out…something Australian gardeners will only ever dream about.
- Soil – Time to fill your garden with soil. If it’s a new garden and there is grass underneath be sure to lay cardboard or a thick layer of newspaper down first to block out and kill off the grass. Most of us will have to buy soil to start with. A good veggie mix is available from most landscape suppliers/nurseries. Add some composted manure to this and dig through. We use mushroom compost. Water it all in – which will help the soil to settle. If you have an existing garden you may just need to top it up and dig through some compost. A good soil should be rich, dark and crumbly. Worms are a sign of a good soil.
- Mulch – Mulch is like a blanket for your garden. It protects the soil from sun and wind, it keeps moisture in, blocks weeds and helps to keep the soil temp even. Eventually it will break down and feed the soil. So simple, but it works. In Australia, sugar cane mulch is readily available and works well. It looks a little like finely chopped up straw. Coarse wood chip mulch is not ideal unless it has been composted/aged. In Australia it is dyed and very green and sappy. The oils in the wood can leech into the soil making it water repellent. Apply a nice thick layer of mulch (5cm) over your new garden bed.
- Seaweed solution/worm juice/ compost tea – Essential for keeping your plants health. They aren’t fertilisers as such, more like a tonic…like us having a freshly squeezed juice or a coffee in the morning. Gives us energy and a boost. If you aren’t set up to make your own, nurseries always stock seaweed solution (Seasol). Mix it up as directed in your watering can and give your seedlings and garden a sprinkle every 1-2 weeks. They will thrive.
Don’t make it an impossible task for yourself. Plan and set realistic goals. Do a little bit often and you will achieve what you set out to achieve. Setting up your garden is rewarding, but is also the most challenging part. Once you have it in place the rest is easy and you can be eating from your very own organic garden every single day in no time. Bring it on.
- 2-3 seed raising trays
- Watering can
- Seaweed solution (Seasol) or worm juice
- Paddle pop sticks and marker
- Garden bed