10 Steps to a Productive, Organic Veggie Patch in 60 Days or Less

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Posted April 18, 2012

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Guest Post by Nicola Chatham.

So you want an organic veggie patch? Awesome! That’s super. I’m genuinely thrilled because you’re going to improve your health and quality of life in ways you can’t yet even imagine.

But where to begin?

Well, your success will depend on having good soil. Plants only thrive in good soil. But if you live in Australia, or pretty much anywhere in the world, you won’t have good soil.

Sorry to disappoint you.

But I don’t have good soil either. I have hard, orange, clay that cuts my hand if I try to crumble it in my palm.

The good news is, we can make soil. We can be soil alchemists in the kitchen garden of our dreams. We can transform ordinary resources, even waste, into rich, amazing material in which to grow organic, scrumptious delights.

You can be eating leafy greens from your garden in 60 day or less with this simple and easy process. It’s fast, fun and the kids will even want to be involved!

It just takes a bit of preparation; like assembling ingredients for your favourite green juice or the best lasagna ever.

 

Here’s how:

1. First, visit your office’s waste paper department, bin, or area, and assemble bags of shredded paper. Put them in the boot of your car.

2. Stop by the household electrical store on the way home and drive around the back, where you’ll usually find their dumpster. Pull out enough cardboard to cover 1.2 x 2.4 meters. Or, if you’ve just moved house, collapse the boxes and save a trip to the tip.

3. Alternatively, if you love to read the newspaper, you can simply save a pile of those (with the glossy inserts removed).

4. Next, on the weekend, take the kids for a drive to the country and put a tarp in the boot. Tell them it’s going to be an adventure. You’ve got a game for them. The first one to spot bags of manure on the side of the road wins. Leave your coins, usually $2- $4 a bag, in the designated tin, hoist the bags into the tarp covered boot, and drive on. Stop for a picnic lunch and leave the windows down to keep fresh air circulating.

5. Or, if you’re not the country drive type, visit the local nursery and buy 2 – 4 bags of manure there. They’ll cost at least twice the price, but the convenience may well be worth it. Do what works for you.

6. If you have homemade compost already, you’re well equipped for turbo-charged growth. If not, you can pick up some bags of organic compost from the nursery while there too.

7. You may see some hay or sugarcane mulch on your travels. You’ll need a couple of bales of those.

8. Then, the next time you’re at the supermarket, pick up a jar of molasses. It’s your secret ingredient that will make this lasagna garden the taste sensation of the year.

Then, have a rest. It’s all about breaking this project into delightful, bite size stages.

9. While you’re resting, you’re also going about your day-to-day life, making other, real meals like breakfast, lunch and dinner. Put a bucket with a lid under the kitchen bench. Toss in any fruit or veggie scraps and cover back over with the lid. Don’t add dairy, meat or oils.

10. Before you know it, it’s Saturday again. Jimmy is mowing the lawn. Get him to put the catcher on and make a pile of grass clippings next to your other resources.

 

Now is the time to assemble your very first, no-dig, lasagna-style veggie patch.

Get yourself a bucket or wheel barrow.
Pull out the garden hose.
Put on a hat and some gloves.
Fill the bucket or wheelbarrow with water and a good dollop of molasses and soak your newspaper and hay.

 

Like a real lasagna, there are infinite recipes to make a ‘no-dig,’ lasagna garden. But if you follow the process of layering nitrogen, then carbon, with nitrogen, then carbon, you will make soil that’s far superior to any dirt in your average back yard. And it will grow the best tasting produce you can find this side of Coles or Woolworths. Of that I can assure you.

 

This is how I transformed my clay backyard into an edible smorgasboard; without breaking my back or taking years to improve the soil.

I’ve made a step-by-step guide for you to download with your no-dig, lasagna garden recipe. Click here to download it now.

 

Have fun and let us know how you go Wellness Warriors! And remember to please share this post with your friends by clicking ‘like’ and ‘tweet’.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me for help in the comments below.

Love,
Nicola

XOXO

 

Author bio: Nicola Chatham is an organic gardening coach and permaculture designer. She helps people who are busy or recovering from illness set up low-maintenance, organic gardens that produce healthy and delicious food with minimum time and effort. Sign up for her free weekly newsletter ‘Sprout!’ here.

Twitter: @NicolaChatham
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SproutCommunity

 

Positive affirmation for the day: I allow the healing powers of nature to absorb through me every day.

 

 

 

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Nicola says:

Hello lovely Wellness Warriors! It’s great to be back here at ‘Jess’ place.’

If you have any questions about this gardening process- please fire away in the comments. I’m here to help today :)

Oh! And just to take the pressure of yourselves, when it comes to edging your no-dig gardens, they can be as ramshackle as some left-over bricks, weathered logs or even just cutting the grass back with a shovel to break the roots… You don’t have to have a builder’s certificate to make the beautiful raised beds in the the picture. It can be really, really simple and still look delightful.

My beds are a mix of bricks around some and logs around others…

xx

loulou says:

Hi Nicola & Jess

thank you so much for this “vital” information for my gardening life.
I don’t have much room here where I am now – but my next move will be room for a vege garden for us. (I will die if I don’t :)

Bookmarking this page too.

have a lovely day Jess and Nicola

Loulou

Nicola says:

Thanks Loulou!

All the best with your next move… It will be fun when you have space to garden again. xx

Hi Nicola,

Unfortunately I don’t have a backyard only balcony..Do you have any ideas or tips for balcony gardens?
xx

Nicola says:

Hi Jessica! Yes! I have LOTS of tips for balcony gardens. So many they deserve an entire post (and a whole gardening course :) ) but here are a few quick tips:

1. Monitor your balcony and see how much sun it gets. Do this on a day when you’ll be home all day. With four hours of sun you can grow quite a lot of varieties. Less than that you’ll be limited in crops. You can check out Mike Liebermans’s list here: http://www.urbanorganicgardener.com/2012/03/best-container-vegetables-to-grow-in-the-shade/
2. Use large pots (at least 40cm in diameter) because they won’t dry out so much.
3. Use the best quality potting mix you can get. Organic mix is best if course ;)
4. Feed your plants with liquid fertiliser (my favourite is worm juice/wee, alternating with seaweed fertiliser).
5. Harvest + enjoy!!!

Andy says:

Thanks Nicola, that’s great advice! For anyone without a back yard (or no space to create a veggie patch like us with a narrow 2-metre area) I found the Aussie-designed self-watering Greensmart Pots and after 6 months I have 15 of them in a line and now act as a distributor. They sell all around Australia – especially perfect for you Jessica! Food Grade plastic – way to go!

Hi Nicola, and Jess,
Well this is interesting timing Nicola.
I just made a comment about an hour ago on the Facebook Homestead Survival site at https://www.facebook.com/HomesteadSurvival , reading: ” Nicola Chatham from ‘down under’ has a wonderful web site on growing organic veges at http://www.nicolachatham.com/# She also runs an online train­ing course ‘The Abun­dant Veg­gie Patch Sys­tem’. ”
Kind regards, Lyall

Ooops, sorry; I can’t remember. Is there a rule about adding web links??

Nicola says:

Hi Lyall!

OH MY GOODNESS. That’s so cool. Thanks for sharing that. So, word is spreading from Down Under…! I’m thrilled to hear it.

I don’t think there’s a rule about posting links – Jess is super cool and would be happy to cross-pollinate.

Yep, I do run an online course and it is called ‘The Abundant Veggie Patch System.’ We’re currently in session and people are making amazing gardens all around the world. I’ll be running it again in May/June. Anyone who wants to be notified, jump on the waiting list at http://www.creatingabundance.net

Thanks Lyall x

Hi Nicola,
We’re at Gatton, not just too far away from the Sunshine Coast (you’re up there somewhere hey), and Kris and I would love to meet Jess one day, and one day we might get to meet you too. Kind regards, Lyall

Jaz says:

Thanks for this! Very helpful. I’m going to make a little vegie garden soon. :)

Nicola says:

That’s great Jaz! Let me know how you go! :)

Natasha says:

Hi Nicola,

Last year I built a raised vegie garden and ordered a truck load of organic soil added Lucerne, compost etc and everything was going great. I harvest a nice big crop of vegies but then i went on holidays for two months over summer and when i came back the soil had turned hard and awful and all the plants had died (from my obvious neglect) I am keen to get it working again and i have just planted a heap of seeds kin some jiffy pots in anticipation so i have a few weeks yet, do you have any tips on how i can prepare my soil to get it back to good condition? Also, i am wanting to start a compost but dont want to spend hundreds of dollars on those expensive containers at bunnings any ideas on a cheap alternative?

Appreciate your thoughts!

Thanks
Tash

Nicola says:

Hi Tash,

Firstly, good on you for growing food already! That’s great you had success. And it’s totally normal for things to go askew when life takes us away to focus on other things. The good news is, you can get things back up to speed fairly easily and quickly…

1. Use a garden fork, spade or rake to break up the surface of the hard soil. I sometimes use my hands because I’m impatient and I love to see the worms down beneath.
2. Flood your garden beds and let the water soak in. Add some molasses to your watering can and pour that on too – it will help to get the micro-organisims in the soil feeding again.
3. Then, collect a layer of green waste – weeds (without seeds is best), lawn clippings (although you want to add those in thin layers so they don’t ‘matt’ together), old plants that are ready for the compost heap etc.
4. Layer your green waste on top of your soil. (just place it around your existing plants if any have survived)
5. water it in with more molasses and water mixture.
6. If you can get some, layer on mushroom compost (it’s cheaper than organic soil!)
7. Cover with some soaked mulch.

When you’re ready to plant again, make little holes in the mulch (hay, sugarcane mulch etc) and fill them with compost (you’ll may need to buy some in since you’re just getting your own compost going.) And plant into that!

My favourite compost bin was the cheapest $32 variety at Bunnings – it’s the round one with a lid and no holes. I’ve found it breaks down the material faster than the square ones. You could also try cutting out the base of an old plastic bin (bigger the better).

Have fun!! xx

Michaela says:

Awesome! I am lucky enough to have the perfect backyard space for a garden and have been so keen to start an organic vege patch but I wanted it to be simple. Definitely going to try this and keep you posted on the progress!

I’ve got some questions though- does it matter if I start from seeds or the baby plants in pots? And what plants like to be next to each other. Ideally I’d like to grow lots of veges and have a few fruit trees, so there are any tips about where I plant each type?

Thanks again! :-D

Michaela

Nicola says:

Hi Michaela!

That’s great you’re going to make an organic veggie patch. I’d love to hear about your progress!

Some plants are easier to grow from seed, and others are easier from seedlings. If you are just starting out on your gardening adventures, I’d recommend beginning with some leafy greens (kale + sorrel are two of my favourites) cherry tomatoes and herbs as seedlings (in the little pots) to begin with.

You could also try planting some beans and snow peas directly into the compost in the no-dig, since these sprout easily and like to be sown where they will grow. If you have kids they’ll love this process of watching the seeds germinate too. (I still love it, and I’m 30!)

As for growing veggies and fruit trees, just be mindful of the sunshine. If you are in the Southern Hemisphere, plant your trees to the south, so their shadow’s don’t block the sun from your veggies. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, plant tall trees to the north. That’s probably all you need to know for now. Jump in a play, and be prepared to lose some seedlings. That’s ok and natural. But plant enough, and you’ll be eating fresh leaves in no-time.

Have fun!
xx

Linda says:

Thanks Nicola (and Jess!) this post couldn’t have come at a better time! am just about to go for a 2-month visit to Sweden (I live in Australia) and have decided to make a huge veggie patch in my family’s garden, but had no idea how to. Am loving my local farmer’s market here where I can get plenty of fresh, organic produce but can be a bit difficult in Sweden where this practice is not as widespread. So just have to grow my own :) Looking forward to getting into veggie patch creation-mode! Thanks again for the helpful info. Linda xx

Chrissy says:

Hi Nicola,
I came across your site several weeks ago and loved the idea as we too are on heavy clay soil with no drainage. Celery has been difficult to get on the Sunny Coast lately, especially organic, and as it is a staple in my morning juice I decided I would grow my own. It took me a good 3 weeks to prepare my designated area. I used a lot of plant clippings as one of my base layers and have had a compost bin going for several months, so had great compost to use. I haven’t had much luck in the past growing veggies, but I am proud to say my seedlings have been in the ground for 2 weeks now and with all the recent rain I really haven’t had to do too much and they are going strong. This system appears to be a winner! So thank you for sharing, and thanks Jess for linking us with so much useful information from some wonderful people.

Katie says:

I am in Perth and just about to build a vegie garden. I want to have wooden rectangular boxes of some sort but have been unable to source any untreated wood. Any suggestions? The wood would need to be naturally repellant to white ants as we live in a heritage house and the planter boxes will be quite close to the house. I have had rain water tanks before and don’t want them again. Also, any thoughts on the energy flow in a rectangular space as I believe you are meant to have circular or oval? Many thanks.

Gustoso says:

Pallets are a great source of inexpensive, and untreated wood. However, since you have white ants (like we did), we opted to avoid all wood products. No wood products are safe, as recommended by our termite pest man.

You could try stones or bricks edges? I think you can also get plastic edging. Or just have them as raised mounds.

Don’t worry about the shape. Round shapes give more of an edge effect (like the edge of rainforest) and may be more biodiverse. This is a permaculture concept, but just keep it simple. It’s more important to select a bed that you can reach your hand into the centre of – and is not too big.

Leanne says:

Hi Nicola! My husband and I have wanted to start an organic veggie patch for some time and we finally started building the planter box (6ft x 4ft x 3ft) out of redwood this past weekend — very exciting! We are debating on whether to build a wood base or just add in the lasagna layers directly over our exisitng grass. Any thoughts? We built the sides up kind of high (3 ft) so I’m just worried we will have to find a ton of material to fill it without a base. I am also worried a raised bottom will rot out fast, so I’m torn. Will one method provide better results? Also, when you say hay mulch, does that just mean bales of regular hay? One last question — before I start in with the nitrogen and carbon layers, should I fill the bottom/top with some organic soil? Or do you just plant directly into these layers and no actual dirt is necessary? Sorry, for all the questions — I’ve never grown anything before! Thanks for your help!!

Joshua says:

Hi nicola, me and my wife are setting a veggie patch up and. just tell me how to set one up. please!

brandon says:

hi! I love your work nicola! Imma big big fan

Lisabetta says:

Hi Nicola
I love your post 10 steps to a productive veggie patch in 60 days <3 and I have just shared it on my group on Facebook called Growing Vegetables in Your own Back Yard. I'd love you to visit us and share your knowledge.
:)

Darren Bennett says:

Hi Nicola, we are in the process of starting our first vegie patch and I have heard that you should put hay / straw on the bottom before you put in your top soil. Is this correct?

Katherine Powell says:

Hi there,
I’m thinking of building my vege patch under my kids windows. Just wondering how smelly the set up is really? My husband says to move it but I think it’ll be ok in the long run, just the initial start up with manure.
Thanks for your help and wonderful step by step!
Kathy