What soil do I put in my vegetable patch?

Feed your vegetables well and they will thrive

Veggies and fruit are fast growing plants and therefore need a lot of plant food.  So to get healthy veggies you need soil that is full of nutrients.  It also needs to keep hold of water. 

Because we harvest veggies a few months after they have enjoyed their enthusiastic growth spurt, all the nutrients that they take out of the soil to grow, end up in our kitchen/stomach/compost/chicken pen/bin etc.  SO each time you harvest, you should replenish your soil then too.


How to prepare the soil in your vegetable bed

Sandy soils>>

If you have very sandy grey/white/yellow/orange laterite soil read on..

Sand is great for allowing water drain through so the soil doesn’t get water logged. It also allows roots to grow easily through the soil.  and is easy to dig! (sigh..say the Clay soil people) 
HOWEVER unless it is dark brown and crumbly looking you are probably lacking nutrients and places for water to stick around –

To improve sandy soil >> Add compost.  Mix 50:50 with existing soil – 20/30cm deep.  Your aim is to turn the soil dark, crumbly and full of goodness.  Add again each time you plant a new crop.

You can also use a quality soil conditioner – see below for a note on that.

Bonus water retention – As a side benefit, all the new organic and fibrous material will now help water stay in the soil for longer.  Adding a small amount of clay will help this even further.   (add this when dry & powdery and mix through well – large sticky clumps of clay are less helpful)

Clay soils >>

If you have a heavy clay soil ..

Clay soils hold water really well, and does have a built in supply of nutrients (as the clay holds on to everything!)
However it can hold on too well, become water logged. It can also be very dense, concrete-like or slimy.  This stop roots from being able to grow freely through the soil and can therefore stunt growth, it also can get really compacted and lack oxygen – plants and microcritters all need lots of oxygen in the soil to be healthy.

To improve clay soil >> Add compost 50:50 with the clay.  Best done while the soil is dry so you can break up hard clumps. (Again, you can use a quality soil conditioner instead)

Your aim is to turn the soil dark and crumbly. This will add tiny air pockets which will allow room for oxygen, root growth, microcritters and water to drain.

If your clay is super dense a raised bed may be the way to go. Gypsum can help some clays too, as can compost+mulch+worms+time.

If you have no soil yet

Fill your bed with a quality vegetable soil mix.  A regular soil mix can be boosted with compost! or soil conditioner or aged cow/sheep poo.

What other Soil additives should I add?

There’s all sorts of other things you can add to your soil to help improve the soil composition – zeolite, rock dust, worm castings, coir, cow/sheep poo, wetta soil, liquid or other fertiliser/seaweed concentrate…these all have their benefits (for another blog).
Soil conditioner will have some of these already included if it is made well.

Avoid synthetic additives for your edible garden as long term use can mess with pH and leave traces of things that are not helpful.

What is Quality Compost?

You can use compost or a good quality soil conditioner. Make sure your compost/soil conditioner is not a cheap landscapers chicken poo + sawdust mix which some suppliers sell.  These can be highly alkaline and not good for your plant growth.  Source from a supply who understands and researches their soil mixes.

If you make your own compost, do some research on how to make a quality mix.  I will blog on that another time!

What is the difference between soil conditioner and compost

The difference between soil conditioner and compost is the way it is made. In brief, a good quality soil conditioner will usually contain compost, plus other additives like clay, charcoal etc. If well made, soil conditioner is an excellent soil booster for your vegetable garden and should benefit the soil in the same way as compost. Use a special mix for veggies if available.

Can I use straight manure on my veg bed?

Yes, its a large component of good compost. BUT do not put fresh poo (chicken/horse or other) straight on the bed.  Let the manure compost for 6 months before adding to the garden. 

Where to put your new vegetable garden

Building a New Veggie Patch?

Loads of people are thinking about setting up a new vegetable garden right now. The first step for you may be where is the best place to put your patch to get the healthiest vegetables and fruit!

Choosing the right place for your vegetable garden really makes a difference. Especially with respect to the speed that your plants grow, the amount of food they produce, their health and how much maintenance you have to do. SO a bit of pre-planning is a good idea.

The location of choice will vary from place to place – Northern / Southern hemisphere, West / East, Hills, Coastal – there are a few variables to consider depending where you live.

For our locals here in Perth, we are very lucky to have mild sunny winters. Our hot spells during summer will bake most veggies, even the Mediterranean full sun plants like tomato and capsicum. So we do need some sun protection for our plants especially in the middle of the day in summer.

A lot of the same principals will apply everywhere though. Non-perth people don’t feel like you should stop here – read on! >>>

Where is the best place to plant Vegetables in Perth

  1. In winter which we’re heading into now, an all day sunny spot is fine
  2. The best location for a permanent vegetable bed is one with lots of morning sun, and less afternoon sun – add shade cloth during summer if this is not possible.
     
    • This applies to most veggies – even full sun loving tomatoes & capsicums will burn in the midday sun during our 35+deg heat waves
    • Too much shade however will slow the growth of many sun loving veggies meaning less to harvest and more pest problems
    • Directly next to a south facing wall (the shady side for the Southerners) or under a full shade tree is probably not the best spot as there just wont be enough sun
    • A deciduous tree to the north/west of a veg patch is great as it blocks the afternoon sun and allows winter sunlight through.

+ If you can…

  1. Plant away from Eucalypt trees – put weed mat under the bed if this is not possible (especially for the hills folk)
  2. Some protection from strong winds is a good idea too. For example if you’re on a hill and get strong hot easterlies/whipping westerlies. The same applies for frosty places.

+ For Convenience…

  • Put your veggie bed close to the house/kitchen/entry path so you can easily keep watch on it/tend to it/take your pickings for dinner
  • Make sure you have easy access to your patch by wheelbarrow so you can get soil to it easily
  • Put plants that need more space or that you need to harvest less/look after less further away from the house. Eg watermelon, plum tree.  Lettuce, herbs etc you’re likely to use regularly – put them close to your kitchen.

Feel free to plant veggies and fruit throughout your garden however!. There is no need to be too formal about this at all. Sweet potatoes are a fabulous ground cover. Parsley looks great in an ornamental garden. Strawberries look great as a border plant!

More help?

I will be posting regular blogs over the next few weeks to help with your veggie growing. Next…Raised or Ground Level

If you would like a personal consult or more specific information for your property/soil/plants or just need some general face to face gardening help, you can book a gardening consult with me – go to our contacts page to book.

Our gardening consults are very affordable and will boost your gardening prowess in no time! I can either do video consultations or visit your garden in person (with physical distancing measures in place for now)

Happy Harvesting!

2019 WALDA Landscape Design Awards

2019 WALDA Landscape Design Awards

This year at the WA Landscape Design Association awards we were privileged to receive a design award for our Applecross French Inspired Garden.

This garden is packed with lavenders and spring flowers, following a planting brief to love – French inspired Mediterranean garden with a theme of purple, white and deep green leafy surrounds.  Once a tennis court and now transformed into a beautiful space to sit and entertain, especially with champagne in hand!

Hardscaping designed by interior design company Leon House and installed by Vivendi homes. Planting design and installation by us – Garden Insight!

WALDA Design award winner trophy