Expert Advice

Building a Productive Garden

Matt & Lentil Purbrick of Grown & Gathered
Tuesday 25th October 2016

Matt and Lentil Purbrick are the dynamic couple behind Grown & Gathered. On their farm in Tabilk, an hour and a half north of Melbourne, they grow vegetables and flowers in abundance, which they sell and trade in Melbourne. Over the past few years, they’ve gathered a cult following!

This month, Matt and Lentil celebrate the release of their first book, also called Grown & Gathered! It’s a truly gorgeous tome, beautifully photographed and designed, and dense with really useful information about growing vegetables, foraging for things like mushrooms, native greens and wild fruits, and raising animals.

TODAY Matt and Lentil share with us an excerpt from the book, covering the fundamentals of building a productive garden.

Hi, we’re Matt and Lentil from Grown & Gathered. Today we share some of the lessons we have learnt about building a productive garden. You can find this and more in our new book, available now!

Position your growing area in the sunniest spot. Remember, if you give your plants enough water at the right times, they will all thrive in full sun.

Define your paths and beds. To avoid walking all over your growing area, make the beds no more than twice as wide as you can comfortably reach while kneeling beside them (about 1–1.2 m wide), with 30–40 cm-wide pathways in between. This way, you can kneel comfortably and access the entire bed when planting, weeding or harvesting, without having to put any pressure on the soil.

Establish at least 40 cm of workable topsoil. This is easily achieved by creating raised beds – not necessarily boxed in, just hilled up. 

On a small scale, it’s easy to hill up your growing beds by hand. First, mark out the beds and paths, then fork deeply over the whole area – if your soil is very hard, it will need to be wet down thoroughly in bursts over a few days so that you’ll be able to fork deep enough. Forking before digging is very important. It loosens the soil and opens up the natural clefts in its structure. This minimises the damage to the natural capillaries when it comes to digging the path areas and dramatically improves the drainage under the bed areas. When you’ve finished forking, spread green waste compost and a 2 cm-thick layer of aged grass-eater manure on the bed areas. Finally, take a spade and work your way along the marked pathways digging about a 30 cm depth of soil out of the paths and onto the adjacent bed area.

Building raised beds guarantees proper soil depth and drainage, and in the process builds your soil’s nutrition and structure. It also creates a space you won’t have to disturb ever again, meaning your soil’s tiny organisms, bacteria and worm life will thrive.

Photo by Shantanu Starick from Matt & Lentil’s new book, Grown & Gatheredout this month.

Introduce worms. Grab some composting worms from your worm farm or a nursery. Dig a few 30 cm-deep holes around your growing area and bury a handful of worms in each. A shoebox full of worms should be enough for 50 m2 as they will rapidly multiply!

Establish an irrigation routine. Our preferred method of irrigation is to use automated drip lines. They allow for an enormous reduction in water use by applying water exactly where and when your plants need it. We use 30 cm-spaced drip emitters on lines spaced 40 cm apart. An automatic timer is absolutely worth the investment. By using an automatic timer, combined with our use of drip emitters, we have been able to reduce our water use by over 80%.

Mulch. Finally, mulch your paths and beds with a thick layer of straw. Remember, don’t mulch too early in spring; allow the soil to warm up first, and be careful when mulching around newly planted seedlings so as not to suffocate them.

Matt and Lentil’s book, Grown & Gathered, published by Plum is priced at $45.00 and is out now! Available online here.

A gorgeous snap of Lentil Purbrick of Grown and Gathered, as featured in her new book, out this month! Photo by Shantanu Starick. 


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