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.