Ask yourself the following questions to help decide upon the type of self-providing garden you want;
• How much time do I wish to invest?
• What do I want to grow?
• How many people should the garden provide for?
• How much space is available?
• Do I wish to be completely self-sufficient?
We recommend you initially only convert a small area of your existing garden into a kitchen garden. Completing a trial run of self-sufficient gardening is an ideal option for those who have busy working hours and therefore need to estimate how much time and effort their garden will take to create.
Prior to setting up a kitchen garden, it is worth drawing up a rough sketch. The layout of your garden is an important aspect to consider, as well as variables such as wind direction. Furthermore, the dimensions of existing trees, bushes, buildings, walls and hedges should also be looked at. Design the areas in different colours according to whether they are in full sun the whole day, half the day or are mainly in the shade. This sketch serves as a basis to judge which plants are suitable for which garden area and how large the areas will be. Giving you an overall indication of which plants need to be cultivated where.
Fruit-bearing trees are an essential part of a kitchen garden. When planting new fruit trees, you should consider that these bear fruit only after two or three years. However there are some varieties of fruit tree available that bear their fruit a little earlier, sometimes mid-early to late in their season. Consider how you can combine the optimum mixture of fruit varieties to allow you to enjoy a sufficient amount, for as long a period as possible. Plums or damsons can, for example, be harvested from the end of July until well into October. Apples and pears can be harvested almost as long as this. Moreover, late pear varieties can be stored cool as fresh fruit until the end of the year and late apple varieties until well into the following spring.
A vegetable garden requires the highest quality garden soil. First of all, divide it up into beds. Generally, a bed size of 1.50 metres in width is ideal, as this allows you to comfortably reach the middle of the bed from both sides. The paths between the beds should be 30–50 cm wide. If you wish to leave the paths unsurfaced, then a thick layer of bark mulch will enable you to walk on a fairly clean path during rainy weather. If the beds are higher than the paths, you can if necessary edge them with wooden boards in order to prevent the soil being washed down onto the path by rainwater. Alternatively, you could plant rows of low-level shrubs or even herbs here using thyme, chives, winter savoury etc.
Herbs are extremely popular plants to grow yourself. Most herbs prefer a sunny to semi-shade location. Semi-shade beds are suitable for garden cress, watercress, lovage, horseradish, parsley, peppermint, and chives. Generally, the location for herbs should allow air flow but should not be too draughty.
A compost heap is an important component in a kitchen garden. Soil organisms convert plant waste into valuable humus in a compost heap. A wind-sheltered, semi-shaded location protects the compost from drying out quickly. A twenty centimetre-thick layer of fine wood chippings provides the ventilation needed in order to promote decomposition. The type, mixture and quantity of compost materials are decisive for the success of the rotting process.
If enough space is available, a small greenhouse is useful for self-provider gardens. These can easily be set up. A greenhouse has many advantages: It enables the early cultivation of vegetables and herbs, and protects temperature-sensitive plants. This not only promotes an early harvest, but can also lengthen one well into the winter. Even the weather-dependent cultivation gap in garden beds can be filled through the use of a small greenhouse, allowing lamb’s lettuce, rocket and winter purslane to be cultivated.