Once the cultivation plan for the self-sufficient garden has finally been approved, the theoretical preparation leads to the practical implementation. The transition to the active phase of gardening is often a headache for beginners. While planning errors can be corrected with a single stroke of the brush, improper procedures in the garden cause considerable additional expenditure of time and muscle power. These instructions explain in 7 steps how to create a kitchen garden and design it creatively. This is how the start of high-yield plant cultivation in harmony with nature succeeds.
Incidentally, a sunny to partially shaded location is not the only criterion for growing healthy crops without chemical additives. The prerequisites for vital growth and a rich harvest for personal use are only created in combination with first-class quality soil. Even experts in the world do not consider important criteria such as pH value, nutrient content, crumb structure and soil life. With a soil analysis, beginners and advanced hikers in the self-sufficient garden are therefore on the safe side with regard to the specific properties and receive important information about possible deficiencies. As a first step on the way to the perfect kitchen garden, we therefore recommend commissioning a soil analysis from a special laboratory. You can take the required soil sample in the form of a mixed sample yourself and send it to the experts by post. How to do it correctly:
- Take soil samples from 10 evenly distributed places in the future kitchen garden
- Lift the earth from different depths of 10 to 30 cm and collect it in a bucket
- Mix the removed soil and put 500 grams in a plastic bag
Make a note of your name, the date of removal and the planned use as a kitchen garden on the bag. Competent providers create a soil nutrient analysis from 49 euros and provide a suitable test set for taking samples. The analysis report contains: Information on all important nutrients and minerals as well as trace elements, pH value, soil type and humus class. You will also receive an individual tip for the correct fertilization.
Create paths, lay supply lines and mark out beds
You can use the waiting time for the result of the soil analysis to implement the planned route. This is an excellent opportunity to mark out the beds according to your floor plan and to install the water connection at the same time. Modern cold water systems enable the skilled home gardener to lay water pipes themselves, to set up tapping points and thus to save the laborious dragging of watering cans. How to proceed professionally in the correct order:
- Measure the course of the 100 cm wide main path and mark it with cords
- Dig the soil 50 cm deep and fill it with a 20 cm thick sand bed
- Lay the plastic water pipes, carry out a pressure test and cover with earth up to 10 cm below the surface
- Install a central water socket flush with the floor
- Lay weed fleece between the roadsides and cover with bark mulch
In order to decorate the main path, a low border planting made of evergreen small trees, such as bergilex or boxwood, is ideal. Lawn edging stones ensure a clear separation between the path and the beds. For the installation, however, a solid substrate and backfilling are required.
When the water supply has been installed and the main path has been laid out, mark out the 120 to 130 cm wide beds as provided in the floor plan. Leave 30 cm between the beds for side paths as convenient access for planting and maintenance work. Work only continues here when all other components in the self-catering garden have been set up.
Set up a composting site
Compost management is one of the key areas in the self-sufficient garden. By composting organic waste from the garden and kitchen, a valuable source of organic fertilizer and rich humus is created. Contrary to popular belief, a compost heap doesn’t have to be an eyesore in the garden. The following instructions explain how to properly set up the composting area and make it tasteful:
- Lay out fine wire on the compost surface to protect against voles
- Do not seal the subsurface so that liquids can seep away and soil organisms can migrate
- Drive wooden posts vertically into the earth at the corners and cover them with wire mesh
- Alternatively, make an edging from impregnated wooden posts, boards and squared timbers
- Construct the front section with removable wooden planks for unhindered access
Beginners get by with an undivided, exposed compost area on which the organic waste is collected and rearranged at regular intervals. Advanced home gardeners work with a compost silo in a three-chamber system with two stable partition walls. In the first chamber you collect green waste all year round. In the following year, the mixture is transferred to the second chamber, where the decomposition is clearly gaining momentum. In the third year the contents are poured into the third chamber after being thrown through a sieve.
Your composting area receives a decorative finishing touch with a hedge of flowering bushes or conifers. If you have decided to compost with a wooden silo right from the start, place climbing plants all around. Furthermore, heavily-consuming crops feel in good hands in the immediate vicinity of the compost heap, such as rhubarb.
The fence fulfills a wide range of important functions for the kitchen garden. In rough locations, fences or hedges optimize the local microclimate so that the cultivation plan can also accommodate more sensitive plants, such as tomatoes and cucumbers. At the same time, the fence serves as protection from prying eyes, strong winds and uninvited guests. Self-sufficient people also appreciate the fencing as an additional cultivation area or climbing aid for climbing crops. Before you devote yourself to the preparation of the soil and to the sowing and planting, the construction of a fence or a garden wall or the planting of a hedge are on the program.
Soil preparation – earthworks in the bed
In order to transform fallow land into a productive kitchen garden, the go-ahead was given in autumn of the previous year. In the first phase of tillage, you target all weeds. Trenching, a traditional method that eliminates the need for chemical herbicides, is unbeatable when it comes to effective weed control. The second phase focuses on soil preparation with the help of compost. Since you have just set up your composting area, you can simply use packaged ready-made compost from the garden center. How to proceed correctly step by step:
- Mow or scythe green growth
- Dig a trench 2 spades deep across the bed
- Throw soil through a sieve and pile up on the edge
- Sift the excavation of the second furrow and fill it into the first trench
- At the end, shovel the screened excavation of the first trench into the last furrow
Now distribute 3 liters of compost per square meter on the weed-free bed and work in the material with the rake. If the soil is very clayey, loosen it up beforehand with coarse sand. Apply a 5 to 10 cm thick layer of sand and rake the earth thoroughly. Until the beginning of the first planting season in the coming spring, earthworms and other soil organisms are busy enriching the soil with humus and making the existing nutrients available for plants.
Soil preparation – create cold frames
So that the season starts as early as possible in the self-catering garden, a cold frame should not be missing. 4 Euro pallets and 2 disused windows are enough for a beginner to use them to construct the covered cultural area on their own. Meanwhile, home gardeners with manual dexterity build a cold frame themselves. The construction is available in a variety of ready-made versions in specialist shops. Regardless of the above-ground construction, the real advantage in the cold frame results from a special soil preparation, which subsequently functions as natural heating. That is how it goes:
- Dig a 50 cm deep pit in the sunny location
- Line the bottom of the pit with vole wire
- Spread a layer of straw and leaves on the wire mesh
- Fill in a 20 cm thick layer of fresh horse manure with a maximum of a third of straw
- Shovel a mixture of garden soil and compost on the horse manure and press it down
Within 14 days, the decomposition process of the filling develops a pleasant warmth in the cold frame, which encourages a large number of plant seeds to germinate. Provided the cover is well insulated, thanks to this construction, the starting shot for your gardening season will be given in February, even if there is still snow. Use is not limited to spring, but includes autumn, when the outdoor temperatures drop.
Instructions for direct sowing
A well thought-out cultivation plan leaves no doubt as to when the first seeds of the preculture should be sown in the bed. After the strenuous part of the preparation was completed in autumn and active soil life has started thanks to compost, the work now leads into the productive phase. How to sow expertly in the newly created kitchen garden:
- Weeding and raking each bed again
- Scatter compost and horn shavings and work in on the surface
- Work the soil until a fine crumbly structure is formed
- Rows of plants are marked with cords that are stretched between two wooden pegs
- Use the plant stick to make furrows according to the cultivation plan
- Sow seeds, cover with soil, press lightly and water with a fine effervescence
Unless you have paved the side paths with bark mulch or gravel, please lay out wooden boards for the sowing work if the soil is softened. To protect against pests and hungry birds, you also stretch a close-meshed net over each bed.
Plant vegetables, fruits and herbs
Young plants grown in the cold frame or bought ready-made in the garden center ideally first undergo an 8-day hardening phase in the partially shaded location under the open sky. Before planting, soak each potted root ball in water until no more air bubbles rise. In the meantime, you are processing the bed soil enriched with compost and horn shavings with the cultivator. For each plant, dig a pit with twice the volume of the root ball, which you are now potting. Put your vegetable, herb and fruit plants in the ground and water them generously. With the first sowing and planting of your crops, you are finally on the way to a high-yield self-sufficient garden.