NZ Woman's Weekly

Gardening: Designing a vegetable patch

Gardening: Designing a vegetable patch

The Partner, who tries very hard to avoid home jobs that take longer than a nanosecond, has had a rush of blood to the head and decided to redesign and rebuild the vegetable garden.

I’m uncertain what has fuelled this, apart from a bunch of leftover timber – but hey, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, I always say.

The thing with vegetable gardens is they’re often done on the hop, when you realise all your friends are eating their own tomatoes and you’re still buying impersonators from the supermarket.

So, you throw together a rickety, raised bed and create a makeshift space, which is never quite what you actually wanted.

Because we already have a couple of raised beds, we’re under no pressure (although the longevity of The Partner’s enthusiasm must be taken into account),so a well-thought-out, well-designed and beautifully executed garden is perfectly possible.

Needless to say, I’ve already started. I don’t want a temporary or makeshift vegetable garden this time around. I want a stylish space, which has a visual and aesthetic connection to the house, the outdoor living areas and the ornamental gardens, and I want it to look as if it were designed in tandem
with the rest of the property as a permanent part of the landscaping.

So, six-by-one timber boards held in place with wooden pegs are not going to do the business.

This garden will be built on a totally levelled area, and  consist  of inter-connecting beds contained by railway sleepers, linked by lime-chipped paths and sheltered from the south by rendered walls.

There will be a lawn within the garden area, a small pond and a generous sitting space. Hopefully, the garden shed/studio will be updated and incorporated into the design, giving the area an anchor.

If you now feel suitably inspired to expand on your three pots of rocket and one of parsley languishing on the front doorstep, the first move is to find a garden plan that fits into your long-term vision for your property.

This is the easy part. Make a cup of coffee, go to Google, type in “vegetable garden designs”, and spend a pleasant half an hour selecting whatever suits your needs.

If you plan to employ a landscape professional to design and build your garden, you can hand over a few sketches or photos, deliver your brief, and simply watch it all unfold.

But if it’s going to be a DIY job, you need to consider some points at the outset. Go through the DIY question list (below) to figure out exactly what you want.

Once the design is set, mark it up. Put pegs in at all corners and run string lines between, then walk around the whole thing every day for a week. By the end of it, you’ll know if there are any problem spots.

In an ideal world, you’d have the digger in to create a level space, or terraced spaces, before you start marking it out, but otherwise, take photos of your design and accurate measurements so you can recreate it exactly after the digger has finished.

Landscapers often differ on what to put underneath vegetable bins.

Weedmat obviously has its advantages, but I don’t like it. The Partner has agreed to weed spray the whole area, put down gravel and compact it.Then the garden beds will be built on a fairly solid, flat surface, and paths and paving can be added after that.

It’s a good idea at this point to incorporate any supports, pergolas or trellising that will be required for tall or climbing plants. Trying to jam an ugly piece of cheap trellis into the ground behind your tomatoes, once they’re already on their way to the sky, results in damage to the plants, and a failing support system.

If the structure is in place when you start growing, there are no excuses for
leaving everything too late and not having new potatoes on Christmas Day.

About Lee Ann McKenzie

Lee Ann wasn’t always a gardener - she lead what she terms ‘a normal life’ as a newspaper journalist and then television producer in Dunedin until the nineties, when she started moving north. Working on various lifestyle magazines in Auckland, Lee Ann eventually published her own garden design magazine, Alfresco, for 10 years.

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