We’ve already looked at some rocking outdoor features in our On Trend series on the Live Life Outdoors blog, including modular couches, vertical gardens, and day beds. This week, we’re checking out edible gardening.
Edible gardening has been making real waves in backyard design this year; especially since Melbourne landscape designer Karen Sutherland (of Edible Eden Design) has proven it’s possible to grow a fully-sustainable edible garden in her inner-city Aussie property.
Karen Sutherland has been the talk of the town – and indeed the country – since she has created her own food garden complete with over 150 varieties of munchable plants.
But it’s not just an Aussie trend. Food gardens are popping up around the world. As people become more conscious of the origins and costs (both environmental and financial) of their food, they’re turning to alternative methods – and edible gardening is top of their list.
So why are edible gardens just so great?
Benefits of Edible Gardens
It’s been said the average shopping basket of 25 items will have accrued some 21,000 kilometres traversing the world to your home. That’s a mighty sum!
But there’s more to food gardens than just walking into your backyard to pick your dinner ingredients. Edible gardens are generally more economical, offer healthier food (especially if you use organic gardening methods), and provide you the security of knowing just where your food has come from and how it was grown – no more berry crises!
An added bonus for families is the opportunity to teach your kids about the origins of food, so they have a better idea of what exactly they’re putting in their gullet at meal time.
Where to Plant
You don’t have to have a large backyard for your veggie patch, but you do need a few essential ingredients: good soil, good sun, and a good soaking.
You may be lucky enough to have a fertile garden full of healthy organic soil. But unfortunately many Aussie blocks just don’t have it right. There’s too much sand or too much clay, too much moisture or not enough.
Cultivating rich soil is a pretty easy fix, with manure and mulch available at any hardware or gardening store. Or there’s composting if you prefer DIY.
Composted soil feeds nutrients back into the plants to keep them health and fertile. Plus it reduces waste in the landfills, since all your food scraps, leaves and lawn clippings end up in the compost rather than the rubbish bin. Pretty neat, huh?
Have the right amount of sun is a bit trickier. We all know the drill: you don’t want to get too much sun or your plants will wilt and die (especially if they’re not natives). Too little sun and it’s the same deal. Your veggie and fruit crops need about 4 to 6 hours a day to thrive.
To get your perfect Goldilocks soil, it’s best to plant your edible garden on the northern or western side of the block. Morning sun is ideal for plants, since it’s not as harsh as the avo sun. And of course, you’ll need to protect your plants with a shade cloth during those summer scorchers.
This can be the toughest element to control in your garden, whether you live in the wettest tropics of Queensland or the drought-ridden plains of South Australia.
It will definitely help if you have a rainwater tank in the garden – and if you can install a greywater system, even better! This system reuses your treated household waste water to irrigate the garden. And that will definitely help you out during those baking summers that sap the earth of any moisture!
Think outside the square
We’ve already said you don’t need much space for a food garden – you just need to make the most of what you’ve got. This could include parking smaller plants in pots on your verandah or in vertical gardens, or maximising your roof space with a rooftop garden.
Here are some of the best fruits and veggies for different planting options:
Edible Garden Designs
In truth, the world’s your oyster when it comes to designing your own edible garden. It’s really up to you to decide what your preferences are, whether they’re to blend your food plants with your decorative plants or to keep them separate.
If you want to stick with popular trends, it’s in vogue to bundle up your garden into one impactful, organic look. That means combining your edibles and ornamentals together for the “wild garden” effect. It can make for a pretty bold aspect.
Eat Up or Throw a Feast!
With any luck (OK, we admit there’s a bit of elbow grease involved as well), you’ll have a fertile garden in no time at all. But when your work starts to bear fruit (pun intended) will depend on the types of plants you’ve plugged into your soil.
The most important thing to beware is that not everything will always work out every time. Gardening involves a bit of a roll of the dice as well as some thorough research and hard work to get it going – not to mention maintenance to keep it ticking over.
That’s right. Sometimes your lettuce will go to seed, and sometimes the birds and possums will discover your juicy apricots before you do. But that’s OK. You’ll have attracted proliferate beautiful wildlife into your garden instead – food gardening requires a bit of Zen as well as plentiful patience.
But when your hard work yields results, nothing can compare! And you’ll never find your fruit and veggies more delicious than when they’ve been plucked off the branch from a tree you grew or pulled from your own ground.
So our final message to you is to make the most of your harvest! Collect everything you can when it’s ripe. If you have abundant supplies, dry and preserve your fruit or mix up a gob-smacking organic, home-grown and homemade jam you can show off to your guests when they come over to admire your perseverance.
Ready to Renovate?
At Australian Outdoor Living, we’re all about getting the most out of your backyard and promoting the outdoor lifestyle. Edible gardening is just one idea of many. Check out some of our other DIY and on-trend ideas to keep your garden fresh and beautiful: