Well we’re at the second-best part of the raised bed building project – planting out (the best bit being the harvest!).
As you saw in the last raised bed post, we created our own soil by building up layers of straw, compost and cow manure. I will continue to add to those layers between seasons as over time the straw will break down causing everything to sink. Adding layers as I go will also ensure there is a constant supply of food for the plants.
I left the bed to settle for a few days which was hard to do (for a gardener I’m pretty impatient!) and on an overcast day I planted out my seedlings. I plant out on overcast days because seedlings need a chance to settle in to the new soil, doing it when it’s overcast reduces the likelihood of shock from a sudden blast of hot sun. If you raise your plants from seeds then you’ll want to harden your little sprouts off a little before planting them outside as well, but more about that later.
As you can see from the photo above I started out by planting the main vegie seedlings first. They will grow to be quite large and will therefore need lots of space so it’s important to consider where you put plants to best maximise your space. It’s a good idea to put any stakes in at this point as well, putting them in when you plant avoids the risk of hitting fragile roots if you were to put them in later on. Some Tomato and Capsicum plants grow to be 6ft high so make sure you get the tallest stakes possible.
Once the big plants were in I filled in the spaces with smaller, fast-growing herbs and salad leaves. I’ve been reading a lot about companion planting lately which is basically the idea that when you grow certain plants together they can assist each other to help reduce bugs, improve taste and yield. For example, some herbs encourage beneficial insects that will eat pests like aphids and caterpillars meaning you’ll need to intervene less and use very little (if any) chemicals. By growing a range of different plants in random patterns you also confuse the little buggers, so they might only hit one plant instead of your whole crop.
In the same way that certain plants can help improve the flavour and yield of others, some plants will stunt the growth of other plants so it’s worthwhile double-checking whether your random combinations of herbs and vegies are friends or enemies before you planting out. For more information about companion planting I recommend checking out the ‘Jackie French Guide to Companion Planting‘ which is written with a focus on Australian climates and pests.
So, after all that technical stuff, what did I end up planting?
1 Eggplant – I’m trying out a hand-grafted ‘Bonica‘ eggplant this season which I picked up at my local nursery. It is said to have a better yield and with space at a premium it sounded appealing.
1 ‘Chocolate’ Capsicum – I had great success with caps last year so I’m giving something different a try. I got this from Diggers as well.
1 Purple Capsicum – just for fun! I got this at the local nursery.
1 Jalapeno Pepper – I saved the seeds from a pepper I picked up at the Farmers Markets earlier in the year and sprouted it myself (more on seed-saving in a future post).
I then filled in the spaces with the following herbs and salad plants:
Radishes – they are fast growing and Paul loves them. They are also said to keep away leafminers (which are responsible for those squiggly lines you sometimes see in leaves).
Spring onions – Spring onions grow well with Tomatoes, they don’t take up much space and they apparently repel aphids.
Basil – I planted out a few different types this year: Cinnamon, Lemon, Lime, Thai and Sweet Basil. There are many people who argue that Basil is a great companion for Tomatoes as it supposedly helps improve flavour, there are others who claim this is all bunkum and will in fact cause black spot. I’ve never had a problem with the combination and always plant it with my toms without hassle. An added bonus is that Basil is said to repel mosquitoes.
Purple Sage – I love purple and I love sage with my eggs, nuff said.
Parsley – A great herb for your garden. It tastes great and is a good companion for Tomatoes. Let some go to seed to attract hoverflies and parasitic wasps which will take care of any aphid problems.
Baby Spinach – No other reason than I hate buying this stuff as it’s rarely fresh and almost always sprayed with nasty chemicals. Fresh is best when it comes to salad leaves in my (humble) opinion.
Roman Chamomile – Now this is a great addition to any herb or vegie garden, it is a real work horse. The flowers are great in tea and they attract predatory insects. The plant itself will increase the potency of your herbs and also act as a general tonic for your soil.
Marigolds – Another workhorse. The flowers give off a pungent odour that whiteflies hate so they are great near tomatoes. They will also help improve your soil.
Chrysanthemums – I’ve planted these around the vegie bed with Marigolds. Both will improve the soil and help keep away pests.
So there you have it, my little vegie bed is now ready and raring to go. I’ve finished the bed off by mulching around each plant with the leftover pea straw and am watering daily by hand (rainwater + watering can) except on those days when we get some rain. Longer term I’d like to connect up some drippers for a deeper, more efficient watering program but this way I can keep an eye on things and deal with any issues before they become serious problems. I’ll also water every couple of weeks with Seasol for an added nutrient boost.
If you’d like to learn more about vegie gardening then a good place to start is with Lolo Houbein’s book ‘One Magic Square‘. It’s a fantastic, easy to read reference that examines the importance of seed-saving, self-sufficiency & permaculture as well as taking a holistic approach to growing and enjoying your own food.