Notes by Phil Dudman
What a journey! It started with an idea and then you took the plunge and set about creating your own food garden.
You’ve surveyed and planned, turned and improved the soil; you’ve planted, watered, fertilised and mulched, learned about composting and pest control and lovingly nurtured your crops to the point of harvest.
Success is so sweet!
I hope that you have learned a lot in these 12 weeks, but more importantly, I hope that you have experienced that special joy of eating something you’ve grown yourself. It’s something that continues to give me great pleasure every day of my life. I hope that you too continue on the grow-your-own journey and encourage others to have a go and experience that pleasure.
One of the best ways to inspire is to invite friends around for a feast from your garden. It get’s them in every time! Once people sample the flavour and texture of freshly harvested food, there’s no turning back. They can’t wait to get home and get into it themselves. The more growers we have in our community, the more opportunities we will have to share produce, ideas and experiences, and the better chance we have for securing our food future.
There’s always more to learn when it comes to gardening and like anything, the more you practice, the better gardener you become. I am always meeting other gardeners who have a special tip or technique to share. If you land on something special, be sure to come back to the sustain food website and share it with us so that our whole gardening community can benefit.
On that note, here’s something important to keep in mind when planning future crops.
Crop rotation is the practice of growing vegetables of similar needs in a different part of the garden each year. This system of growing helps to reduce the build up of particular pests and diseases that affect certain crops. Imagine if you planted tomatoes in the same bed over and over, year after year. It wouldn’t take long for typical pests and diseases of tomatoes to set up camp and dramatically build up in numbers, making it almost impossible to grow tomatoes successfully.
Another benefit of crop rotation is that it helps to maintain a balance of fertility in the soil. Growing the same crop in the same place for years in a row will seriously deplete the soil of certain nutrients.
The general recommended length of a rotation system is 3 years or more – the longer the better. To make this easier, many gardeners base their plan on a four beds or more rotational system. That means, if you start with tomatoes in bed one, the next year you would plant them in bed two and replace bed one with something like corn or squash, and so on. The more beds you have, the more successful you will be with this method. It’s worth keeping records of what’s been planted where and when.
Another thing to keep in mind is plant families. For example, cucumber, zucchini, squash, pumpkin and melon are all in the same family (cucurbits), and suffer from similar pest and disease problems. For the sake of the crop rotation system, they are all considered ‘one’ and are generally grouped together when planted. Same goes for other plant groups like cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower (brassicas) and onions, garlic and leeks (alliums).Revisit our fact sheet on Vegetable families.
It’s not always possible to achieve the ‘ideal’ 3 year rotation in a small garden; the important thing is that you always replace a crop with something of a different group or different needs so that no bed or plot sees the same crop in successive seasons.
Phil’s Top Tips
1. Share your new found passion – host a feast from your garden, encourage others to grow their own and let’s get more people growing
2. Keep learning – the more you do, the better gardener you become. Chat with other gardeners, join a garden club or association and learn from other peoples experiences
3. Rotate your crops – grow vegetables of similar needs in a different part of the garden each year to avoid a build up of pest and diseases.