Planning your garden
How do you plan a garden? What should you plant? What is crop rotation? Why is crop rotation important? Find out all the answers below.
Creating your own garden can be lots of fun. To give your garden the best chance of success, you will need to do a bit of planning first.
Before you plan your garden there are some questions which need to be answered. You need to consider who will be using the garden, where it should be located and how it will be watered.
Who will be using the garden?
The number of people using a garden will help you decide how many garden beds you need. Having separate beds or areas for different groups of plants makes it easier to care for your plants.
Where should it be located?
A garden should be located near to a garden shed, composting and water need to be easy to access. It is important to ensure the area gets sufficient sunlight (6-8 hours each day) and is protected from frosts during the colder months. Gardens do not have to be planted directly into existing soil. If you have lots of concrete in your school, you can still have a garden. You can build a no-dig garden or a raised garden bed, they just need to have healthy soil.
How will it be watered?
You need to decide how you are going to water your garden. Whether it is going to be watered by hoses or by watering cans, it should be close to a water tank or a tap.
What should we plant?
When choosing what plants to grow, it is important to consider the types of foods you like to eat, the season, the climate, how much space you have, and how you are going to rotate your crops. Always do some research into your chosen plants, to gain an understanding of how they grow best. It is also nice to include flowering and native plants in your garden too as these attract native wildlife and encourage biodiversity in your garden.
What type of garden produce would you like to eat?
Fruits and vegetables are grown to be enjoyed. There is no fun in growing food no one is going to eat, otherwise it could end up not being eaten and all your efforts will be wasted.
The importance of season and climate
Many fruits and vegetables will only grow successfully at certain times of the year, and in certain climates. You do not want to put all your effort into creating a garden that will not grow because the climate or season is too hot or too cold.
Do I have enough space to grow certain fruits or vegetables?
Some fruits and vegetables require a lot of room to grow. For example, watermelon and rockmelon plants grow like a creeping vine and need a larger area to spread out, or need to be trained to grow up a trellis.
What is crop rotation?
Crop rotation means regularly changing the family of plants in each garden bed to stop the build-up of disease-causing organisms in the soil.
Rotating crops requires you to know which plants are part of each family and which plants grow well together. For rotation purposes, plants are categorised into four groups which form a rotation cycle.
The four groups are:
- Legumes (e.g. beans, peas broad beans and lentils)
- Leafy greens (e.g. cabbage, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce and spinach)
- Fruiting vegetables (e.g. cucumber, tomatoes, eggplant and pumpkin)
- Root vegetables (e.g. carrot, onion, potato, garlic and beetroot)
Crop rotation can be a bit tricky to understand, but the aim is to regularly change the plant group growing in one spot in your garden. For example, if you grow tomatoes in one bed, after you harvest them, you would plant something from the root vegetables group, then a legume crop and then a leafy green plant. This cycle continues each time you plant a new crop.
Why is crop rotation important?
Rotating your crops stops organisms that cause diseases from building up in the soil. Because different plants require different nutrients, the rotation cycle aims to return valuable nutrients to the soil to prepare it for the next crop. Plants that are unhealthy are susceptible to attack from disease or pests. By rotating crops, you are maintaining soil health and thus the health of your plants.