Trellising for Shade

Using Trellises and Beans to create shade in your Garden

Because this summer will be a very hot one, get your water into place now. Lay down irrigation pipes, but also ensure that you have shade in place. Last summer I have all my shade props align East – West  with the idea that shade would come into the areas behind those props. Usually I’d have some kind of climbing bean going up 10 feet high. But as you can see from the diagram below, in high summer with the sun directly above you, there’s not much shade.

E-W aligned trellis with shade at midday

So this year I’m aligning my shade props to have North – South. That way, when the sun is in the East and lower, the shade props are giving plants on either side a break as the sun travels over head.

In the morning, it will look like this;

N-S aligned trellis with shade in the morning

And in the afternoon, like this.

N-S aligned trellis for shade inthe afternoon

The idea here is to try and half the pain and water vigourously in the morning and the afternoon.

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7 Ways to Get Good Soil

broadbean

Good Soil is vital. If your soil is poor, then you will have unhealthy veggie plants that are suspect to disease and that don’t produce the kind of yield that you want. Soil needs to be tended and looked after from season to season as the veggies take out the nutrients, moisture and alter the pH balance. Good soil is a long term, on-going and fundamental part of your gardening.

In general, there 7 ways to get good soil. You will need to use all these techniques, all this knowledge to keep your soil and your veggies healthy and tasty.

Crop Rotation

Important for pest and disease control, rotating your crops give soil a break and lets you put in plants that add back to the soil. Beans and other legumes put nitrogen back into the soil which is important for leaf production. See here for our crop rotation infographic.

Companion planting

Knowing which plants benefit from being near other plants helps you to get the most out of your soil. Click here for our (growing) list of companion planting suggestions

Soil Type

Clay soil tends to be high in nutrients but retains water and is really sluggish to work with. At the other end of the scale, sandy soil is porous and doesn’t hold water or nurtrient. A balance needs to be found. At gypsum to clay soil to help break it down. I’ve also found that growing potatoes in clay soil helps to make it more loamy. With sandy soil, add heaps and heaps of organic matter.

Manure

Manure is any sort of animal excrement that has been treated or allowed to rot down. I use chicken manure that has been rotted down but have also used horse manure in the past. Manure should be treated and allowed to rot down so that any seeds that pass through the animal are dealt with and don’t germinate as weeds in your garden beds. If you are buying it from a local plant shop, a 5Gal bag should cover about 30sqF2

Compost

Compost is largely made out of plant matter that has decomposed and it a post/book/lifestyle unto itself. I like this quick guide.  Compost is simply more organic material that is added to the soil to help keep it healthy. It is cheap and you make it yourself with stuff that you would through out anyway. Again, spread across your veggie beds at a thickness of about an inch

Mulch

Keep the water that you have given the soil in the soil. Mulch is usually straw or lucerne or another dried out type of plant.

pH

Having the correct acidity is important for plants to grow and thrive. Certain trace elements become difficult for plants to take up even if they are in the soil because acidity is not correct for a plant. In general, potatoes and tomatoes like more acidic soil, while brassicas like slightly more alkaline soil. You can test your soil using kits that all gardening shops will have.

Crop Rotation

Why Practice Crop Rotation ?

Crop Rotation is an important part of making sure that you look after your soil. If you soil is no good then neither will your plants.

The basic idea is to put veggies in soil that best suits them. Heavy feeding plants (plants that produce large fruits or have large leaves) need richer soil than plants that don’t. So when you finish up with a crop of heavy feeders, you need to either pick a plant that is suited to than depleted soil OR put a plant into the soil that puts nutrients back in. I always plant carrots after potatoes, to the point where I now only plant potatoes in soil in order to get a carrot crop.

Crop Rotation Infographic
Crop Rotation Infographic

Rotating crops like this also reduces the chances of your plants being attacked by diseases/insects. If plant A is attacked by disease B, and disease B is prevalent in a part of your garden, then crop rotation helps. If plant A isn’t there to attack or be fed on (because you have put it some place else), then disease B isn’t able to survive. This is particularly the case with tomatoes and potatoes. There is a nemotode that become present with potatoes that then attacks tomatoes. To remove the nemotode, you need to remove the food it attacks. In this case, it means that you shouldn’t plant tomatoes in ground that has had potatoes in it for the previous 3 years.

Examples of Crop Rotation

In Spring plant your nightshades like peppers and eggplant. They have high nutrient requirements because of the fruit that they produce. Once they have been through, and BEFORE you replentish the soil with a manure or compost, place in a crop that has low nutrient requirement or indeed doesn’t produce the way we want if given too much in the way of nutrient. Carrots are a good example.

So now you’ve have a heavy feeding crop through and a light feeding crop through. It is time to put in a crop that will add nutrient back into the soil. Beans, peas and other legumes are ideal for this.

Companion Planting Beans

beans

Runner beans are probably the easiest thing to grow in your garden. They sprout very quickly and provide nitrogen fixing. They can clamber up poles and harvest very quickly.

Plants the benefits from beans are any that require lots of nitrogen to grow. So good companions are brassicas, like cauliflower.

Corn benefits from the nitrogen and also provides a trellis for the bean to climb up. Start the corn about one month ahead of the beans though. Corn grows slower than beans and needs to the head start so that quick growing beans have something to climb up.

This is our companion planting guide to beans.

US-BeansCompanionGuide

Companion Planting for Tomato

tomato

Tomatoes are the most common plant to find in a home veggie garden. What should you grow next or near to them in order to get the best results?

Companion planting is art as much as it is science. The point of companion planting is to find plants whose properties of smell or chemicals that they release into the soil benefit or retard development in their neighbours and by neighbours I mean within 30 inches  from each other.

I’d be interested in what experiences you have had with companion planting tomatoes. Some people will disagree which side of the ledger beetroot should be on or even beans belong here.

This infographic is a tomato companion planting guide which shows you 9 good and 9 bad companions for your tomato plants. Basil has been shown to increase yields by 20% (according to this paper) but the basil plant also benefits from being close to tomato. And of course they are natural companions in the kitchen as well.

USTemperate-TomatoCompanionGuide