With the term designing a vegetable garden we refer to how our vegetables should be arranged within our land. Essentially, it involves understanding how to organize the garden in all its various phases. We particularly enjoy discussing garden design using the term “architecture” because creating a garden is like drawing a geometric creation where we can reflect our desires. On the other hand, there are a thousand ways to design an organic garden: some do it synergistically, some in a circular manner, some follow permaculture principles, while others opt for more traditional methods.
Today, we provide the fundamentals for creating a garden that is suitable for the conditions of your plot. Of course, first and foremost, you need to work the soil and establish a good irrigation system.
How to Create an Organic Garden
For an organic garden, proper planning is of fundamental importance. Cultivating organically requires specific considerations to maintain the balance of the ecosystem. The necessary steps include:
- Working the soil
- Enriching it with compost, manure, or worm humus
- Establishing an irrigation system
- Proceeding with sowing or transplanting, paying attention to proper spacing between plants and adhering to the garden’s design.
The Correct Garden Design
To proceed with the correct garden design, attention must be paid to the following steps:
- Adhering to crop rotations
- Choosing the right companion planting
- Selecting the plants to cultivate.
First and foremost, if you want to practice organic farming, there is a rule to follow: crop rotations. Vegetable garden plants can be divided into four main botanical families: Solanaceae (tomato, pepper, eggplant, potato), Cucurbitaceae (pumpkin and zucchini, watermelon, cucumber), Leguminosae (fava bean, common bean, pea), and Cruciferae (cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, turnip, arugula). To design an organic garden, you must consider some rules. It is essential to distinguish between Solanaceae and non-Solanaceae crops because tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, belonging to the Solanaceae family, are plants that significantly deplete the soil, absorb a lot of organic matter, and require a certain water regime.
Preserving Soil Structure
Crop rotations are crucial for preserving soil structure and its biodiversity. Therefore, it is necessary to avoid planting Solanaceae crops in the same place every time, even after a year. To design a small garden with a bit of everything, you should rotate Solanaceae crops in different spaces each time.
Companion planting is closely linked to crop rotations. In nature, some combinations of plants succeed when grown together, while others do not. In organic cultivation, the aim is to create a diverse but harmonious plant community. A balanced companion planting will result in mutual integration between the various plants, both below and above the ground. Plants should be chosen in a way that they do not interfere with each other’s leaves or fruits, leaving enough space for light and air passage.
Specific combinations have a preventive or curative effect against diseases and pest infestations, which is crucial in organic farming as it does not involve the use of chemical pesticides. Furthermore, plants that require many nutrients should be followed by those that require fewer or by plants that replenish the soil, such as legumes.
Examples of Garden Designs with Companion Planting
To better understand how to design a garden, let’s look at some practical examples. After a crop of tomatoes (Solanaceae) that lasts from June to September, it would be useful to plant fava beans (Leguminosae) in that area in November. Fava beans have the ability to generate and retain nitrogen elements in the soil (nitrogen fixation), which regenerates the soil after the stress of tomato cultivation. In spring, you will have a nice fava bean harvest and soil ready for non-Solanaceae crops, such as zucchini.
There are many other combinations to explore. A winning combination, for example, is the one between dwarf beans, planted at the edges of the field, and cucumbers, placed in the center. Another positive combination is between tomatoes and basil, planted between each tomato plant. On the contrary, it is not advisable to plant cucumbers with tomatoes or beans with fennel.
What to Plant in the Organic Garden
Having clarified these basic rules, to complete the organization of an organic garden, all that’s left is to choose what you want to plant based on your preferences, dietary needs, available space, and the cultivation period. For example, if you want to start planting something that takes up little time and space in the spring, you can focus on lettuce and Swiss chard. These plants require little care and water during this period and are ready for consumption within 30-40 days after transplantation.
If you have limited space, you can reduce the amount of cucumbers and green beans. These species are very productive, so few plants are sufficient to meet the family’s food needs. The same applies to tomatoes, which do not produce a lot per plant.
Eggplants and peppers, on the other hand, are more productive and have a longer duration compared to tomatoes. In some regions, they produce fruits from June to October.
Zucchini requires more space for the cultivation of a single plant and has a medium duration. They produce an adequate quantity when planted in sufficient numbers.