Are you one of those people who would love to grow your own vegetables, salads and fruit but think it’s too time consuming? It’s a question we’re asked quite often.
We’ve had the pleasure of designing and planting some easy maintenance edible gardens for lovely clients who wanted to grow their own lunch; and teaching others that growing your own fruit doesn’t need to be costly or time consuming or a chore.
So we thought that sharing a few tips for how to manage your own easy maintenance edible garden might be helpful.
Easy maintenance edible gardens – decide what and where to grow
- Decide how much time will you realistically have or want to spend tending your veggies, fruit and salads.
- Are you able to grow your own in your garden? Or will you need to borrow someone else’s garden? Or lease an allotment?
- What do you like to eat? To begin with, think of the more interesting foods, like asparagus or early rhubarb rather than ordinary potatoes. Make a list.
- Now you have your list of foods, which will grow in this country? Will you need covered growing conditions like a greenhouse? This can still be easy maintenance.
- What is your budget? A few fruit bushes won’t cost much but if you need automated watering systems you’re looking at a larger budget.
Easy maintenance edible gardens – some examples
Cut and come again salad leaves
A pot of salad rocket or oak leaf lettuce seedlings, which you then prick out into a suitable container and keep near the back door is easy maintenance.
They can be grown in quite shallow trays as they’re continually picked; put this into a gravel tray so you don’t need to water every day. Kept by the back door they’ll be convenient to pick and water. Pick the outer leaves so new ones can grow from the centre.
Are you a fan of blueberries? These tasty fruit can be expensive to buy but both grow well in a designated fruit garden, the flower border or a container.
One of the tricks with container growing is to have the biggest one you can – a raised bed is a large container, for example.
A large container or raised bed in which you can grow five blueberry bushes that fruit early – ‘Duke’ (good in short growing season areas); mid-season – ‘Patriot’ (good on heavy wet soils); and late season – ‘sunshine blue’. These or similar will give you a long season of fruit and be easy to water manually. And you generally only need to prune them once a year. If you plant some annual flowers around them you’ll improve pollination (although some blueberries are self-fertile) and reduce pests and diseases. Calendula is a good choice as an annual companion plant as it self-seeds easily; and the petals make a colourful addition to salads!
Make the compost growing media both water retentive and free draining. Use a peat free organic compost as blueberries need an acid soil pH5.5 or thereabouts.
Perennial fruit and vegetables generally make for easy maintenance edible gardens.
A case of plant once and then you’re sorted…or nearly.
For example, perennial fruit would include raspberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, apples, pears, cherries. Rhubarb is strictly speaking a vegetable, although we treat it as a fruit when we come to eat it.
Perennial vegetables would include perpetual spinach, Jerusalem artichoke, globe artichoke, Swiss chard, Welsh onions, cardoon and asparagus.
Perennial salads for easy maintenance edible gardens would include salad burnet, French sorrel and good king Henry.
But for those of us who love our mange tout there have to be some annual vegetables. There are still ways of making annual fruit and vegetables easy maintenance.
If you have little time and little space, buying trays of seedlings rather than sowing for seed is one way. You’ll need to prick them out into larger pots, grow them on for a while and probably harden them off unless you buy late in the season. But it is still easier/ less time consuming.
Tomatoes and courgettes can be bought as small individual plants and grown on at home. As they produce many fruit to one plant this is still cost effective.
However, the main bug bear for making your edible garden easy maintenance is probably the watering issue.
Easy maintenance edible gardens – watering
When you water, water well at the root level. Rather than using a watering can with a rose attachment on the spout, why not make your own reservoir?
This is easily done using a plastic drinks bottle. You can have individual reservoirs for larger plants, such as tomatoes or courgettes; or group your vegetable plants – peas for example – in a circle around a bottle.
Adding the reservoir is best done at planting time so as not to disturb the plant’s roots. Take the cap off the bottle, and slice off the bottom. Dig a hole for the bottle and put it cap end down into the ground. The top edge of the bottle needs to be higher than the soil level but how much sticks out is your choice. Just be sure that foxes/ cats/ helpful children are not able to knock the bottle over or pull it out.
Then all you need to do is fill with water and your plant will enjoy a drink at root level. Top up when nearly empty; the bigger the bottle the less often you need to top it up. Added bonus – when it rains, your reservoir will fill itself!
Hopefully the above tips and ideas have given you a ‘taste’ of how easy maintenance edible gardens could work for you.
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