First things first
So you want to grow food, for your family, and maybe with a view to selling your surplus for an extra income. The issue for many is then is how to start and this is where we can help.
If you have a flat(ish) piece of northerly facing, sunny land of reasonable quality and approx 16m long x 20m wide then you can grow vegetables. You can also expect a modest return for a couple of hours a week work. Most importantly you will be helping yourself and others by providing locally grown nutritious vegetables.
We can show you how to farm this small plot efficiently, how to prepare it, how to sow, grow, and harvest for best results, how to manage your nutrients, we can recommend tools for you, etc. To make it even easier we can do all the initial hard work in preparing the beds. With our modern equipment and knowledge we can quickly turn your grassy plot into a series of garden beds, ready for sowing. To make it even easier, we can go one step further and plant your first crop. Then, all you have to do is care for them.
After that, if you would like us to help you further, we can build compost, design and install infrastructure, erect greenhouses, guide you through the requirements for organic certification, food safety certification, provide templates for crop rotation, and so on. In fact everything you need to become an efficient and certified (organic) grower of local nutritious vegetables.
The first and undoubtably the most important of all is to locate and design the garden.
- Location - decide on the best place to grow taking into the sun's path, prevailing wind and frost patterns, water sources, and ease of access. You will visit it frequently so its best close to the home.
- Soil test - to make sure there are no nasties in the soil and to indicate what soil amendments are needed for optimum production.
- Design - sketch out the possible location of the propagation greenhouse, irrigation, and toolshed. If you are planning something more elaborate then this could also show the tunnelhouse for season extension, the coolstore, washing and packing facilities, and so on.
The second most important action is to dig the beds, apply amendments, and start start growing.
After this comes the installation of the infrastructure, planning the crop rotation, starting organic certification, etc.
Next step - dig the beds
There are many ways to do this from the no-dig promoted by Charles Dowding, through double digging, considered by many to be the best way to increase the depth of topsoil, to broadforking, another way of loosening the soil without doing too much damage to the soil structure.
If you have time and energy then these methods will work but if you want to get started quickly then we recommend the following:
- Mark out the boundary of the garden with four posts - untreated 2x4 are ideal, just bash them in one at each corner.
- Scalp the grass as close as you can using a mower. A flail mower is ideal as it creates a nice mulch as well. Repeat this a few times until the grass is looking decidedly ill. By scalping the grass you are killing the roots, meaning there is less to grow back.
- Use a rotary hoe to lightly till the top few centimetres over the entire garden. The idea is to pluck out as much of the grass as possible and lay it on the surface for the weather to finish killing it. Run the hoe at half speed so as to not to pulverise the soil.
- Mark out the beds and alleys and rotavate again, this time at a deeper depth (just above the clay layer) to bring up more deeply rooted weeds, etc. Again, run at half speed as we want to prevent a hard pan as much as possible and retain the soil structure.
- Leave for a few days for the weather to kill the weeds, or rake off if you are in a hurry.
- Now shape the beds using either a grape hoe to drag the soil from the alleyways up onto the bed, or use a cultivator such as the lightweight Mantis
- Once the beds have been defined then you have a number of options depending on your soil type
- Broadfork to loosen the subsoil if you suspect a hardpan
- Double dig if you feel you need to add amendments
- Do nothing and get growing!
- Finally spread your amendments and use a rotary harrow to prepare the seedbed for either direct sowing or transplanting. The tynes of the rotary harrow stir the top few centimetres creating the tilth and levelling the bed, and the roller gently compacts the top layer for an ideal seed bed. Alternatively use a rake, a tilther, or other means to create an optimum seedbed.
- At this stage you can sow or transplant, or water and wait a few days for any remaining weeds to germinate which you then hoe under or use a flame weeder to smash them.
Once you are growing and producing surplus
So now you have your market garden up and running the next question is how to sell your surplus?
Here is where https://hoodfood.nz (food from the neighbourhood) comes into play.
Hoodfood is, once it is up and running in June/July, a network of artisan market gardeners designed to meet the increasing demand for locally produced wholesome food. Vegetables that require less transportation and refrigeration are consequently fresher, more nutritious, and more affordable. The way artisan growers care for the soil produces better vegetables and has a positive effect on the environment.
Next to this network of growers we will have a number of artisan bakers, bottlers, cheese makers, and more. In fact pretty well everything you need for your weekly shopping.
Check it out at https://hoodfood.nz
The Permagrow attitude
If the prospect of starting your own market garden seems daunting please remember we are here to help. We can guide you though the decisions you have to make and show you tools and techniques that work for us. You are not alone.
"....Wow, thanks for your very detailed helpful email. Fantastic tip on the Mantis tilther by the way!...."- Brittany, Cambridge
"...kind, welcoming and always willing to take the time to teach and share their extensive knowledge...." - Taylor, Canada
"....It was amazing how well they thought along with me and made sure I had the possibility to learn as much as possible..." - Lisa, Netherlands