Whether you’re new to the eco living idea or you’ve followed sustainable housing like Ecoliv for a long time, you’re probably aware that growing vegetables is one of the best ways to get involved in your own health and longevity. Perhaps you’ve got an established garden, or maybe you’re just planning out your very first patch, either way, you can always learn a few tools to maximise your yield which will save you money and give you more veggies to enjoy. Every garden is unique in terms of geographic location, micro climates and existing soil health, but there are some important factors to consider that may help you thrive in creating an environmentally friendly home and garden.
Check out our top healthy garden tips to help you to maximise the yield of your environmentally friendly home.
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Improve your Soil Quality
It’s probably no surprise to anyone that compost is a necessary component in creating healthy soil, but not all compost is the same. If you’re buying compost, try to choose one with a Carbon to Nitrogen ratio of 15:1 if an analysis is provided. The reason is, if the compost hasn’t quite reached this ratio, it’s still technically breaking down and it might use up some of your garden’s precious nutrients to do so.
Better still you could make your own organic compost by using kitchen scraps and garden waste. Creating your own organic composting matter can help to divert as much as 30% of household waste away from landfills, while giving back to the earth. The best time to add your organic matter to your garden is during Winter as it allows time for the organic matter to completely break down before you start your growing season. By using recycled compost materials you also eliminate the need to use pre-manufactured fertilisers - it’s a win win.
pH and Nutrients:
Soil testing is an important step if you want veggies that grow well and are also nutrient dense. Ideally, a soil pH should be around 6.5, or at least somewhere between 6 and 7. This isn’t ideal for every single plant but it covers the widest range of veggies.
If your soil is acidic: add lime
If your soil is alkaline: add gypsum or sulfur
While you’re at it, you can also improve dense clay soil with sand to make it more porous.
You can test your soil for nutrient deficiencies as well. If your soil is deficient in certain nutrients, your vegetables will be, too. Australian soil is increasingly deficient in many nutrients including phosphorus, calcium and many trace elements that we need in our bodies. If you know what’s deficient at the soil level, you can compensate.
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Mulch is your friend
Mulch is an extremely easy and effective way to improve soil quality and increase the yield in your veggie patch. Covering your soil with mulch will help it retain moisture during drought, or simply help you save on watering in general. It will also keep the soil warmer in the cooler months as well as protecting your delicate vegetable leaves from getting soil splattered during heavy rains. When the soil is protected, it produces more organic matter and organisms, which in turn produces more nutrients and a higher yield.
Timing is everything
When you plant seeds and seedlings is one of the most crucial factors when it comes to veggie patch yield. Too soon and they might get destroyed by frost, too late and you miss out on early harvesting and maximising yield. If you’re new to gardening or to a certain area, find a planting guide that relates to your geographic location and climate and start there.
Grow vertically to save space
One of the main factors preventing a higher yield is simply not having enough space to grow more! Growing vertically is a great solution for anyone interested in creating an environmentally friendly home in the city. You can use stakes or a trellis to train certain plants to grow vertically rather than crawl across the ground. Cucumber and tomatoes tend to work well vertically. This will allow you to plant more veggies in the garden bed at the base of the stakes.
You can also grow non-climbing plants in a vertical fashion by using vertical towers or getting creative and building your own set up. Lettuce, herbs, strawberries, potatoes and many more can thrive in towers like this where you may not have had ground space for a garden bed.
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Get through the Cold Season
As mentioned above, mulching will help protect your soil in the cold season, and avoiding planting too early may help protect from frost, but there are a few other things to consider during the Wintery months. It’s important to not only plant the veggies you love, but choose ones that can withstand the temperatures in your area. Colder temperature veggies like cabbage and turnips might be a good choice. You may also wish to build some type of insulation like a greenhouse or fabric cover to protect your seedlings and allow you to harvest longer. A bonus is that these may also stop critters from coming into your garden patch for a snack.
Pair your plants
There are so many ways to pair plants, but the basic idea is picking plants that benefit each other will mean less work for you and more growth for them. For instance, you can undersow certain veggies that need more shade next to larger plants that thrive on sunshine. You can also choose plants with a symbiotic relationship in which one deposits a nutrient into the soil that the soil needs. Some plants attract certain pests and keep them off the rest, while some attract bees and other pollinators to benefit the plot as a whole. Find out which vegetables are local to your area and see if you can determine which ones are companion plants.
Another version of plant pairing is through crop rotation. If you can plant heavier feeders one year and lighter ones the next, you can maintain the nutrient density of your plot for longer.
Catching rainwater is a great way to save you money and practice eco living and sustainability, but it will also benefit your plants. Municipal water often has added chemicals that you don’t want ending up in your veggies, and it will also throw off the pH balance in your soil. You can easily build your own rainwater catchment system and start collecting water before the next rainy season. Since you won’t need to water as much during the actual rainy months, you can save your collected water to use during the drier times of the year. This is the perfect solution for anyone looking to create an environmentally friendly home gardening system.
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Try a No-Till Method
While it can be extremely satisfying to rake through soil and expose all that fresh, dark, moist earth, it’s actually not doing any favours for your veggies. Soil develops an intricate food web that transports nutrients through the plot and allows organisms and beneficial bugs to thrive. When you till, the complex network is broken up and the soil must begin the process again. This decreases the transported nutrients and will stunt the yield.
Don’t forget Weeding and Pest Management
Weeding is not only important for the aesthetics of your garden, but because weeds take up room and nutrients that should be going to your veggies. Of course, if you’re interested in sustainable housing and eco living, you know that many weeds are edible, so you can absolutely throw them in a salad or stir fry if you know how to identify them. But get them out of the veggie patch.
Pests can also destroy your chance at enjoying a high yield by getting to your veggies before you do. Depending on what plants you have, you’ll attract different pests. There are lots of natural pesticides you can buy or make yourself to keep them at bay.
Keep a Garden Journal
An important part of any eco or sustainable living practice is being conscious and intentional about what we do so that we can learn from our mistakes and avoid wasting resources in the future. While keeping a journal won’t necessarily increase your veggie patch yield immediately, it will play a key role in your future yields. Document what you’ve implemented this season as well as your outcomes so you know what’s worth doing again and what needs some altering. You can read lots of useful gardening tips, but every garden a unique composition that you’ll need to learn for yourself. Happy Gardening!
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Sustainable Living with Ecoliv
If this blog has convinced you that sustainable living and gardening is your one true calling then Ecoliv can help. Ecoliv provides affordable prefabricated modular homes that offer occupants the opportunity to reconnect with the environment in a meaningful and sustainable way.
Ecoliv have recently partnered with Biofilta to offer their homeowners eco-conscious garden beds such as the Foodcube™. These garden beds are completely made out of recycled materials and are perfect for individuals who are eager to get started on their first veggie patch in their new environmentally friendly home.
If this sounds like you then get in touch and Ecoliv will help to make your eco housing and gardening dreams a reality today.
Also, if you found this content fascinating and you’d like to read more about the topic, then don’t forget to check out our “Sustainable Garden Can Feed A Family For A Year” blog. You won’t regret it!