Grow your own
First things first
You're ready to grow your own food.
You've got a flat piece of land, Northerly facing, sunny, and of reasonable quality. You're looking at a patch that's 16m long by 20m wide (320m2), so it's not huge—but it's perfect for growing vegetables.
You're excited about the prospect of growing nutritious vegetables in your own backyard, and maybe even selling some of the surplus for an extra income. But how do you get started? What do you need? What should you plant? How much work is involved?
We can help! We can show you how to farm this small plot efficiently and with minimal effort on your part. We'll walk you through preparing it, sowing seeds, managing nutrients, and harvesting—and 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 further—we will build compost bins for you; design and install infrastructure like 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 most important thing you can do to set yourself up for success 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.
Next step - dig the beds
If you're looking for a quick and easy way to get started on your new garden, we've got a few recommendations for you.
First, mark out the boundary of your garden with four posts—untreated 2x4 are ideal, just bash them in one at each corner. Next, 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 kill its roots so there's less to grow back later. Then 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 Mother Nature to finish killing it off! Run the hoe at half speed so as not to pulverize too much soil or damage its structure.
Then, leave for a few days for the weather to kill the weeds, or rake them off if you are in a hurry.
Now mark out the beds and shape them using either a grape hoe to drag the soil from the alleyways up onto the bed, or 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 deep down, otherwise do nothing and get growing!
Finally spread any fertiliser on top 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.
Once you are growing and producing surplus
So you've got your market garden up and running and you're ready to sell your vegetables, but how do you get them from your farm to your customers?
That's where http://openfoodnetwork.org.nz comes in!
OpenFoodNetwork is 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 there are a number of artisan bakers, bottlers, cheese makers, and more. In fact pretty much everything your customer needs for their weekly shopping. No need to visit the supermarket!
We can do all or most of this first step for you.
We have done this before and have a Mondo walk behind tractor with the implements to quickly set things up
- Low impact tractor
- Flail mower for scalping existing cover
- Rotary hoe for removing cover and digging bed (down to the subsoil)
- Ready made string lines for marking out beds
- Rotary harrow for stirring in amendments, smoothing bed and making tilth
- If you want we can also sow your first crop/ transplant seedlings
In fact we can do everything required to get you started.
Why 16m beds?
Beds that are 16m long and 75cm wide have an area of 12m2. This happens to be a very efficient area:
- manageable by one person
- quick to weed
- sowing takes 30mins
- transplanting takes 1/2 day
- 12m2 simplifies crop planning
- efficient harvesting
- can be turned around in about 1/2 day by one person with the right tools.
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