The secret of a beautiful and efficient outcome when creating your own garden ist the design. The more effort and thought you put in the design before you start transforming your garden, the better the outcome will be. We suggest you to take a seat in your garden to sketch out your area on a paper, with the following in mind:
A decision on fruits & vegetables
First of all you should have an idea of which fruits and vegetables you would preferably like to grow. They all have specific needs in regard to temperature, soil and (sun)light. Please consider if your weather and garden conditions will be able to meet their needs.
Sunlight, shade & wind
Sunlight plays the most important role when growing your own food. Without sunlight nothing will grow. But keep in mind: Some plants do not like to be in full sun the whole day. You might have to build a shady area. Inform yourself before you make your design what conditions the plants you are aiming to grow require. Your garden beds should not be placed in an area of constant high wind.
Waterflow, water source & irrigation system
The best is to organise your new garden that way, that the plants requiring the most water, are closest to the water source. This will safe you time and energy in the future. The water source needs to be able to be connected with the irrigation system later so that the entire garden can be reached and watered comfortably.
Garden bed width
Each graden bed should not be wider than 150 cm in width, when accessible from both sides. The length can be as long as your garden allows. It is most important to always keep in mind that you have to be able to access it at all times. Working from the edge of the bed, keep in mind that you can not reach out more than 75 cm (in average) with your arms to work comfortably. Therefore, if your garden bed is not accessible from all sides, make sure the width of the beds is not wider than 75 cm. t
Garden bed edging
Think about how you would like to have the edges of your garden bed and what you would prefer here. We suggest to recycle and reuse materials that are not longer needed in other places. Rocks, bricks and wood are common forms used for garden bed edging. In Australia it is possible to get free wood on webpages such as Gumtree from people, that are urgently looking for someone to take it off them and recycle it.
Not every garden is flat, so some gardens might require a retain wall, which can be built from rocks or wood. When using rocks, build the retain wall slightly tilted towards the garden bed and not fully straight. Place the bigger rocks at the bottom and the smaller ones at the top. When building a retain wall with timber, make sure to place enough pillars to hold the timber and the pressure of the soil of the garden bed. Depending on the length of your timber you might have to put 2-3 extra pillars.
Access path and width
A path that is a step wide, is a good path. It is enough space to walk around and work on the beds but at the same time gives you the ability to use your space to grow your fruits and vegetables efficiently. Personally I would always recommend to design the paths curvy, as it will add character to your garden, but of course it depends on the space you have available. Then think about how you want your path to look like: would you like to fill it with wood chips, rocks, pebbles, bricks oder even wood (be careful wood can be very slippery when wet!). See which colours of rocks, bricks or pebbles you would like and how it would fit in your surrounding and make a decision accordingly. In any case to receive a good outcome the path should be clearly visible and the added material should stop grass and weeds from growing on the path.
Depending on your area, you might want to build a fence around your fruit and veggie beds to prevent them from animals enjoying your homegrown food too (e.g. deer). It is important that the pillars are distanced symmetrical. 1/4 of each pillar has to be inside the ground, it is important to make sure the fence structure is really strong. The beams should be nailed on the structure from the outside of the fence. Make sure you leave space for a gate.
While making your design you should keep the calculation of the arising cost in mind. Be realistic and think of available free recycling options. In Australia there is lots of free material available (such as wood), advertised on Gumtree to just pick up and reuse. Once you have the final sum calculated it might sound like quite a bit of money that needs to be invested. Keep in mind the money you will safe in the long run by growing your own food. The money invested now will give you back more than just cheaper vegetables, it is a whole experience that will increase your life's quality significantly.
Ask yourself how long it will take you to build the garden in accordance to your design. Make a realistic plan and see how much manpower is needed. In accordance to the plan, if you want to grow from the seed directly, it might be a good idea to start sowing seeds in a tray, so they can grow while you are building. Keep in mind that your soil needs to be prepared before planting (mixed with compost or compost tea) and then rest a week or two.
If you do not have enough manpower or you would like some inexpensive help from someone experienced, advertise for one or a few volunteers online. Many young people are travelling the world and are looking for options to stay a few nights for free in a locals’ house including joining their meals in exchange for a few hours of work daily and a good cultural experience where they can share their skills (wwoofing and workaway).
Make sure you have the tools ready needed for your project and organise a way to rent them or purchase them early enough to get yourself familiar with them.