FROM LAWN TO VEGGIE GARDEN

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Look for an area that receives at least 6-8 hours of sunlight a day, ideally flat or on a slight slope. For most urbanites, this means an area with lawn. This suits a vegetable garden as grass is not a greedy feeder, so the soil below is relatively fertile. Also, as a lawn is regularly mown, the roots slough off creating a humus-rich environment.

You can leave grassed pathways as long as they’re regularly maintained. To prevent the grass creeping into the beds, place a barrier

(such as thin metal sheeting) on the inside of the bed to block runners. If you’re a beginner gardener, start with one bed, learn to manage this, then add more.

By creating a vegetable garden on top of grass instead of removing it, you don’t lose valuable topsoil. If any grass does pop up, pull it out immediately. To maintain fertility, add organic matter such as well-rotted manure and compost to the surface of the beds.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

Plenty of newspaper or cardboard

1 cubic metre growing medium (see opposite)

A raised bed frame (or you can use a bed edging of stones, bricks or logs)

Grass barrier (optional)

A selection of seasonal veggie seedlings

HOW TO DO IT

1 Measure an area roughly the size of a door, 1m x 2m.

2 Add an additional 90cm on one side for a pathway.

3 Using a spade, slice down on the inside edge of the bed, severing all the grass runners.

4 Cut the lawn within the area as short as possible.

5 Cover the bed with layers of cardboard or

MAKE YOUR OWN GROWING MEDIUM

1 part presoaked coir peat

1 part presoaked vermiculite

2 parts sieved rich compost

A part disease-free topsoil, to provide nutrients, density and natural organisms a few scoops well-rotted kraal or horse manure slow-release organic fertiliser Mix all the ingredients together well. newspaper, wetting the layers thoroughly as you go, until it’s about 1,5cm thick. The aim is to smother any remaining grass and weeds and block the sunlight completely. Earthworms and other organisms will convert the cardboard and grass into friable humus within weeks.

6 Place the bed frame over the bed (or position the bed edging) and install the grass barrier.

7 Fill with the growing medium, watering it in well.

8 Transplant the seedlings and mulch the surface.

USING STRAW BALES

A straw bale vegetable garden is suitable for a corner of a patio or a rooftop. It requires no digging, no weeding and can be set up in any sunny area. Suitable for a one-season garden, the bales slowly decompose creating compost. These bales are also ideal for rooftop gardens as they’re light. They

are also a good option for a low-impact garden if you’re renting.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

4-5 straw bales (don’t use hay bales as they usually contain weed seeds)

Slow-release, high-nitrogen organic fertiliser (such as Talborne Vita Green)

1 bag compost

Liquid organic fertiliser (such as Biogrow Biotrissol)

A selection of seasonal veggie seedlings

HOW TO DO IT

1 Position the bales. You can make rows, line them up against a wall or create a square with a hole in the middle (A). This can be filled with growing medium and have a vertical support installed for gem squash or cherry tomatoes.

2 Place the bales so that the stalks are horizontal. If they’re vertical, water will run through too quickly. Don’t cut the bailing twine that holds them together otherwise you’ll have straw everywhere.

3 Sprinkle with organic fertiliser. Cover the tops of the bales with a 5-7cm layer of compost.

4 Soak the bales with a mixture of water and liquid organic fertiliser every day for 10 days (B). This kick-starts the composting process, breaking the bales down.

5 Use a trowel to make holes in the straw bales and transplant the seedlings (C). Install a soaker hose, and in dry periods, water every day or two so the bales don’t dry out.

6 By the end of the season the bales will have broken down. These can be added to the compost heap.

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