Creating a kitchen garden is a rewarding and delicious step towards more sustainable living. Growing organically cuts out the pesticides. Harvesting fresh ingredients as you need them cuts down on waste. And eating seasonally means you get to enjoy a diverse diet in tune with your local climate.
Here are five easy ways to ensure that your garden is productive, healthy and full of life.
1. Make compost and build healthy soil
Every kitchen garden should have a compost heap. Garden waste and kitchen scraps can easily be ‘repurposed’ into rich, crumbly compost. Homemade compost feeds the soil, replenishes nutrients, and encourages biodiversity. A healthy soil soaks up rain like a sponge, then releases it to plants as they need it – so less watering for the gardener. Fungi and bacteria in the soil help provide essential nutrients for the plants which then grow stronger, producing good harvests and resisting pests and diseases.
2. Grow nectar-rich flowers
We all know now that bees and other beneficial insects are struggling. Kitchen gardeners rely on bees for pollination to ensure a good harvest of apples, pumpkins, blueberries and lots more, while ladybirds, hoverflies and beetles are essential for natural pest control. Working a range of nectar-rich flowers into the planting plan helps to encourage these insects into your garden.
3. Leave a patch of grass to grow long
If you have space, a patch of long grass is a great way to further build biodiversity in the garden. It can provide a welcome habitat for invertebrates, nesting bumblebees, and amphibians looking for a damp place to hang out.
4. Dig a pond
This is regularly listed as the best way to encourage more wildlife into a garden. Birds use ponds to drink and bathe – and if you can encourage thrushes into your garden, they will repay you by feasting on snails. Frogs, newts and toads will eat slugs and snails too, and need ponds to breed.
One thing – if you do make a pond, make sure it has a shallow, sloping side where animals can easily get out. Hedgehogs and other non-aquatic creatures have been known to fall in while drinking.
5. Create a hedgehog highway
And speaking of hedgehogs, if your garden has fences around it you can help these beautiful garden visitors get in and out easily by cutting a small hole (about the size of a CD case) in the bottom of the fence. These hedgehog gateways allow them to roam from one garden to the next, feeding on, among other things, slugs and snails.