Building a garden table

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Although bamboo is classified as grass, they are as elegant and as strong as the most durable types of wood. Bamboo is a rapidly renewable material, as the stems can be harvested repeatedly from the same plant for 2-5 years. There are many different species of bamboo, several of which are used in buildings and outdoor structures. Our bamboo line of products include outdoor gardening, fencing, furniture, commercial display products, and bamboo building materials. We use Moso, Calcutta, Tonkin and Java Black bamboo in our product line.

Bentwood material like the willow branches and peeled willow canes used in our willow garden products, grows quickly and are individually hand collected by craftspeople from local forests and plantations. Willow sticks are a rapidly renewable material and are harvested in a sustainable way from managed willow plantations. Our classic peeled willow products are constructed with carbonized, steam dried willow sticks which will resist decay in harsh outdoor environments. Its light mahogany color and clean wood-like character makes them great for outdoor gardening.

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We also recycle used oak wood wine barrels into a series of unique planters, furniture, display shelving and other uses for your home garden.


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Contents

Growing Tables for Vegetables, Fruit & Herbs

Growing tables provide a way for the less able and wheelchair users to continue to enjoy growing their own. One tip for those unsteady on their feet is to fix some grab rails to the vegetable growing table. Don’t forget that a table loaded with compost and water is going to be extremely heavy, good strong construction is a must.

What are growing tables?

Whenever we see a new simple practical widely applicable gardening idea we have to try it. The most productive in recent years has been a growing table which is essentially a raised bed on legs.

Our growing table is a metre by 70 centimetres in surface area with sides that give a 30 cm depth of a compost for growing vegetables.

It is an essential feature of a mini-allotment filling a three square metre terrace off our bedroom. Other containers are tiers of window boxes, pots and a trough with trellis for growing tomatoes, cucumbers and beans.

At present there are twenty varieties of vegetables and herbs growing on our growing tables.

Growing tables are productive

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Today’s crops from the growing table include mini lettuces and cut and come again oriental salad leaves, mini carrots and broccoli, parsley, peas and nasturtium leaves and flowers that hang down two sides. Yes the plants are close – they prevent moisture evaporation, being two floors up there is little chance of snails and slugs and we don’t need to walk between the crops.

Construction materials for Growing Tables

Our growing table is constructed from marine ply with wooden legs but aluminium sheeting and tubing is another easy alternative. Galvanised steel versions are also on sale. The height of the legs is 70 cms which means that only the tops of lettuces can be seen from the street over the terrace wall. Casters are fitted to the legs so that it can be moved around. If we wanted to we could plant and harvest from a stool.

And that of course opens up other uses for growing tables especially for those ageing or infirm. In our book Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style we recommend that they are also used for:

Vegetable Planter Table from Gardensite.co.uk

  • collections of herbs, cacti, succulents and other plants.
  • potting tables.
  • mini gardens.
  • children’s gardens
  • propagating rows of new plants from cuttings or seeds.

In the book we include our plan for a ‘Dream penthouse terrace’. The vegetable growing area comprises a convenient corner of twelve growing tables – an adaptation of our ‘Ten tub allotment’ for a corner of a small garden.

Next time you visit Barcelona or Valencia you might well see a terrace of growing tables – here they are marketed as ‘Huertos Urbanos’ which translates into ‘urban allotments’.

Useful Links in the Allotment Shop:

  • Wooden Planters

  • Potato Planters

  • Vegetable & Tomato Planters

  • Growbag Growing

  • Herb Planters

  • Wall & Vertical Planters

  • Decorative Pots, Planters and Stands

  • Container Pot & Patio Growing, Flowers, Vegetables, Fruit & Herbs – Information & Advice

    • Container Gardening – Container Vegetable Growing
    • Container Gardening – General Advice Guide & Tips
    • Container Gardening – Protecting Your Plants & Crops From Pests
    • Growing Tables for Vegetables, Fruit & Herbs
    • The Basics Of How to Plant Container Gardens
    • What Vegetables Can You Grow in Containers?
    • Winter Care of Container Fruit Trees

    Vegetable growing

    Monitoring of the irrigation system is important so that leaks and blockages can be picked up. The uniformity of the water application should also be checked every few seasons to detect worn nozzles. Irrigation management courses will teach you all the basics of irrigation application and system maintenance. There are run periodically by various training providers.

    Climate

    Climate and climatic variability is a critical factor in vegetable production and is largely beyond your control, unless you plan to establish protected cropping such as glasshouse or shade-house production. Climate will determine what crops can be grown and at what time of the year. Some crops will be frost sensitive; others will have a heat requirement or a minimum soil temperature for germination of seed.

    Varieties of specific vegetable crops such as cauliflowers or lettuce are produced for particular seasonal conditions and times. For some vegetable varieties this timing can be very specific and if they are grown outside those conditions due to poor timing or unseasonal weather, the crop may fail due to prematurely running to seed or poor head formation.

    Weather

    It is also important to remember that weather conditions are variable and that there are also extreme events which can affect the growing conditions and crop quality.

    Weather will also have an impact on disease and insect levels. Leaf wetness increases the likelihood of some fungal diseases and this is not only due to irrigation and rain but also humidity and dew. Other conditions which can influence pest and disease incidence include temperature and wind.

    Some of the adverse conditions that can cause problems include damage caused by wind or wind blown sand, as well as frost, sunburn and hail. Whilst you can’t stop adverse weather there are things that can help reduce its impact, such as choosing where to plant vulnerable crops e.g. Avoiding frost hollows in frost prone months, planting wind breaks and using irrigation to reduce heat, wind or frost damage.

    Some crops are more susceptible to wind, such as beans, or the spear development of asparagus can be affected. Consider the use of windbreaks and the type of windbreak for such crops.

    Climate change

    It is also increasingly important to take into account the impact of potential climate change. For vegetable production the major impact is in relation to increased climate variability which may mean that there is an increased risk of crops running to seed or failing to set normal heads due to unseasonal conditions or being damaged by severe weather events. This increase in seasonal variability should be taken into account when planning planting schedules and choosing varieties. If you are establishing a new property you may want to consider the long term outlook for the area. It is likely that most parts of Victoria will become hotter and drier in the future.

    Labour

    The labour requirement varies significantly for different crops depending on picking frequency, pruning and training requirements. Some crops will need to be picked every couple of days or daily, others will have pruning or training requirements that may be very labour intensive. Other crops may need a once only harvest and relatively little maintenance throughout the growing period of the crop.

    In choosing what crop to grow the level and frequency of labour needed to manage the crop should be taken into account. For labour intensive crops, production on a larger scale will require significantly more labour and so may not give the economies of scale that might have been expected.

    It is also critical to remember that farms are inherently dangerous workplaces and farmers and farm workers are more likely to be injured or die at work than any other Victorians. There are Occupational Health and Safety requirements that must be met. These are available from WorkSafe Victoria (see contact list).

    Harvesting

    Harvest labour can be a significant consideration when deciding to grow vegetables. You may need a consistent supply of labour or many hands all at once or something in between.

    The crop you choose will dictate the type of labour you need. Crops generally fall into one of four categories

    Harvested by machinery – These do not have a high demand for labour but the capital outlay for the machinery may be significant. Examples are potatoes, corn, carrots and processing tomatoes.

    Harvested by hand once – Labour demands for these crops are generally lower. Depending on the size of the operation these may be managed by a family unit. Considerations will depend on the perishability of the crop and how quickly it needs to be harvested after it matures. An example of this are pumpkins.

    Harvested by hand with multiple picks and/or multiple cropping – Labour demand for these crops will vary depending on the size of the area planted and the number of picks required. Broccoli for example will usually have 2-3 picks and crops are also planted sequentially every one or two weeks to provide continuity of supply throughout the season.

    Harvested by hand continuously – Crops may need pruning or training as well as harvesting. These crops may produce over a whole season or for extended periods with sequential plantings. Examples of these crops include fresh tomatoes, squash, eggplant, asparagus and snow peas.

    Regular work makes it easier to keep good employees but can cause problems if there is limited labour.

    Needing labour all at once or semi regularly can mean spending more time on training of new staff each time you need workers.

    Yields and post-harvest considerations

    Yields may vary from season to season and between paddocks. It is difficult to predict. Indications of average yields for some vegetable crops are shown below.

    Crop

    Yield t/ha

    Crop

    Yield t/ha

    Potato

    Zucchini and squashes

    Asparagus

    Rock melon

    Green beans

    Water melon

    Broccoli

    Spring onion

    Brussells sprouts

    Onion brown and white

    Cabbage

    Parsley

    Chinese cabbage

    Parsnip

    Capsicum and chillies

    Green pea

    Carrot

    Snow pea

    Cauliflower

    Pumpkin

    Celery

    Sweet corn

    Cucumber

    Tomato (fresh)

    Leeks

    Tomato (processing)

    Lettuce

    Do not be tempted to plant more than you can manage and that includes harvesting, post harvest handling, packing and storage.

    Cooling and other handling requirements

    Some of the things to consider after harvest include does your crop require refrigeration, ice, or post-harvest treatments such as washing, trimming or fungicides? Just placing product in the cool room is usually not enough to get the harvested crop down to a suitable temperature before transport. The outer product may be cool but product in the middle of the box or pallet may have only been reduced a couple of degrees. Additional cooling infrastructure may be needed such as forced air cooling or hydro-cooling. The whole post harvest cooling chain is only as strong as the weakest link and poor post harvest handling will result in a rapid loss in quality and significant product loss.

    Crops will need to be packed and graded according to size and/or colour depending on the type of crop. This means that there may be a requirement for packing and grading lines. These issues will also affect the amount of labour needed.

    Some products before being sent to market will need to be washed for phytosanitary requirements or for appearance, for example, to remove soil on potatoes. Water quality is also a factor and there may need to be treatment of the water, e.g. filtering or chlorination for it to be suitable as wash water.

    The crop will need to be stored prior to sale or shipment and most vegetable crops will require storage in a coolroom. Even crops that do not need cold storage may need some treatment, for example onions and pumpkins need to be cured if they are to store well.

    Getting started

    The first attempts should be treated as a learning experience. It is suggested that small areas of some different crops should be grown initially to gain some understanding of the issues and to see, which are most suitable and which have the strongest markets.

    If you have no plant production experience, you should consider working for someone else or share farming with someone more experienced until you learn the ropes. This will also help you to see if vegetable production is something that suits your temperament. There are courses and apprenticeships available to assist you learn about vegetable production in a more formal way.

    Converting from trees or vines to vegetables

    If you are considering converting to vegetable production from other forms of horticulture there are a few things to be aware of.

    • Full time vegetable farms generally involve more consistent labour throughout the year than tree or vine crops because there is no winter dormancy.
    • Irrigation systems for trees and vines will not necessarily be suitable for vegetable production e.g. Emitter spacings may be too far apart.
    • Crop prices are more volatile than perennial crops because there can be huge variation in the amount of a particular crop planted each year and seasonal conditions in production areas can have a big effect on supply
    • There is very a strong sense of competition among vegetable farmers and peer support may be difficult to get.
    • Ground that has recently grown another horticulture crop may struggle to support vegetable production before a suitable fallow period.
    • Generally vegetables grown between rows of perennial crops will mean that both crops suffer particularly if on the one irrigation system as they usually have different water requirements and spray programs.
    • Vegetable growers continually crop throughout a season to take into account the seasonal variation of peaks and troughs in supply. Do not expect that the production of any one crop will necessarily return a profit. That will depend upon supply and demand at harvest as well as the crop and quality you produce.

    Contacts and services available

    The internet will provide you with a lot of helpful websites from Australia and overseas. This website has a range of general information on farming and is a good place to start for information on growing vegetables. We publish a comprehensive set of Information Notes and Fact sheets (Matter-of-Facts) that can give you more information about specific crops and topics.

    If you do not have access to the internet, you can contact us for assistance.

    Market agents and supermarket buyers can let you know about product specifications, demand and packaging requirements.

    The wholesale markets can offer advice and assistance to new growers. This includes lists of registered market agents, and selling price.

    The representative organisation for vegetable growers in Victoria is the Vegetable Growers Association (VGA). It can provide a range of assistance to growers including advice, access to research products and opportunities for networking and meeting other growers.

    The Victorian Farmers Federation also has a representative role for vegetable growers and can provide advice.

    There are local associations in some areas or for some specific crops such as Mushrooms, garlic, asparagus and processing tomatoes as well as a range of organisations representing the various aspects of potato growing.

    Try to talk to as many people as possible from different areas and along the value chain. Farmers in the local area will prove invaluable if you can get them to open up to you. Farmers who may have recently retired may be a good option as they are likely to have a wealth of experience and are not going to be competing with you for market share.

    Contact information

    Victorian Vegetable Growers Association Ph: 03 9687 4707

    AUSVEG Ph: 03 9544 8098

    Seed Potatoes Victoria

    Melbourne Market Authority Ph: 03 9258 6100

    Australian Asparagus Council Ph: 03 9884 8206

    Australian Mushroom Growers Association Ph: 02 4577 6877

    Australian Garlic Industry Association Ph: 03 9495 0938 (Helen Tripp)

    Australian Melon Association Ph: 07 4157 6238

    Australian Onion Industry Association Ph: 08 8725 8862

    Processing Tomato Research Council Inc Ph: 03 5825 4633

    Horticulture Australia Ph: 02 8295 2300

    Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority Ph: 02 6210 4700

    Horticulture Code of Conduct from ACCC (Infocentre) Ph: 1300 302 502

    WorkSafe Victoria Ph: 1800 136 089

    Acknowledgements

    This Agnote was developed by Sally-Ann Henderson and Rob Dimsey, Farm Services Victoria in November 2009.

    ISSN 1329-8062

    Published and Authorised by:
    Department of Environment and Primary Industries
    1 Spring Street
    Melbourne, Victoria

    This publication is copyright. No part may be reproduced by any process except in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968.

    The advice provided in this publication is intended as a source of information only. Always read the label before using any of the products mentioned. The State of Victoria and its employees do not guarantee that the publication is without flaw of any kind or is wholly appropriate for your particular purposes and therefore disclaims all liability for any error, loss or other consequence which may arise from you relying on any information in this publication

    Our top 10 vegetables to plant in spring!

    If you’ve found yourself standing in front of your veggie garden in the warm spring sunlight desperate to plant something edible, but not sure what, this post is for you. Here are my favourite vegetables to plant in spring – these are the ones I grow every year and enjoy eating.

    If you start with seedlings, you could be harvesting fresh produce from some of them, such as the lettuce, in a matter of weeks! If you start with seeds, it may take a little longer.

    Of course, some of the vegies – such as pumpkin – take many months to produce their crop, so you’ll be eating from your garden with these selections well into autumn. Many of these can also be planted several times through spring and into early summer, to stagger the harvest and keep that fresh produce coming.

    General veggie care

    All vegies need to be kept well-watered and will benefit from liquid feeding every seven to 10 days as they grow. For best results, plant vegies in full sun or at least in a spot that gets sun from early morning until early afternoon. On hot days many vegies need shade to reduce heat and water stress. This can be given with a screen, tall plantings on the western side of the bed, or a piece of shadecloth to toss over for temporary shade on a hot day. Water vegies at least once a day (more frequently during heatwaves) and spend time checking for pests that may be wanting to eat your vegies before you can. Keep the area free of weeds, too.

    Tip: Nurture new plantings. They may need shelter from too much hot sunshine until they establish their root system. Snails and slugs can eat seedlings in a single night, so also use a pet- and wildlife-friendly, iron-based snail bait to protect new plants.

    Jennifer’s top 10 vegetables to plant in spring

    Beans provide an abundant crop.

    Beans

    I grow lots of different beans, choosing both climbing beans (grow climbers up a tepee or on a trellis) and bush beans (suitable for pots or the edge of a garden bed). I also grow beans to dry for eating during autumn and winter. Beans are easy to grow and crop heavily. Once the beans start to form, pick them daily as they taste best when they are young and tender. The exception is beans grown for drying (such as Borlotti or Scarlet Runner), which are left to mature and dry on the vine.

    Carrots are satisfying to grow at home!

    Carrot

    These vegetables are cheap to buy, but there’s a certain thrill when pulling up your own carrots. Carrots grow best from seed sown into the veggie patch and kept damp until the tiny seedlings germinate. Experienced gardeners place a board over freshly-sown carrots to help them to germinate without drying out. Carrots like free-draining, deep soil. Don’t add extra organic matter such as compost or manure as this can lead to forking. Thin out the row of seedlings to avoid over crowding. Baby carrots develop quickly and are a good choice for raised beds, troughs or impatient gardeners!

    Fresh cucumbers are versatile – use in salads, sandwiches, drink garnishes and beauty treatments!

    Cucumber

    To me, nothing equals a freshly picked, home-grown cucumber for flavour and crunch. Our cucumbers find their way into sandwiches, salads and homemade tzatziki (yoghurt and cucumber dip). When there’s more than we can eat fresh, they are bottled as bread and butter cucumbers to eat later. Cucumbers are easiest to manage grown on a climbing frame or tepee. Where there’s not much space, grow cucumbers in a large pot (at least 40cm across) and train the vines up a climbing frame.

    Smoky grilled eggplant tastes even more delicious when it’s fresh from your garden.

    Eggplant

    This delicious vegetable has pretty flowers and is very attractive to grow in the garden (or a container). It is usually trouble-free. There are varieties with small fruit which crop quickly. Grill eggplant on the barbecue or turn it into a delicious baba ganoush.

    Take your home-made salads to the next level with fresh, home-grown lettuce.

    Lettuce

    Some leafy green is a must in every veggie bed or container vegetable garden. Growing a range of loose-leaf lettuce with a selection of leaf shapes and colours makes for interesting salads. Traditional Iceberg lettuce can also be rewarding to grow. Plant some sort of lettuce as seed or seedling every few weeks so there’s always some to harvest and more growing.

    They take their time to grow, but home-grown potatoes are a treat once harvested!

    Potato

    They do take up a lot of room and need to grow for many months, but there’s something very satisfying about grabbing a garden fork and lifting your own spuds from the garden. There are many different varieties available, so you can grow something that perhaps you wouldn’t buy at the supermarket. Planted in early spring, there’s also a chance that you’ll be harvesting some early spuds to have as part of your Christmas or festive lunch.

    Soups, roasts, risottos and scones – there are many culinary uses for easy-growing pumpkin!

    Pumpkin

    Pumpkins often just appear in gardens as they grow so readily from seed. The combination of a rich, warm compost heap and a few seeds generally means rogue pumpkin vines that can take over the garden. These self-sown vines can also have some of the tastiest of fruit, but there are lots of pumpkin varieties available to grow from seed or seedling if the compost heap doesn’t produce its own vine. If space is at a premium, pumpkin vines can be trained to grow on a sunny fence or trellis (you may need to support the fruit as it ripens). This is a long-maturing crop that requires the appearance on the vine of both male and female flowers to enable fruiting. Keep plants well-watered and watch the small fruit develop through summer to harvest in autumn for roasts and soups. I also make pumpkin risotto and add pumpkin to scones and cakes. Pumpkins keep well.

    Fresh sweet corn on the cob – is there a better summer treat?

    Sweet corn

    This tall-growing vegetable also needs lots of space as it needs to be planted in blocks (at least a metre square) to give the best chance for the cobs to be fertilised as the wind blows pollen from the male parts of the plant. Sweet corn takes a while but when its cobs start to ripen, there’s nothing better to eat!

    Juicy tomatoes are simple to grow and add unbeatable flavour to salads.

    Tomatoes

    Tomatoes are often the first plant a new veggie gardener aspires to. It’s little wonder – with so many different varieties available, the backyard can produce a smorgasbord of colour, size and flavour. I usually plant at least three varieties – sometimes many more – but my favourite is Black Russian. Give plants plenty of room to grow (follow the recommended plant spacings on the plant label or seed packet) and train them up a tall stake. Tomatoes need to be regularly watered and protected from late frosts in spring as well as hot spells. Begin feeding from when the yellow flowers appear. Protect from fruit fly with organic fruit fly baits, or for a fuss-free crop, grow cherry tomatoes. There are compact tomato varieties (look for Patio tomatoes) to grow in containers. Eat home grown tomatoes fresh or cook them up into sauces and chutneys.

    Zucchinis are very easy to grow – share them with friends and neighbours!

    Zucchini

    I always plant too many zucchinis. These are generally the most bountiful of plants so you really need to love zucchini at every meal, have a big family, or lots of hungry friends if you plant more than three or four plants. If you do over plant, there are generally lots of zucchini recipes on social media so don’t despair! Zucchinis are spreading plants (observe the recommend spacings and give them plenty of space to grow). Keep plants well watered. The fruit tends to form in summer once the female flowers appear. Once they start, they mature rapidly so check and pick frequently. They are then harvested through summer and into autumn until the plant succumbs to powdery mildew and calls it a day.

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    Make a timber outdoor table with a cutout top to grow flowers or herbs.

    At 1700mm long and about 980mm wide this table is a solid piece of furniture for the deck, courtyard or pergola.

    It’s designed to double as a garden feature and is built with waterfall sides instead of legs to complement the two bench seats, measuring 1500mm long.

    The three-piece outdoor setting is made from 140 x 45mm treated pine boards joined with mitred corners.

    For the living centrepiece, the tabletop has a cutout sized to fit two 600mm long plastic garden troughs.

    The lip of the planters fit neatly over the edge of the cutout so you can lift them out to change the display.

    Use the planters to green the scene in areas where floorspace is limited, such as on a deck, or grow herbs in them for cooking alfresco.

    Cut the parts

    Use a mitresaw to cut the top and side boards for the table and benches with mitred ends.

    Stabilise the table and benches by securing braces to the side rails, adding extra diagonal bracing from the ends of the cross braces to the underside of the top boards if needed.

    For the planter hole, cut two 250mm infills, leaving a 1200mm long space in the centre of the table.

    To finish, create a limewash effect by sanding back a coat of thin white paint and sealing it with varnish.

    You can also use semi-transparent decking finish in a pale shade such as Feast Watson Decking Oil in Snow Gum, about $54 for two litres.

    If you are good at doing DIY stuff you don’t need to spend a lot of money to have awesome furniture for your outdoor space. Check out these 20 DIY garden furniture ideas for inspiration.

    1. DIY Ladder Planter

    This ladder planter can be so useful in your garden. A quick and informative tutorial is available on Anawhite.com.

    2. DIY Garden Storage Bench

    This excellent and easy garden storage bench is made by Tracy. You can see her DIY post on Instructables.

    3. Cool Portable Milk Crate Stools

    Not perfect but a cool and creative way to have seats in your garden that you can move anytime. Check out the tutorial here.

    4. DIY Garden Table

    Get two old pallets out and color them. Then lay them alternatively beside a wall and put two or three concrete cubes over them to get a table like appearance. Simple and easy outdoor furniture idea.

    5. Modern DIY Bench

    This great looking modern bench can be an amazing addition to your backyard. Don’t miss the step by step guide available on DIY Candy.

    6. Garden Chairs Done In No Time

    The old tree stumps that stand for years in your garden in a corner can work perfectly as garden chairs. Use sandpapers to make them smoother and get some soft pillows. Simple and budget-friendly DIY project. You can also paint these chairs if you like.

    7. Concrete Side Table+Planter

    This interesting table is actually a molded planter with a wooden top. It’s somewhere in between a planter and a table. Read the tutorial on homedit.

    8. Garden Table Made Of Old Tires

    If you have some old tires at home, you’ll have a new DIY garden table ready in no time. You’ll only need to paint the tires and put a glass on them. See how it has to be done.

    9. Rustic Milk Jug As Furniture

    Can you make something cool out of old milk jugs. The answer is yes, from milk jugs you can make horny garden furniture. You can reuse an old milk jug as a table. Check out the tutorial here.

    10. Outdoor Table With Hammock

    This hiding place was crafted from an old table frame and Euro pallets. Attach them together and tie a hammock on it. The kids will love it! Find more about this DIY project on Little Bit Funky.

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    A full step by step tutorial to make this pallet swing is available on The Merry Thought.

    12. Flower Pot Table

    If you want to make a creative outdoor table, try this. Making this flower pot table requires only a pair of terracotta pots, a dollar store pizza pan, and a few other things. Check out the tutorial here.

    13. DIY Log Lounger

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    16. Vintage Chair Drink Stand

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    18. DIY Patio Table

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    20. DIY Concrete Side Table

    This stylish concrete side table is best to set your drinks and a plate of food. If there is a DIY’er in you, try this idea.

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    Raised Garden Beds

    Raised garden beds would have to be one of the easiest and most successful ways to grow edible plants in the garden. They solve the problem of poor drainage, can be placed almost anywhere and always seem to produce massive amounts of food for the family table. Setting up a raised garden bed takes a little bit of planning and a few hours of work and will result in a bountiful crop that will taste better than anything found in the supermarket.

    Installing a raised garden bed couldn’t be simpler with the huge range of garden tanks now available in colours to suit any home. They allow gardeners with clay soil or granite outcrops to plant in to perfect soil and can be fitted in to the smallest of backyards. Since they are raised, they are a much easier height to work at, adding to the true pleasure of growing herbs and vegetables at home.

    SELECTING AND PREPARING A SITE
    Choosing the site carefully is important as once the raised garden bed is filled, it will be a massive task to move it. All edible plants need full sun to produce the oils and flavour that we expect. When grown in too much shade, herbs and vegetables will become soft, inundated by pests and will not thrive. Choose an open, sunny site that gets plenty of morning sun with at least six hours of direct sunlight throughout the day. Shelter from winds may also be necessary with lattice or shade cloth walls as plants raised off the ground are affected more by gusts then those in a garden bed.

    Raised garden beds can be placed on almost any surface, even on concrete and heavy clay soils. If putting directly on to lawn, mark out the area and spray that patch of grass first with glyphosate. Wait a few days to allow the grass to begin to die before placing the new bed in position.

    Before adding soil to the raised garden bed, install reticulation pipes from underneath. Drip irrigation is the most efficient way of watering as it provides even coverage and reduces waste. Overhead sprinklers will tend to water over the edge of the bed instead of the plants themselves.

    Line the base of the bed with thick layers of newspaper to stop any couch from finding its’ way up through the base and help to retain a bit of extra moisture. If working on a windy day, dampen the newspaper so that it doesn’t blow away. Avoid lining with plastic as this will prevent the water draining correctly and will cause water logging.

    SETTING UP THE GARDEN BED
    Fill the bottom half of very large beds with ordinary soil. The roots of the vegetables will not reach that far anyway so this will make the project a bit more economical. Good quality soil such as a veggie and flower mix which contains compost and fertiliser should be used for the top 30 or 40 centimetres.

    Soil taken directly from the garden will result in poor growth and long term issues including weed seeds, water logging and poor growth in plants.

    Remember that plants grown in containerized situations like these will only get the nutrients that you give them so preparing the soil well is essential to good results.

    Sprinkling a small amount of controlled release fertiliser over the surface is the simplest way to ensure the nutrient level is correct. Add an additional application of a soil wetter as although the mix will be new, it will still benefit from holding moisture more effectively. Water storing crystals may be useful in very hot areas of WA.

    Before planting, add a good layer of pea straw or lupin mulch to help the soil retain water and to provide some protection for seeds and tiny seedlings as they grow. The mulch will break down and add extra nitrogen to the soil.

    PLANTING THE RAISED GARDEN BED
    Choosing what to plant very much depends on what’s in season and what the family enjoys eating. Some plants are best grown from seed such as peas and beans but others do well from seedlings also.

    Use climbing or tall edible plants to provide some shelter for shorter plants next door. Put any climbing frames in at the same time as planting seeds or seedlings to minimize the damage to roots and to make it easier to train the plants in the right direction.

    It could be interesting to consider plant combinations that suit. Capsicum, basil, parsley, oregano, eggplant and zucchini could provide real inspiration at dinner time. Where a raised garden bed is near the barbecue area, consider a combination of rosemary, lemon grass and thyme with salad vegies such as cherry tomatoes and snow peas.

    Consider smaller successive plantings of fast growing vegetables such as spinach and lettuce to reduce wastage and ensure a continual supply.

    In the case of smaller raised garden beds or where the bed is being watered on the same reticulation station, it is very important to choose plants that all require similar conditions. For example, planting drought tolerant rosemary right next to lettuce which needs large amounts of water will result in poor growth of at least one of them since it would be impossible to provide conditions to suit both. It would be better to plant the rosemary somewhere else in the garden or even in its’ own tub and then plant something more suitable in with the lettuce.

    HARVESTING AND MAINTENANCE
    Watering the garden bed efficiently is the key to success. Testing whether the bed needs watering is simply a case of scraping back the top two centimetres of soil to ascertain whether it is moist underneath. It should never be soggy but the grains of soil should be just damp enough for them to stick to a finger.

    Where possible, water in the early hours of the morning so that the water stays in the soil but the early morning sun dries the leaves to prevent diseases such as mildew. There will be very little need for weeding initially but it is always important to stay vigilant. Simply digging between the rows with a hand hoe will help to prevent weed seeds from germinating.

    Fortnightly applications of a seaweed extract will thicken the cell walls of the plants and encourage massive root growth resulting in a far better harvest. More regular applications in the heat of summer and over the frosts of winter would help the plants deal with the extreme weather.

    Controlled release fertilisers for vegetables can be applied between 6 and 8 weeks after planting as the previous application would have been depleted. As the plants are harvested or the beds replanted, compost and other organic soil conditioners can be mixed through also.

    Although an occasional application of liquid fertiliser can be applied, it should not be necessary unless there is a need to give a boost where plant growth seems slow. However, if this is the case it would be a sign that the soil is depleted and needs more compost and fertiliser added.

    It is always better to feed edible plants through the roots via the soil as this will produce better flavour.

    Pick up any dropped or damaged fruit and harvest the herbs and vegetables often. By harvesting leaves and fruit regularly, the plant is encouraged to produce even more and so the resulting crops will be far better.

    SEASONAL PLANTING IDEAS

    SPRING (Sept – Nov)
    Peas
    Zucchini
    Climbing Beans
    Lettuce
    Spring Onions
    Sweet Basil
    Parsley

    AUTUMN (Mar – May)
    Silverbeet
    Beetroot
    Garlic
    Asian Greens
    Celery
    Coriander
    Rocket

    SUMMER (Dec – Feb)
    Tomato
    Eggplant
    Capsicum
    Watermelon
    Cucumber
    Pumpkin
    Squash

    WINTER (June – Aug)
    Potatoes
    Broccoli
    Cabbage
    Broad Beans
    Leek
    Onions
    Spinach

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