We’re in the transition seasons in both hemispheres right now: autumn in the south, and spring in the north. This is a good time to establish a new crop of plants before the conditions get too harsh in the peak seasons.
In our house, we wanted to replace the under-loved front courtyard with a basic vegetable garden that will produce some winter greens. We’re only talking about a small urban space here, but it’s amazing how much you can produce from that, and just how much it improves the look of the space.
First, we built a simple raised bed: 1.8m x 1.4m, and around 20cm deep. Minimal tools were required, as the hardware store cut the wood to size for us, so we just had to screw some brackets into each corner and dig them in with a basic hand trowel. We covered the existing dirt with some soaked cardboard as a weed and nutrient barrier before loading in the new potting mix (80%) and manure (20%).
The next challenge was to work out what plants we wanted. We had an idea – leafy winter greens – however garden bed planning always runs into a challenge when you consider companions and enemies. Companion planting is especially important in shared beds, where plants can compete with each other, send each other out of balance, or strive for success together.
This process has always been quite manual and annoying. As soon as you start reading about one plant, you’ll quickly find that it’s not compatible with something else you had planned, and it’s back to rearranging everything again. My mother has slowly compiled the Excel-sheet-to-end-all-Excel-sheets, saving on browser-tab-fatigue, however it’s still a laborious process to apply to a brand new garden. (And that’s if you even know everything you want to plant in the first place!)
Of course, the solution was to pause here and build a simple Windows 10 app:
As you drag-and-drop plants onto the bed planner, the app constantly recalculates what will and won’t be compatible.
The list of potential plants is automatically sorted to hint “Great Companions” and “Good Companions” first, and push those sneaky enemies to the bottom of the queue.
This also means that you can use it somewhat like Spotify Radio: just pick one plant you really want (say, basil), and drag it on to the bed planner. The list of potential plants will instantly suggest capsicum or tomatoes as the ideal plants to add next. Just keep adding from the top of the list and you’ll have a perfect garden in no time.
It also renders basic sizing and spacing information, so you can get an idea of what will actually fit in your space.
With the app built, our optimum winter garden is now well on its way to success. Hopefully yours can be too!