How To Convert a Lawn into A Veg Garden and How to Convert a Patio into a Veg Garden are Questions I’m Currently Asked Every Day. Here Are Some Answers
The Covid 19 Pandemic and the good weather have coincided in the UK. And many people are resurrecting their vegetable and fruit gardening skills or starting from scratch.
So today’s post is about how to construct a new veg patch on an existing patio or lawn. Having moved house last summer its something I’ve been doing myself. So I’ll show you how I’m going about it and discuss the pros and cons of each system.
My objective when constructing my new veg area has been to do it fast (I want to start cropping within days), with minimum effort and not too much heavy work.
The traditional method would be to dig up the lawn, perhaps by digging two spits deep, removing all weeds, especially deep-rooted ones like dandelions and nettles, and then planting up once the area has been rotavated or cultivated. It’s a lot of hard work and once the area is planted we are still going to face a season’s weeds.
Alternatively, we can build raised beds, and there are many advantages to this including wheelchair access plus it ultimately means less bending for everyone that uses them. But again it’s hard work, can be costly and we need to find enough soil and/or compost to fill the beds.
One way to fill the beds is to use old logs, branches and twigs that are then covered with soil. The logs soak up the winter rain and supply moisture though much of the growing season. This form of growing is called Hügelkultur. The original practice was just to form mounds of logs and cover them with soil. Using beds is just a tidier form of the same idea.
My choice however was No Dig Gardening. It’s less effort and is very quick and effective.
The No Dig Method of Vegetable Gardening
The third How To Convert a Lawn or Patio into A Veg Garden option is what I’ve done. It’s been quick, cost absolutely nothing and I’ve already planted it up with the first crop of leeks and carrots.
Here’s what I’ve done.
Firstly I’ve removed the patio slabs that were there. Fortunately, they weren’t too heavy.
There were a few perennial weeds under the slabs that had been coming up through the joins between the slabs. I ignored these except for a few Monbretia as these can be quite stubborn.
These I pulled by hand, they were shallow-rooted.
Then I covered the area with thick cardboard to suppress the weeds.
On top of the cardboard, I added a thick layer of homemade compost. And when I ran out of homemade compost I continued with grass mowings.
So far, so good. No backbreaking digging and this took me less than an hour.
After a few days I started planting leeks. In this case, they were module grown and very small. Planting is achieved by pushing a dibber into the compost and dropping the module into the hole.
The idea with this type of “No dig” gardening is that the cardboard rots quite quickly and worms pull the compost into the soil which helps to improve the soil and also feeds it. The richer the soil becomes the better the plants grow. This method can use well-rotted farmyard manure, stable manure, straw or garden compost as the top dressing.
Each year more compost is added but the soil is never dug. The worms do that for us and soil structure, which digging destroys, is greatly improved. Air is important in soil and worm activity, which increases, helps soil aeration.
Crops aren’t dug at harvest time in this method, they are pulled (with a twist to break roots). Crops such as leeks are ideal as a first crop and I’ve used multi seeded blocks. The idea is to let all the leeks grow and then selectively harvest the biggest each week when big enough. This greatly increases yield.
I’ll show more pics in the coming months, as the crop grows, and will show how easy it is to control weeds and harvest the crop.
Is it a Laughable Way to Grow Veg?
When I was a commercial grower, growing 100,000 leeks a year, I would have laughed at this method. But on a small scale, it’s far superior.
Commercially I would have transplanted leek plants in June from a March drilling in a seedbed. But with multi seeded blocks or modules, my crop is in the ground in March and they are growing away well. I expect to start harvesting in late June / early July and am making successional showings to have leeks all winter.
I also have late autumn-sown leeks in the greenhouse and should be harvesting them in May. Plus I still have last years late summer sowing outdoors and should be harvesting those in about four weeks. More on that in another post.
Leeks can be grown and harvested all year round if you break a few of the “rules”!
How To Convert a Lawn into A Veg Garden: No Dig Advantages.
You’ve probably heard people claim the soil is alive. That might seem a bit quirky but in fact, science proves it to be true.
Put simply soil is made up of rock that has broken down, organic matter, air spaces, assorted living creatures and fungi. I’ll not go into the science behind that here, that’s for another post. But I want to stress how important the air spaces and fungi are. A few days ago scientists from various Australian universities published an article that explains this very well.
The thing is No Dig Gardening improves soil aeration, soil microfauna and in particular the fungi networks(mycelium) within the soil.