Once you receive your Herbivore #StayAtHome Gardening Kit, you should have received a fine mix of 30 herb and vegetable seedlings. It can be overwhelming to start with but so exciting knowing the huge variety of plants at your green fingertips! This is the start of your self-sufficient grow your own journey…. Now couldn't be a better time to feed yourselves and learn as you go along!
By this point you should have already got your beds prepared in a nice sunny spot preferably with dappled shade and easy access to water.
My plot (based in Karen, Nairobi)
On my site I had prepared the raised beds alongside an already structured swale. In permaculture a swale is a ditch or mound designed to catch and store energy, mainly water from runoff. The beds were also designed using a hugelkultur system which is when you bury old wood under the soil in the ditch which then rots and adds a huge boost of nutrients into the beds and absorbs moisture (see image of how to incorporate one in the beds).
There are also a few fruiting trees well established which I thought would help provide shade for the seedlings and attract pollinators. The beds lie just beyond a pond which is built into an already established aquaponics system. This means I would be using the grey water from my shower to water my seedlings with ease so I thought this would be a perfect spot for my seedlings.
What to consider before planting the seedlings?
Step 1: Companion planting
The first thing I did when I got my seedlings was to create a plan for where to put my seedlings using a system called companion planting. This is a holistic permaculture planting system which Herbivore uses in all its landscaping. This is where herbs, flowers and vegetables co-exist together creating an abundant diverse ecosystem. This poly-culture system does the following functions; it helps minimize the risk of crop failure through mimicking how plants grow in nature, trap cropping (pest control), positive hosting (herbs often attract beneficial insects and pollinators) and crop protection (protection against the elements and weeds; stronger plants help weaker ones). Have a look at our recommended companion planting system on our blog and make a simple sketch up of where you would like to place each plant in relation to the next.
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Step 2: Square Foot planting and ‘Lasagne’ bed preparation
The initial soil preparation is very important, as it sets the base for the underground soil micro biology to thrive. In order to prepare the soil in the raised beds, Herbivore uses a method known as the ‘lasagne garden’. Following a 6 inch rule in depth, inch by inch you layer either dried soil and leaves or compost. I also followed a square foot planting system; this is a very precise method for spacing plants within the square foot garden to ensure maximum growth. Along the raised beds, I measured out a 1 foot by 1 foot box per plant using a very simple DIY method of string and pegs to mark the box. The first bed was x 2 foot wide by x5 long and the second was x 2 foot wide by x10 foot long. Each plant was put into one box according to the companion planting system. Note: Some heavy feeders may need more space such as broccoli and cabbage therefore I spaced them out a little more. The easiest thing to do now is to measure out the square foot boxes using a simple DIY method.
Step 4: Planting time
After applying the following methods of companion planting and square foot planting you are now ready to make the perfect home for your plants!
It is best to transplant in the evening so the plants don't feel the stress under the heat of the day. Dig a small hole as few inches deep depending on the roots of the plant. Be very careful taking them out of the pots, the best way I found was to water the seedling heavily the night before so it loosens the roots, then you can carefully take them out of the pots and plant them in the ground without disturbing the roots. Sprinkle a little compost above the small hole and place the plants in the ground. Once planted, sprinkle a little water and heavily mulch around the seedlings, this is the number one method in helping water absorption. Best mulch is dried leaves or grasses.
Now keep observing how they grow and water every evening depending on the rains!
How I planted my seedlings using a guild (companion planting system):
A Planting Guild is group of plants that support each other in multiple functions which leads to the term companion planting. Here are a few more examples of some Planting Guilds which you can incorporate in your gardens:
Broccoli, coriander, salad, feverfew (Brassicas like cabbage and broccoli are heavy feeders and all benefit from dill, mint, rosemary, feverfew, salad, coriander)
Dill, cabbage and salad and rosemary (rosemary likes to be planted near Brassicas and dill helps repel cabbage moth, rosemary also provides shade for the salad)
Basil, tomatoes, lettuce, parsley and asparagus (basil is a great herb to plant next to tomatoes helping improve their flavour and it helps repel aphids and asparagus beetles. Parsley likes to be grown near tomatoes; lettuce and parsley attract good hoverflies and wasps.
Basil, tomatoes, asparagus, marjoram, oregano and mint (tomatoes are sensitive to companion planting but go well with basil, asparagus and mint. Marjoram loves asparagus and basil goes well with oregano. NOTE: mint is very invasive and is best grown in pots to avoid taking over the beds.
We would love to be part of your Herbivore garden journey so please send any pictures through to us and keep us updated on your progress!
Daisy Ritchie is a passionate gardener and regenerative designer, currently studying herbalism and living in Nairobi.