Do you ever have those ‘aha!’ moments? When suddenly something (often quite obvious) just clicks in your mind and makes so much sense. I had one of those recently, thanks to Jason and Linda.
Linda is the author of The Permaculture Home Garden, and although I don’t own a copy (something I must rectify), Jason does and follows its principles at his place in South Australia. Recently he spoke about planting density, and Linda’s concept of how you can reduce your weeding by planting more densely. She explains that if you leave gaps, that’s where the weeds will take hold. What a revelation!
So I’ve been quite mindful of this in my planting for the summer. Take the first section of my front garden bed as an example.
At the back I started with overwintered capsicums. Because of their headstart, they should get pretty tall this year so I put them at the back (the sun comes from the northern side at the front).
Then I looked and realised that although I put the capsicums at the back, I could fit in a bit of parsley behind them. Parsley doesn’t need full sun, so it should be fine sitting behind in the shade. Also along the edge (next to the neighbour foot traffic) I like to put a bit of pretty stuff, so in the gaps between the parsley I planted some zinnias.
In front of the capsicums I planted some new chilli seedlings. These are jalapenos, and I planted a number of them in the hope that I’ll have enough to pickle this year. I also put in some of Liz’s mini mama capsicums around to the left. All these plants will grow significantly to cover the space densely at maturity. In the meantime however there are large gaps for the weeds to thrive in. I have therefore put some fast-growing tatsoi into the gaps, along with some nasturtiums, a cabbage and some garlic chives towards the front and a rockmelon to ramble throughout everything and spill out of the bed.
Platings don’t need to be permanent. Fast growing things are great to put in, harvest from now and pull out once the larger plantings get to size later in the season.
I’ll need to do some weeding in the short term, but pretty soon it should almost take care of itself.
I actually took that photo exactly a week ago. This is what it looks like today.
You can see that the tatsoi grows fast. I’ve been harvesting from it this week too. Another good contender for fast gap filling is wild rocket. It self-seeds like crazy and it grows really really fast. It is probably my favourite salad leaf, so I can never get enough of it. I might actually scatter a few seeds around this bed today because I still think the gaps are a little too wide.
And now lets have a look at another section. This is down the other end of my Bed A, which is along the front of my block against the road.
At the back we have the sunflower, because every neighbourhood needs a bit of cheer. I like to plant them right along the front in early spring and there should be a happy show by late November or early December.
Cucumbers line the front and will climb my dodgy DIY trellice. I also have some curly parsley going on at the right, which was a self-seeded transplant, then some lettuces and sugarbaby watermelons at the front. I have put wild rocket through the gaps, but it is still too small to pick out in the photo. I think I should have put more curly parsley in – I love how decorative it is as a border planting.
To the right I have a carrot patch that I planted one month ago.
Behind the carrots are some chillies that couldn’t quite keep up with the carrots’ growth rate in the short term, some more zinneas and another sunflower. I had to keep on top of the weeds for a few weeks while the carrot seeds were germinating and still small, but now they will take care of themselves.There just won’t be enough light penetrating for the weeds to thrive.
Way up to the left I have snow peas and okra that is just germinating. I think I’ll throw some dwarf green beans in around the okra because the okra is nutrient-greedy and will grow very tall.
So thanks Linda and Jason for the insight. I’m loving my new found freedom to plant densely and not feel constrained by recommended spacings. In the worst-case scenario and things get crowded – I can just pull something out or transplant it to somewhere else.
Have you had any ‘aha!’ moments lately? Or do you have any suggestions how I could improve my dense-planting approach?