The vegetable garden has always played an important role in the garden. In fact, it can be considered the germinal element of the garden itself.
In every civilization, from Mesopotamia to ancient Egypt, from republican Rome to the Middle Ages, the garden understood as a place without precise practical purposes other than those related to spirituality and enjoiment of ‘good time’, always comes from a protected and well-kept productive space.
The word hortus means a walled space, enclosed and sheltered from the external environment.
An intimate place, a productive space characterized by the presence of fruit trees and vegetables in which the water, vital element, plays a fundamental role.
Over time, the hortus also comes to assume symbolic values and to represent a piece of friendly and humanized nature, up to rise to the concept of a small Eden.
As social development progresses, what was once a place for food production becomes a space without immediate practical purposes.
The garden now appears next to the vegetable area intended for the production of food, as a place where you can spend your time in contact with a non-hostile nature, walking, conversing, reading, finding refreshment from the fatigues of everyday life.
So the original elements of the garden are intimacy, the presence of water, the sense of protection and serenity that you breathe.
It is from these elements that we must start to give the vegetable garden a significant location even in the contemporary garden.
The role of the vegetable garden within the garden
If possible, in my projects I always include a small vegetable garden with very specific characteristics.
First of all, I place the vegetable garden in a bright but detached area, so that it is hidden from view not for aesthetic reasons, but to make it an object of discovery and corner of peace within the garden itself.
When we are inside it, we must feel elsewhere, in a microcosm in which our soul can tune to the breath and the slow rhythm of nature.
This intimate and secret treasure chest must then be a place of sharing and closeness with our loved ones.
Carrying out small works in the garden especially with children and witnessing the growth of the fruits due to the care we pour on it, creates deep and lasting bonds.
It establishes a sort of rootedness with the environment, which is seen as an entity worthy of the utmost respect and our dedication.
The work carried out in the garden according to the alternation of the seasons, bring us closer to the external space of our home making it an integral part of our house.
Patient work, care, silence, sharing, respect: these are the values that make the vegetable garden much more than a place of simple food production.
Producing our vegetables in a natural way, without using pesticides, is still one of the fundamental reasons to include a vegetable area in the contemporary garden.
Tasty vegetables harvested and then eaten directly on our table, allow us to rediscover the true taste of seasonal products. That is why the vegetable garden, inserting itself in the wake of a millenary tradition, should never be missing in our garden.
How the vegetable garden should be designed
Considering the value that it assumes within the garden, the vegetable garden must be free from purely decorative elements and its beauty will lie in the simplicity of planting and the materials used.
However, it is necessary to conceive and design it in the correct way.
It must in fact be an element that enriches our garden also from an aesthetic point of view and that is a source of satisfaction and not of frustrations.
In addition, in order to be able to love it, the commitment given by the vegetable garden must require a workload that can also be managed by people who have other work commitments and who are not particularly experienced in the cultivation of fruit and vegetables.
First of all you need to choose a suitable location. The ideal location is exposed to the south, sheltered from the winds, without stagnation of moisture. This will ensure the optimal ripening of our vegetables while avoiding the onset of fungal diseases, which are favored by humid and shady places.
It is then necessary to create the vegetable garden using raised beds. That is, the areas in which we will grow our products will be defined clearly separating them from the places of passage.
In the places of passage we will cover the ground, for example with mulching and gravel sheet, in order to limit the growth of weeds and to have an orderly appearance, an element that is fundamental for a production area that could otherwise risk taking on a too dodgy appearance.
In the areas allocated to the vegetable production, we will create tanks of about 50 cm in height, which we will fill with well-melted soil and equipped with a good amount of organic substance.
The height of the tanks will allow us to work comfortably without having to bend down to the ground.
We will never step on the soil inside the tanks, avoiding its compaction and leaving it in the ideal permeability conditions for plants.
The soil not compacted by trampling will not require any milling or other processes that, in addition to being very tiring, have destructive effects on the ecosystem of the subsoil.
Milling the soil involves the destruction of the habitat consisting of the micro flora and micro fauna that inhabit a fertile soil.
The width of the tanks must therefore be limited to 120-150 cm at most, so as to be able to reach the center without having to enter them.
In addition to the practical benefits described above, the configuration of the vegetable garden with raised tanks is very elegant and allows you to give the garden different styles based on the materials used.
For example, you can create stone tanks to give importance, brick to give a more elegant effect, tuff blocks to get a more rural character, wood if you want a more natural look, sheet metal or weathered steel for a modern vegetable garden.
In this way we create a vegetable garden that gives added value to our property.
Finally, it is essential to provide an efficient irrigation system that will supply the necessary water to the vegetables without requiring us to get out of bed very early in the morning to perform manual watering.
In fact, it is good to remember that irrigation should always be carried out in the early hours of the morning to avoid water stagnation which would occurr during the night.
Irrigation carried out in an automated way with drip systems allows you to use the scarce and precious water resources very efficiently in addition to saving time and effort.
Irrigation with a dripping wing is certainly to be preferred to sprinkler irrigation or, even worse, to the traditional one based on infiltration in the grooves of the soil. These methods in fact inevitably cause the formation of crust that makes the soil impermeable to water and air.
The works in the vegetable garden
There are a few simple operations to be carried out in a vegetable garden on raised beds equipped with an automated irrigation system.
Before planting our vegetable seedlings, we will spread the amount of fertilizer needed for the season. We will prefer organic fertilizers, such as pellet manure or compost. Organic fertilizers are in fact essential to ensure the fertility of the soil by embedding it with humus, which will then be transformed by the terrestrial fauna creating an ideal environment for the growth of our plants.
The organic substance will be buried by ‘combing’ the soil, that is, without disturbing the soil organisms too much and thus preserving the biological fertility of the soil. With such technique the soil of our vegetable beds will also be fixed, leveling the surface of the tanks.
The seedlings chosen by us will then be planted, after which the irrigation system will be arranged to ensure that each plant receives the water necessary for its development.
At this point you can spread a layer of mulch, such as straw, dry grass, wood chips, etc. to keep the soil moist by limiting transpiration and the onset of weeds.
After that there will be no other things to do: the soil not trampled on and rich of living organisms will be in a structural state suitable for welcoming and growing lush seedlings. The water needs of the plants will be guaranteed by the irrigation system and the weeds will be extremely limited.
The only precaution in periods of inactivity such as in winter, will be to protect the surface of the soil from the pouring action of rain by resorting to mulching, so as to prevent fertility losses produced by erosion, crust, etc.
In the following season we will repeat the operations already described, paying attention to the alternation between the types of vegetables planted in a certain bed. That is, we are going to change the type of vegetable hosted from year to year in the same tank, in order to avoid excessive exploitation of certain nutrients that is typical of every crop.
It is therefore very simple to create a vegetable garden that is appreciable from an aesthetic and functional point of view during its management: choose the right place, make it with raised tanks, provide an efficient irrigation system.
Satisfactions will not be lacking.