Dealing with tricky conditions

Dealing with a tricky garden situation can be daunting if you are trying to establish a thriving edible garden.  

Create a shady oasis
If your garden is short of sun choose plants that thrive in the shade, such as hosta, golden marjoram and mint. Be careful to position or trim larger plants so that they don't block what sun you do have. To make life easy for you, we have gathered together a collection of edible plants for shady places here.

Introduce shade into your sun trap
An enclosed garden can be a suntrap. Cool it down with plants that give shade but cope well with the sun. Avoid dark tiles or walls as they increase the suntrap effect.

Coastal plants are often hardy, and many tropical plants thrive with a canopy above them, warmth and water.

Create shelter from the wind and sea spray
Wind can make it hard to establish your garden. Try plants such as cherry guava of feijoa that can withstand a brisk breeze.  We've also put together a handy coastal mix of edible seedlings that are suitable for a kitchen garden by the sea.

Use trellis, hedging, or larger plants to shelter wind- or salt- sensitive plants.  Raised garden boxes are also handy for reducing root exposure to salt. 

Beating the drought
Living in an area with long, dry summers? Go for drought-tolerant plants - you can’t go wrong with Mediterranean plants such as olives, pomegranate, rosemary and sage, which have evolved to survive in these conditions. Plants with silver foliage are often drought tolerant. 

A trick for establishing a garden in a dry climate is to plant a small length of pipe next to your plant and water directly into the pipe. The water goes straight to the roots rather than evaporating.

You also need to introduce water and prevent it from evaporating away. Install irrigation drippers on a timer set for the beginning or the end of the day when the moisture won't evaporate away. Mulch around your plants so sun doesn't dry out the soil as quickly.

Dealing with sandy soil
Water and nutrient retention can be problematic in sandy soil but carrots, radishes, parsnip, rosemary, sage and thyme will still thrive.

One trick is to place old carpet under a raised garden bed to prevent nutrients from leaching away. Another is to regularly mulch your garden bed to build up a nutrient-dense top-layer.

Dealing with clay
Clay can be tricky because it turns to mud in winter and becomes hard in summer. Luckily it is also full of nutrients and retains moisture. Many plants will take a long time to get going in clay, but will be much hardier once established. Roses, canna lilies and feijoa will all cope well in these conditions, but avoid carrots and parsnips.

Before you plant in clay, break it up by mixing in gypsum (a lime-based soil conditioner) and compost. Planting potatoes and daikon can also help. Also check whether there are any drainage issues. If there are, fix it by digging a trench leading away from waterlogged areas to the lowest point in your garden (but away from the house).