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Planning a vegetable garden in Dubai

By Jamie Carroll. 11/11/2019

our garden in dubai

Our garden in Dubai 
 

Jamie here from @Amirah.and.dadas.garden and we are delighted to team up with Emirates Bio farm to give you easy, actionable gardening tips and advice to help you grow your own at home. As a keen gardener and veg grower for many years in Ireland, I often thought to start a kitchen garden here in Dubai.

My daughters love of cherry tomatoes finally motivated me to start growing our own vegetables in our backyard, and we haven’t looked back! It’s a fantastic way to spend quality time together. Amirah is learning how seeds grow, where her food comes from and lots of new skills along the way. In our modern, hectic society, it’s nice to take a step back and connect with family and nature. Now that the growing season has finally returned, we are already looking forward to the harvests rolling in and enjoying vegetables fresh from garden to plate!


Are you thinking of starting a vegetable garden? Well thanks to the long growing season we enjoy here in the UAE, you still have time! Whether you are a seasoned gardener or complete beginner, there are a few things you absolutely need to do before you get stuck in.
Read on for our best tips to planning a successful kitchen garden.

PLANNING A VEGETABLE GARDEN Part 1

SPACE

You’re probably asking yourself, how much space do I need to grow vegetables. Probably the best bit of advice you will ever get as a newbie vegetable gardener is to start small. Try a few large pots or a small garden bed 3 feet wide by 3 feet long. You will be amazed by how much you can get out of this size plot with a bit of planning. More importantly, it is a space that is easily managed. It won’t take long to prepare the soil, plant it up, water or weed it. If you start out too big and don’t have enough time to manage it, you will likely lose interest very quickly.

 

basil

2 pots of basil gave us enough to make as much pesto as we needed for 9 months

LOCATION
There are three things vital to the success of your new vegetable
garden: sunlight, water and soil. Choosing where to locate your new
vegetable garden requires a little bit of thought to make sure these three
basic requirements are met. Get these things right and you are setting
yourself and your vegetables up for a great growing season.

SUNLIGHT

The first step is to assess your garden to see where gets full sun or partial shade. Make sure you consider how the light changes as the sun moves throughout the day. A great way to track the sun in your garden is to take pictures every two hours. That way you can see exactly how many hours sun or shade your chosen spot gets.

 Most plants require full sun, that is 6 to 8 hours of direct sun in order to grow and produce well. So if you plan on growing heat lovers like tomatoes, aubergines, peppers and cucumbers then pick the sunniest spot in your garden. Plants grown for their leaves such as kale, lettuce, chard and spinach will tolerate partial shade (4 hours sun).

Our veg patch is South/South West facing so gets sun for most of the day. The wall between us and our neighbour puts one of the vegetable beds in partial shade as the day progresses, but I know these parts still get about 4 hours sunlight so we can grow plenty of produce.

 

 Our garden in shade at 9am, and in full sun at midday.

WATER

We obviously live in a desert with intense sun, soaring temperatures, enough sand to make the best beaches jealous and very little rainfall! So plan on having to water your vegetables regularly. Decide if you are going to hand water or have an irrigation system installed. If you are hand watering, make sure there is an outside tap nearby to fill your watering can so you don’t have to walk around the house every time.

We hand watered our garden for the first year, and it was a great way to monitor and learn how much water the plants needed. In the past few months we expanded our vegetable patch to four times its original size, so now we have upgraded to an automatic irrigation system.

 

sand being taken out


Sand being taken out of bed to be replaced with our soil mix


SOIL

 The soil here is quite literally sand. The problem with sand is that it does not hold moisture well and any nutrients are washed quickly away. Added to that, the sand found in most gardens generally has lots of salt in it. These soil qualities are not good for any plant. Your vegetables will want the exact opposite - a nutrient packed moisture retaining soil.

 At this point, it is worth thinking about whether you are going to grow in the ground, in raised beds or pots? Some people may want to grow in pots as they are living in an apartment or rented accommodation, while others might want raised beds to fit in with their existing landscape design. We chose to grow in the ground, with a simple brick border and gravel pathways. 

To fill raised beds, you will want a mixture of compost, manure, cocopeat and perlite. Our mix is made up of roughly 30% compost, 30% manure, 30% cocopeat and 10% perlite. Some people like to add sweet sand also. The compost and manure provide the nutrients, the cocopeat retains moisture so the soil doesn’t dry out too quickly and the perlite ensures the mix is free draining and aerated – the perfect environment for plant roots.

 If growing in the ground, I suggest removing the existing sand to a depth of 20 to 30cm. In its place, add the soil mixture above. It is likely that some of the existing sand will mix in as you work, but it shouldn’t cause you any problems so long as the majority of the soil in the bed is the mix you’ve just created.

For growing in containers, a good quality potting soil mixed with a little perlite should be used. Your crops will be relying on a small growing space, so these mixes typically have the right blend of ingredients to give the plants what they need.

 After amending your soil, make sure to leave the bed rest and settle for a few days before planting.

 

garden beds

Our garden beds with amended soil and irrigation system

 

Our Top Tip: Avoid placing your vegetable garden near large trees and shrubs as they will compete with (and beat) your vegetables for sunlight, water and soil.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this post, and that it helps you on your way to growing some amazing vegetables. We’ll be back next week with Part 2 on how to plan your vegetable garden.

Follow us on our growing journey on instagram @amirah.and.dadas.garden and @emiratesbiofarm.