Mandala Kitchen Garden
This project document outlines the making of a mandala kitchen garden, with dimensions of 16m x 16m, and is able to feed a family of 5.
What is a Kitchen Garden?
To be precise, a Mandal Kitchen Garden is a vegetable garden able to feed 5 people year round (weather provided). This design is not my own. However, in the permaculture world, you will find all information is free and available to use for the benefit of themselves, others, and the planet.
Feel free to look through the photos before:
This project was our first undertaking on the permaculture journey. As our first project at Horses’s Grove, this is where it all starts. Let’s make our own food so we don’t have to buy anymore.
Garden Layout, Gangamma’s Mandala (p.269, “Permaculture Designer Manual”, Bill Mollison))
Normal garden that can be adapted to any climate with appropriate species. Besides hyper beds, this is one of the most efficient garden layouts. Overall pattern can fit almost every site form, but is presented here as a flat site pattern.
All water and waste used. No Plastic or metals. Cans can be buried for slow release zinc & iron.
Garden is 100 m2, ours will be 16mx16m or 256m2
The start of any project on the farm is to feed those on the property. When you get to most farms people live in food deserts. So what to do? Start with a mulch pit.
To begin your build you will want to
1. At the center of a 100m2 or larger area, dig a hole 2 m (6 feet) across
Excavate the topsoil (or subsoil) to a dish shape, ridged on the perimeter at a depth of 0.6-1m from hollow to rim. You do it want to waste topsoil.
Cover with wet cardboard/mulch. Fill hollow with logs, twigs, hay, sawdust (hummus creating material). Scatter manure, ash, lime. Bank with stones on the outside.
You will want to plant around the mulch pit with:
For cold climates, try to plant with edible nitrogen fixers. These can be
4-5 tall papayas, 4 dwarf or banana trees
8-10 sweet potatoes,
Yams & Taro inside ring
Keyholes and Path
Keyholes should be 1.5m-2m wide.
Pathways can be anywhere from 0.6m – 2m wide. As with all farms, we generally recommend the width of this path being at least the width of a wheelbarrow. Plan to have many people visiting? Then increase the width so two people can walk by one another.
We used 1m width.
Fill with either wood chips, sawdust, or gravel.
Top tip: Learning from our mistakes, the best way to have dry pathways, is to put down cardboard and then a 20-30cm layer of wood chips.
This will last you a year or two, before the woodchips breakdown into compost.
Low earth ridges should be 10-20cm high (we will be installing raised beds).
To layer beds see, bed layering techniques below.
Layering Raised Beds
- Cover with wet cardboard/mulch.
- Fill hollow with logs, twigs, hay, sawdust (hummus creating material).
- Scatter compost (we used 3 year old horse manure, ash, lime (not citrus fruit).
- Cover with thick mulch
Once you’re done you should have completed 6 keyhole beds. While this may seem like a lot of work, remember, this design is the most efficient layout for a kitchen garden.
On the next post, we will be covering companion planting and a list of
Raised Bed Layout
Remember our original drawing? Match the Letters with the descriptions below.
Zone A -> Pathside Greens (80-100cm)
Zone B-->Narrow Bed (1m wide)
Zone C-->Long-term crops
Cut and Remove
Long-term root crops for example, potato, sweet potato, carrots, cauliflower, head lettuce, cabbage
Zone E-->Hedgerow Barrier Plants
Comfrey (deep-rooted, broad leaf), arrowroot, hedge/windbreak, Clump Grass ( lemon grass, vetiver, does not seed down!), vetiver (stops pests), Low shrub (Oncaba Corposma, Echium), Bulb (Canna, Ayathus)
These groups are important, as below we’ve put together companion plants that are beneficial to one another.
Feel free to be creative, pick and choose. If a plant is not working for you, then, take it out of the mulch hole and put it somewhere else.
Kitchen Garden Bed | Guild 1 | Lettuce, Onion, Carrots, Potato
Kitchen Garden | Guild 1 | A
|Name||Seed||Plant||Bed #||Bed #||Comments|
Kitchen Garden | Guild 1 | B
Kitchen Garden | Guild 1 | C
Kitchen Garden | Guild 1 | E
Unfriendly Plants -> Do not grow next to this garden bed
Kitchen Garden Bed | Guild 2 | Kale, Beans, Peas, Beets, Leeks
Kitchen Garden | Guild 2 | A
Kitchen Garden | Guild 2 | B
Kitchen Garden | Guild 2 | C
Kitchen Garden | Guild 2 | E
Kitchen Garden | Guild 2 | Beneficial Plants
Kitchen Garden | Guild 2 | Unfriendly Plants
Kitchen Garden Bed | Guild 3 | Spinach, Tomato, Cucumber, Cabbage
Kitchen Garden | Guild 3 | A
Kitchen Garden | Guild 3 | B
Kitchen Garden | Guild 3 | C
Kitchen Garden | Guild 3 | E
Kitchen Garden | Guild 3 | Beneficial Plants
Kitchen Garden | Guild 3 | Don’t Grow
Planting will be necessary two times during the year.
During the first months of Spring, plant salad vegetables and summer crop.
In small beds grow
The second time to plant is during the last month of summer/first fall.
Over-winter and root crops to be grown in large beds. Plan on growing potato, carrots, parsnips, turnips, cabbage, fava beans, peas, brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower). Refer to to the Plant Index and Sort by column G for zones
Trees, shrubs, tubers
Make a hole/burrow and use paper & mulch. Tray seedlings 8-10cm, or large seeds (peas, beans).
Put 30 cm trodded wet mulch. Then add 2 handfuls of soil.
Small seeds (Lettuce carrot)
- Scatter thick
- 50 cm across -> 5-8 cm thick trodden top mulch)
- 1 cm find soil
Pre-soak seeds, soak all beds, sprinkler at each stage.
For Garden Bed Rotation see:
Beds should be seeded at 2 week intervals.
- Manure 3-5 times annually, mulched w/ sawdust
- 2 week gap between garden bed planting to ensure steady supply of vegetables
Make Beds about 1.5m width by 6m length.
Depending on your local materials make walls as in the diagram below. You will want to layer
First months of Spring, plant salad vegetables, summer crop. In small beds grow potato, tomato and sweet corn.
Use small beds:
potato, tomato, and sweet corn.
The second time to plant is during the last month of summer/first fall.
Over-winter and root crops to be grown in large beds. Plan on growing potato, carrots, parsnips, turnips, cabbage, fava beans, peas, brassicas (cabbage). Refer to kitchen garden income statement for full list of crops.
For large beds & in order to grow your staple crops grow::
Potato, carrots, parsnips, turnips, cabbage, fava beans, peas, brasiccas → straw sheds for expansion
- Cucurbits (aubergines, cucumber, etc.)
- Jerusalem Artichoke
- Bulbs (onions)
- Fava Bean
- Sprouts (under straw shelters).
Storage -> Root Cellar
Root cellars will be needed in Northern Climates in order to store crops over the winter.
As for storing crops use the following strategies:
- Potatoes – straw/ash
- Carrot/Parsnip – taps removed, in mound of ash/sand
- Apples → Attic, laid out (ethylene causes roots to grow)
- Cabbage/Kale → uproot cover w/ hay in open
- With good soil, sunlight and water you can grow anything
- Systems that are regenerative have a feedback loop. The mulch pit ensures this garden is truly regenerative.
- Proper planning, execution and adjusting follow-up plans are the key to project success
- For large scale project, it’s either machinery or manpower that’s needed
- Working in nature and creating regenerative projects is the ideal human work vs. the daily grind of the city
Now that we’ve accomplished our first project, this leaves us with more questions than answers. A good first project to get our toes wet but if we are going to make a real impact, it’s time to get back to the books and learn how to effectively restore broad acre landscapes.