The unique selling point of the Vegepod is that it combines some of the benefits of raised bed gardening with those of growing under cover or in a container. You can create a microclimate of sorts, one with its own super-efficient watering system.
Created by a company based in Sydney, Australia, the Vegepod folks noticed there was an upswing in interest from people wanting to grow their own food at home.
The Vegepod is a great option for urban gardeners or people who don’t have a lot of outdoor growing space, even slotting into the compact space of a balcony or small patio (so long as that space gets enough sunlight for healthy growth). It may be an option worth considering if you have recurring difficulties with garden pests: the crop protection cover will discourage many - if not quite all - of these pests from bothering your crops. The raised design will also protect the vegetable bed from becoming compacted when people or pets walk on it.
Let’s go through some of the main features of this piece of gear.
Canopy and Microclimate
The Vegepod’s commercial-grade canopy covering is made with a permeable material, which means that it will allow air and water to penetrate. As well as fostering a microclimate that accelerates plant growth, it can keep many common garden pests and wildlife away from your growing crops. (Beware though, as the canopy cover won’t be able to keep out the dreaded aphids!).
The cover also protects against harsh winds, frost, hailstorms or torrential rain. The canopy has a 17% shade rating. This is the lowest shade rating for a commercial grade crop cover, in order to ensure that your plants are still able to benefit from plenty of sunlight while protecting them from very strong sun conditions. The weave of the mesh diffuses sunlight evenly, as well as causing the light to refract or bend towards the more shaded areas - ensuring that all plant surface areas benefit from photosynthesis.
Hinge clips (which clip over the side walls) protect the canopy against strong winds, but if you live in a particularly windy area it may be a good idea to add some extra reinforcement.
The Vegepod uses a self-watering system, namely wicking: this is where water is drawn upwards from below. The water supply is provided by a reservoir which can hold 32 litres of water. The ‘wick’ in this case is the soil or perlite which comes into contact with the underlying reservoir. The plant roots will then seek out the moisture and take what they need. With this kind of system you avoid the twin pitfalls of over-watering and under-watering.
Self-watering can really free you up to do other things without worrying about whether your plants are getting sufficient moisture. Once you know the reservoir is full, you can go three weeks without watering and your plants can take care of themselves. During the cooler months of the year, plants can go even longer without topping up the reservoir. Remember also that the permeable cover will allow rainwater to pass through, which in turn will replenish the reservoir. If there are periods of heavy rainfall and the soil becomes soggy, the Vegepod features an overflow hole which will release excess water.
Also referred to as a polytunnel or PVC cover, this is an optional extra you can purchase to further optimise the Vegepod growing climate. In contrast to the canopy cover, the hothouse cover allows 100% of sunlight to come through. It’s made from non-permeable, clear PVC and is custom-cut to fit snugly over the Vegepod canopy (although you can lose the canopy and fit it directly). In effect you are creating a mini polytunnel, with the bonus of a self-watering reservoir (Wouldn’t that be cool if the full-size polytunnel had something similar?). Heat is trapped and retained while crops are protected from cold, windy or frosty conditions. Thus the PVC cover can allow you to stretch out your growing season at either end.
It’s recommended to take off the original canopy before fitting the hothouse cover in conditions of low sunlight or excessively cold weather. On the other hand, when the weather starts really heating up you should remove both covers to avoid causing damage or heat stress to your plants.
As an extra touch to get your microclimate humming, you can add worms to the Vegepod - better yet give them something to munch on by placing a small mound of kitchen scraps inside.
Along with the self-watering system, the Vegepod gives you the option of irrigating your crops via a built-in misting system: all you need to do is plug it into a standard hose fitting and away you go.
This high-volume fine misting is another very efficient method of irrigation. It’s especially useful when you are starting off seedlings in the Vegepod; as the plants mature they will need less watering as their roots will do the work of wicking moisture from below, but seedlings need that extra bit of care. Vegepod themselves recommend to mist for three minutes a day until seedlings establish.
What To Grow In
The soil or growing medium required to fill the medium Vegepod is about 240 litres, while the large Vegepod will take 440-480. Go for a mix of multipurpose compost (or a premium potting mix), perlite and slow-release seaweed poultry manure. The perlite will help with keeping the mix aerated, while the poultry manure will continue providing nutrients.
Vegepod also provide a range of recommendations for custom potting mixes on their informative website; these are designed to maximise the Vegepod’s efficiency and save you having to top up mixes every year or two.
The pod has a growing depth of 26cm, providing plenty of stretching room for a range of crops.
Stands are available for both the medium and large size Vegepods. These heavy-duty galvanised stands will raise the Vegepod to a waist-high working height (80cm), which is perfect for accessible or strain-free gardening. It’s important to note that once these Vegepods are filled with soil they can be pretty hard to move, so make sure you’ve got it in a good position with plenty of sunlight. Emptying out the soil is an option if you must move it, but it’s a fair amount of extra work.
A green shade cover allows you to provide extra protection for your plants during very hot spells of weather. The green cover can be placed over your canopy or hothouse cover, and provides up to 80% shade.
A trolley with wheels is also available for the small and medium Vegepod, allowing you to move it around the garden or patio.
- 6 hours of direct sun is recommended for growing crops in the Vegepod, with 4 hours at a minimum for most vegetables and herbs.
- Positioning the Vegepod near a fence or wall means that you can prop open the canopy while you’re tending to crops, instead of taking it on and off.
- Be aware of the space you have for growing in the Vegepod. It’s perfectly possible to grow crops such as brassicas, but they will take up a fair amount of space and might limit what else you can grow. Similarly - if you’re growing with the canopy on, some plants will grow tall enough to be pushing against it.
Overall though, you can grow a very diverse assortment of crops in the Vegepod: beetroots, onions, chard, courgettes, lettuce, spinach...the list goes on! When you combine the low-shade canopy, PVC covering, self-watering function and raised bed design, what you have is a great option for low-maintenance crop-growing that can suit all kinds of living circumstances.