If you want to know how to vegetable garden – it doesn’t matter whether you’re a beginner starting out from scratch in your backyard or a seasoned gardener – there are a few basic things to consider before starting out growing your own delicious veggies:
Vegetable Patch Location
1. Try to go for a sunny location as most veg likes full sun, but don’t worry too much if there is some shade – they’ll still grow.
2. A sheltered location is also beneficial for bees and other insects that are vital to successful growing (my garden is very windy, unfortunately!).
3. If you can locate the veg patch near your house then this will make life easier as well (you don’t want to trudge through the wind and rain just to pick a beetroot!
4. Also, try to go for as level an area as possible. This will prevent problems from water or erosion. Soil needs to be at least 30cm deep.
Vegetables To Grow
We’ve looked at suitable vegetables that you can grow before, but here’s a quick roundup of the best:
1. Potatoes (watch out for frost and keep them well watered)
2. Broad Beans (delicious when young and can be added to all sorts of dishes)
3. Runner Beans (tasty and have great flowers!)
4. Courgettes (my personal favourite and can be left to form a marrow. They need plenty of space and look a bit sad in my picture above – they’ll be fantastic later in the year!)
5. Leeks (I use them instead of onions and they taste great when young)
6. Radishes (great peppery taste and ideal in salads)
7. Parsnips (I love these mashed with butter instead of potatoes. Sometimes I mix with carrot)
8. Red onions (good in salads or as a base for many cooked dishes)
9. Fruit (not veggies, but under my vegetable netting I have a few redcurrant bushes which make great jam)
10. Herbs (can be grown in small pots and added to all your cooking)
Vegetable Garden Design
1. Town/City: if you live in a town or city, try growing your produce in pots on window sills or on balconies. Suitable candidates include tomatoes (I actually hang these in flower baskets outside but they start off on my window sills), chard (a staple food in my household), rocket, parsley, thyme, mint, chives, basil, etc.
2. Small Garden: obviously you’re going to have to be a little creative if you want to grow a lot of vegetables in a restricted space. However, you can grow around the edges of a lawn or flower borders (lettuce) or train runner beans up fences and trellises. The knack is to think vertically rather than horizontally! If you don’t want to dig up what little lawn you have, use pots and planters to grow stuff. I still use old plastic buckets to grow my potatoes and it works like gangbusters.
3. Large Garden: go for the ‘bed system’ where paths (made from paving slabs, grass, bricks, bark, etc) divide the plot up into small areas. In this way, you’ll never walk on the growing plants and you can rotate crops more easily from one square or rectangle to another.
Vegetable Bed Layout
1. Try to layout vegetable beds in a North/South direction if you live in the Northern hemisphere (for the sun) and only about 3 feet (1 metre) wide so you don’t have to stretch far. When you have a bad back like me (not good for a gardener!) you’ll appreciate this!
2. Raised beds (I’m planning some of these using old railway sleepers – let me know if you have any spare!) have the added advantage of producing deeper beds with good drainage and you don’t have to bend as much (again, great for the bad back!).
3. Overhanging trees can lead to too much shade and ‘cold areas’. This might not be too much of a problem in the middle of Summer, but it might be earlier on in the year when sunlight is more in short supply.
You can either dig in compost and manure in the Autumn or simply lay organic matter (grass clippings, manure, etc) on top of the soil and let the worms do their thing over the Winter.
I go for the digging method because I like doing it (even though I should utilise the worms and save my back!).
By not digging, you don’t disrupt the balance within the soil (moisture, bacteria, etc) but you do need a fairly large colony of earthworms or the whole process falls apart.
Looking After Your Vegetables
1. I grab several wheelbarrow loads of horse/donkey manure from a local friend who is happy to get rid of the stuff! This should get added in the Autumn but because my veg patch is fairly new (I extended it this year), I added it in February/March which is probably a little late for the soil to get the full benefit. This year, I’ll be more organised! I don’t add fertilizer and, as a vegetarian, I don’t use fish and bone meal, but this may be an option for you to further improve the soil quality.
2. Water frequently (but don’t swamp the plants) in the morning or early evening to avoid the sun scorching tender leaves. Check below the surface of the soil regularly to make sure that the water is actually reaching the roots. This is obviously crucial in hot weather.
1. A large vegetable net is my main advice in protecting your precious crops from pests. I’ve got rabbits, pigeons, foxes and the rest of the world after my veggies! My net is a huge 20 metre affair and I’ve put panels with chicken wire around the bottom to protect against rabbits. Obviously, you may not need to go to these extremes.
2. Check plants regularly and remove pests by hand.
3. Grow a selection of vegetables and fruits so that conditions are more balanced.
4. Use a hoe to remove weeds (they harbour pests and pinch water and nutrients from your crops).
5. Encourage ladybirds and lacewings into your garden as they love aphids and other nasties!
6. Consider buying disease-resistant strains of vegetables.
7. Consider companion planting to prevent pests. For example, pigeons don’t like onion smells, so consider planting these (or shallots) next to your broccoli (which they DO like!).
1. Vegetable crops benefit from being rotated around the plot as this helps to prevent disease and also is a great way to spread around the nutrients in your soil (some crops add minerals and some use it all up so moving things around is a good thing).
2. There’s a whole ‘dark art’ to crop rotation, but simply try to avoid growing the same vegetables on the same patch of ground for more than two years.
3.Those with more stamina should rotate their brassicas, roots and legumes each year.
[Brassicas - cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnip]
[Roots - carrot, parsnip, beetroot]
[Legumes – peas, beans, etc. Also, add onions and salads to this group.
Don’t panic over crop rotation. I do this very loosely each year and haven’t had any major problems.
So, learning how to vegetable garden isn’t difficult but needs a systematic approach for the best results.