Growing your own food? Here are tips on planning your vegetable garden.
- Decide where to position your veg patch
- Prepare the growing areas
- What will you grow?
- Growing from seed or buying young plants?
- Where to get help and advice
Congratulations on deciding to grow your own food this year. It’s a truly rewarding occupation. Nothing beats the flavour, the health benefits or the satisfaction of home grown food. The success of your plot lies in planning your vegetable garden carefully. Starting with the growing area itself.
Deciding where to position your veg patch
Edible plants are just like any living thing – they need water, food, and shelter from cold winds. Most vegetables also need plenty of natural sunlight too.
Start by taking a good look at your garden. It might be tempting to start a veg patch in that unused corner at the bottom of the garden. But planning your vegetable garden is all about making sure the plants will have what they need to thrive. You should definitely take the time to notice how the sun moves around your garden. Your growing plot needs to be in the sunshine for at least half of the day – preferably longer.
Think too about water – does your hosepipe reach your proposed veg patch? Traipsing backwards and forwards with a watering can is great exercise but can soon become a chore.
Finally, if you share your garden with dogs, footballers, or toddlers, you might want to fence off your productive area to protect your plants from accidental damage. Country gardeners take note; if your garden is visited by deer or rabbits, you will definitely need some sort of crop protection!
It could be that the sunniest spot in the garden is already occupied by your patio. Could you grow veg in containers in the same area? By choosing your crops wisely you can create a beautiful display.
A greenhouse or polytunnel is an enormous help when you want to grow your own food.
Not only does it protect crops from birds, but it also extends the growing season by about 6 weeks – so you can get even more fresh fruit and veggies.
Prepare your growing areas
It goes without saying that your veggies will need nutritious soil to grow in. Unless your garden soil is already in tip top condition, I thoroughly recommend building some raised beds and filling them with good quality topsoil.
Make sure there’s enough space between your raised beds for you to walk, work and wheel a barrow. 90-120cm (3-4 feet) is a good width for your paths. Raised beds should be no more than 1.2metres wide. That way you’ll be able to maintain them without compacting the soil.
Growing straight into the ground? Start by marking out your beds and dig down to at least 15cm depth. Remove all traces of plant material (especially roots!) as you go. Next spread a 5cm layer of compost or well-rotted manure on top and dig the beds over again. When you are ready to plant your veggies, you can rake the soil to a fine tilth.
Once your soil is prepared, look after it well and you should be able to take a no-dig approach to planning your vegetable garden in future.
Planning your vegetable garden – what will you grow?
Nothing compares with the pleasure of eating strawberries straight from the plant. These are being grown in containers with an automated irrigation system to ensure a good crop.
The number one rule for growing veggies – especially in a small space – is to only grow what you will eat. Hate cabbage? Don’t grow cabbages. Only eat lettuce once a week? There’s no need to plant a big long row of lettuces – just plant 5 or 6 of them.
If like me, you’re impatient, you could grow veggies that are quick to mature. Try spring onions, radish, or cut and come again salad leaves. Baby carrots can be ready in as little as 4-6 weeks. Ditto for baby beet.
Potatoes are great veggies to grow. I grow mine in those supermarket “bags for life”. When the bags start to get tired and worn, I make drainage holes in the bottom of them, half fill them with soil and put 2 potato tubers in each one. Then just cover the potatoes with more soil, keep them well watered and keep adding more soil as the leaves grow. When the plants have flowered, the spuds are ready to harvest. Tip the bag upside down and gather up the delicious new potatoes.
Will you grow from seed or will you buy young plants from the garden centre. If you only plan on growing half a dozen broccoli plants (enough for a small family!), you don’t need to sow a packet of 200 seeds. Honestly, it’s quicker, easier, and arguably cheaper to buy plants.
Growing from seed is incredibly enjoyable though. It’s a great activity for children. Choose something like runner beans, borlotti beans or peas. The seeds are easy to handle and the plants grow satisfyingly large.
Where to get help and advice
Planning your vegetable garden will probably involve changing the design and layout of your outdoor space. The team at Manor Landscapes have decades of experience of creating beautiful gardens for growing veggies, cooking outdoors and relaxing.
Contact us today for help to plan and build an amazing space where you can grow your own fruit, veggies, herbs and flowers.