A vegetable garden is a wonderful asset to any family home. It seems like the rural idyll that we all dream of. Who wouldn’t love to grow and harvest their own vegetables and then use them in their own delicious and nutritious recipes?
As exciting as this may be, it is important that you resist the temptation to jump in and try doing everything at once. It takes time to set up a vegetable garden and you may face a few disasters along the way. If you plan in advance and start small you can easily add a few more vegetable beds every year. Before you know it you will have a gorgeous vegetable garden and a full kitchen!
Follow these 10 easy steps to set up your perfect vegetable garden.
- Set out some paths
This may not be the most exciting start but you will be glad that you did it in a few months’ time. Vegetable gardening is all about arranging easy access to growing plants. Young plants need to be checked, watered, weeded and finally harvested and you need to be able to get at them without trampling other plants or straining your back. Woodchip laid on top of a weed suppressant fabric is a cheap and attractive option. It can be laid down in an afternoon with little effort
- Decide on the type of vegetable beds for your garden
You have the option of raised beds or planting in traditional rows. Raised beds are easier to manage but take longer to set up. You will need to construct them (usually from timber) and find a lot of top soil to fill them. As a rule of thumb, vegetable beds should be a maximum of 1.2m wide and a length that suits your plot. If they are any wider than this you will hurt your back as you lean across them. If you intend gardening with kids, it’s a good idea to clearly mark the edges of the path so that they know where they can and cannot tread. Raised beds may work best if you have kids!
- Position your tender plants first
If you plan to grow tomatoes and peppers they will need to be planted first because they are very particular about where they grow. They must have sunniest spots so choose a south facing wall where they will thrive and give you a huge harvest.
- Plant the roaming plants
After the tender plants, the roaming plants need to be planted. Plants such as melon and squash (including courgettes) send out vines and take up a lot of space. Their broad leaves can cover other plants if you are not careful with your planting planning. Place them on the edge of the vegetable patch and trail their vines over paths or grass rather than over the other vegetables.
- Plant the climbing plants
Climbing plants, such as peas and beans, grow vertically up sticks and supports. They cast a shade over other plants and that can slow down their growth. Position them away from vegetables that require a lot of light. There are some plants, including lettuce and spinach, that will benefit from the shade on a very hot day.
- Arrange the irrigation
You can’t get away from the fact that vegetables need a lot of water. Most gardens have some areas that retain water better than others and other areas that are dry. Do not plant celery, onions or strawberries in the dry areas because they will not cope and you will spend all your time watering them. You can use a garden hose pipe for your vegetable patch or you can invest in some rainwater storage which is more environmentally friendly.
- Starting off young plants
Some plants can be grown from seed directly in the garden but most will be started off in pots and then the seedlings are planted outside once they have germinated. This can result in very cluttered window sills and garages! A useful alternative is to choose a small greenhouse from https://www.swgreenhouses.co.uk/leantogreenhouses.html, it will be the ideal investment if you are serious about growing vegetables.
- Plan what you need to get at quickly
This is all about accessibility. You may need to get at herbs and salad quickly when you are in the middle of preparing a meal. These need to be close to your kitchen door so that you can get at them easily, even when it is raining. You can also keep a close eye on them and remove slugs and snails regularly.
- Succession planting
If you are very short of space you can make the most of what you have with a technique called succession planting. This is where one plant is followed by another in the same bed and during the same growing season.
It works best in warm locations that have a long growing season. Your vegetables will mature quickly so that you can harvest them and grow something else. For this method, it is best to choose quick-maturing crops. Radish, lettuce, and rocket are perfect as they mature within a few weeks of planting.
- Avoid over-crowding
It can be so tempting to try and squeeze too many plants into one spot. When they are small seedlings they don’t take up much space but they soon grow and start to get in each other’s way. This gives you the task of replanting which is back breaking work and can seriously damage young plants. Check out the instructions on the seed packet and stick to the recommendations for spacing.
- Learn from your mistakes
Get some help from books, guides, and apps. Gardening is all about learning from your mistakes and getting to know what works in your own garden. It is also about learning to deal with the glut of vegetables that can arrive all the same time! Swap some with your friends or learn how to make some chutneys and pickles!