Vegetable plots can be
all shapes and sizes. You can put vegetables in beds, raised
grow bags, hanging baskets and flower beds. Generally vegetables are
annuals and are rotated around the plots, ensure any perennial
vegetables you grow such as asparagus and artichokes are separated
from the annuals in different beds. There are a range of grow bags
that allow you to produce vegetables on a smaller scale and the
majority come with handy hints to get going.
Containers and pots on
patios and roof gardens are a fantastic way of growing vegetables
not only for the benefits of eating them but for admiring the
foliage too. They can even be planted up with other plants such as
dwarf ones to create striking displays. Traditionally vegetables
were grown in rows in plots approx several metres wide with the
plants spaced accordingly to allow access. Nowadays more and more of us are
growing vegetables in beds that are smaller and more narrow. These
beds can be square, rectangles, even circles to allow all round
access to the plants inside, they can be decorative or formal.
The use of these beds allows us to
maintain our plots without treading all over the soil.
All work can be done from the outside.
Planting vegetables in flower
beds is also becoming more common as more of us are finding the
problem of space in our gardens for designated separate plots.
Decorative vegetables next to annuals and perennials create a
lovely and edible display. Just ensure soil
control is maintained. As long as the planting is evenly spaced to
discourage weed germination and plants fighting for nutrients any of
the above methods can be used.
Vegetables for Nutrition
We all know about eating our
5-a-day to help us sustain a longer, healthier life but how many
of us keep to it? In today's modern world of busy homes, work and
social lives it can seem a trial to maintain a balanced diet. The
high street is filled with fast food outlets and snack bars and
'wrong' food is available at every corner. We no longer use food
for its basic use of preventing and treating illnesses due to our
extensive catalogue of pharmaceuticals. It is also incredibly
difficult to keep up with research into foods and we always
seem to be getting conflicting advice as to what is good for
us and what isn't.
a fact that smoking and alcohol can damage our bodies but
what about the major food groups such as starch, fats,
sugars, dairy, protein and fibre? How much do we need and
how much is too much?
The human body needs a combination
of food and water to refuel correctly and maintain its working
order. Just how much food and what type will depend on age and how
active you are.
A basic rule of thumb is not to only eat as varied
a diet as possible but to concentrate on different coloured foods
too. For example eating a portion of carrots daily will
contribute to your 5-a-day but will not be as beneficial as
rotating it with broccoli or cabbage.
Supermarkets offer a vast range of
fresh produce and as a nation we are becoming more aware that
maybe our diets do need attention. However there is nothing better
than being able to grow your own produce and eating it. You will
not only end up with food that tastes so much better than shop
bought you will also experience a great sense of achievement. It
is in our make up as humans to provide and nurture and there is no
better way than growing your own food.
As the gardener you can choose
which varieties to grow with emphasis on taste, you can pick as
you need thus reducing the need to buy more than you will eat. You
can also rest assured that no chemicals have been used as you have
done the growing yourself. Home grown produce is fresh to your
kitchen with no need for treatment in order to keep it looking
fresh but can be frozen for use later at no damage to the food.
Above all you ,as the gardener, will enjoy plenty of fresh air
and exercise that will go hand in hand with the food you grow to
help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Artichoke - Good for the gall
bladder, liver and kidneys.
Broccoli - High in iron.
Cabbage - Antioxidants to
increase disease resistance.
Carrot - Raw carrot can kill
listeria and other food poisoning bacteria. Can lower blood
Lettuce & Green Salads -
Antioxidants to combat a multitude of ailments and illnesses.
Onion - Combat infections and
increase disease resistance.
Garlic - Antibiotic properties
This list is not exhaustive and the
actions mentioned will vary for each individual according to
lifestyle habits etc. Simply by eating a varied diet and getting
enough exercise you should be able to maintain a healthy lifestyle
that will be beneficial to you and allow you to enjoy life to the
the ideal site for your vegetable plot
Choose a site that is open to sunlight away from trees and
Your vegetables want to be
sheltered from the wind, if no natural shelter is available
consider planting a windbreak like a hedge, open trellis
should be well drained and fertile, if not use raised
Your vegetable plot will need a
water supply in the form of irrigation
If your site is exposed too much or
you live in a coastal area there is a possibility of your crop being
damaged by winds or sea spray so adequate wind breaks must be
erected to prevent this from happening. The best windbreaks to use
need to have 50% permeability to allow some of the wind to get
through. Solid windbreaks cause the wind to swirl around the edges
thus creating more damage on the other side. Use hedges around a
large plot or netting around a small one for best results.
sites are a bit harder to use than flat ones due to the heavy
rainfall that may cause soil
erosion, if you have a sloping site set the plot across it. When
positioning your vegetables ensure to place the taller ones where
they will not cast shadows over the smaller ones. South facing plots
may need added watering in the hotter months to ensure the soil
does not dry out. Try to plant sun loving vegetables in south facing
gardens and shade loving plants in north facing ones using added
shade if needed.
Generally vegetables prefer temperatures to be
above 6C, obviously the amounts of days that the temperatures reach
this in your garden depends on your situation and aspect. Choosing
vegetables that are more suited to your climate might be more
beneficial as some prefer colder or warmer climates.
beforehand the vegetables you would like to grow. Before sowing divide up your beds into groups such as
brassicas, legumes and tubers. Then when you come to sow ensure all the
are separated into these groups. That way when it comes round to
crop rotation it will be more effective. It is advisable to list all
the vegetables you have in each group in each plot so that you can
monitor them throughout the year. Choose varieties suited to the
climate and conditions you have. Choose good quality seeds from reputable
seed suppliers to ensure decent germination. Seeds
can either be direct sown or indoor sown to be
transplanted when they are established.
Sowing Seeds Indoors
This is a good way to beat the
weather and give your crops a head start.
Hardy plants like onions, cabbages
and lettuces can be grown indoors from January to March and then
planted out under cloches.
A warm start indoors is advisable for tender plants such
courgettes, peppers, and cucumbers.
Fill seed trays or pots with good
propriety seed compost. A good compost provides moisture, air
and food. All you need to provide is warmth.
Firm the compost down lightly and
thinly scatter the seed across the surface. Fine seed can be
mixed with sand for easy distribution. Cover the seed with a
thin layer of compost and stand the tray in water. Watering from
the top can displace seeds. When wet, take the tray out of the
water and store somewhere warm. Cover the tray with glass or
cling-film to prevent the compost drying out. When shoots appear
remove the covers and store in a warm, light, airy position, ie:
When two leaves appear lift the
seedlings taking care not to damage them, an old fork is ideal
for this job. Transfer to pots or trays with fine potting
compost. Use a dibber or your finger to make a hole, pop the
roots in and then firm around the seedlings.
(Note: If you smoke, wash your
hands before handling tomato plants).
Grow them on in a temperature of
around 60 F until seedlings are ready to plant out. Harden off
your seedlings by letting more air into your greenhouse or cold
frame or popping them outside on mild days.
- Grow in a greenhouse or on a cool
- Sow in a
tray in compost. Once germinated keep at a low temperature in
light and protection.
- Prick out into a seed
tray with potting compost when the seedlings have a couple of
- Keep them warm, well lit and free
- Grow in a module that can be clay,
plastic or biodegradable.
- Sow a couple of seeds
into separate modules then thin out the weakest seedlings
leaving one strong one in each module.
- This will produce healthy root
balls making them adapt more easily to the
- Grow in a container if
space is limited or your soil
is pest or disease ridden.
- Ensure drainage holes are in place
before putting in the compost.
- Choose fast growing vegetables
that are not deep rooting or large.
- Plant containers with vegetables
from modules or cuttings you have taken from your existing
A good crumbly, weed free soil is
essential for easy sowing and successful germination. Digging
the soil well over winter will ensure this. If
you have a clay soil it is important to prepare before the
autumn. Over winter the alternating freezing and thawing of the
soil breaks up any hard clods.
Freshly dug soil may be firmed
down by treading along the sowing surfaces ('the gardeners
shuffle') and a good raking down will help. After this try not
to walk on the soil instead use timber or scaffold planks
that distribute your weight.
Use a corner of a hoe or a sharp
stick to to draw out a shallow drill (groove) using a piece of
string or a cane to get a straight line. Make
sure there are no over compacted areas as these tend to harden
off making roots difficult to penetrate.
Seeds may be scattered over a
prepared bed but seeds sown in drills look neater and help
harvesting. The distance between the rows and seeds are
different for each vegetable.
Once the seedlings emerge thin
out to the recommended distances.
DO NOT sow vegetables onto cold
DO NOT rake down or firm clay
soil when the ground is wet.
DO NOT sow too deeply.
- Dig the soil and remove all debris
and stones by raking. Rake in good weather not wet or too dry.
- Ensure soil
is relatively warm as many seeds
need this to germinate, although do check individual needs as
some vegetables prefer cool soils.
- Check instructions for sowing
as they may require different depths.
- Sow thinly so as not to overcrowd.
- Ensure surface moisture is
retained. If sowing in hot weather cover the soil
to prevent from drying out and remove once the seedlings are
- Once the seedlings are up thin
them out to create spaces by nipping them from just above ground
level so the roots of their neighbour are not disturbed. Do not
thin out the entire plot as you may have a few losses and will
need spares to move around to fill the gaps.
can either be sown in ridges in uniformed lines, scattered over a
plot, or sown individually into the ground using a dibber or your
finger. Cover tender plants with plastic bottles or jam jars to
protect from the elements.
for growing vegetables is well drained but will also hold moisture.
Its pH should be approx 6-6.5 which is slightly acidic. The majority
of vegetables will thrive in this sort of soil.
Of course with a wide variety of vegetables out there to grow you
will almost certainly find one to grow in whatever soil
you have. Sandy soils
heat up in the sun rapidly and are good for growing early crops but
they do not retain nutrients as well so may require added feeding.
are heavy and slow to warm up but they are nutrient rich. Make them
work to your advantage by digging
in organic matter as this will make them more fertile and moisture
retentive. Lay out the beds in small rows to prevent any damage
caused by having to walk or kneel on the soil
when tending to your crops.
information about soil
Crop rotation simply means not growing the same crop in the same
place each year, thus reducing disease build up.
if cabbage, sprouts and cauliflower (all members of the brassica
family) are grown year after year in the same soil there is a
possible chance of the disease "club root" appearing. This
can reduce the size or kill the crop.
important reason for rotation is to make use of fertiliser left over
from the previous crop. For example, follow potatoes with peas. Peas
are greedy feeders and they will benefit from the well manured potato
Vegetables are able to be grown
in different areas of your plot if you rotate them. The majority of
pest and disease problems can be combatted by rotating your crops.
Certain pests and diseases attack certain types of vegetables and if
they are left in the soil for more than a year in the same place the number of attacks will
increase. If the crops are moved and replaced by a vegetable that
the pest or disease does not like they will not attack it and will
cease to live. Certain types of vegetables will alter the soil
making it more rich in nitrogen for example so when rotation comes
around replace these with nitrogen loving vegetables. Some plants
will not need rotating such as the perennials or salad plants. Salad
plants grow very quickly so are useful for filling in any gaps for
short periods of time.
pests and diseases are not fazed by rotation and will simply follow
their vegetable of choice to wherever they have moved. Others stay
in the soil for long periods of time and will
not die so the problem may still be there even though the vegetables
have been moved.