Starting A Vegetable Garden

Spring is the time of year when we think about creating a vegetable garden, especially with all the emphasis on the damage that long transport distances do to the ecosystem, never mind the fact that we are eating vegetables that are not quite as fresh as they might be! When choosing the location for your vegetable garden forget the old idea that the veg patch must be an ugly spot. If carefully designed, thoughtfully planted and well cared for, it will be feature of your garden, bringing a touch of homeliness that no formal bed could ever create.

Bearing this in mind you should not restrict yourself to any area of the garden just because it is out of sight. In the average modern garden there won’t be much choice as to land anyway. You will need to use what you have available and then do the best that you can with it. There will probably be more choice as to exposure and convenience. All things being equal, try and choose a spot reasonably close to the house with easy access. It may seem that the difference of only a few yards is hardly relevant, but if you are depending largely on snatched spare moments for working in the vegetable garden easy access will be much more important than you might realise. Only when you have made a dozen unnecessary trips for forgotten bits and pieces, or ended up getting wet as you dash in and out will you realise that it would have been much easier to have the veg garden just that little bit closer!

Alongside convenience you need to pick out a spot that has suitable exposure to Sun and rain. You don’t want to use a spot that is blasted by cold winds and likely to catch a frost. Choose the “earliest” spot you can find, ideally sloping a little to the south or east, that catches the sunshine early and holds it late. Chill winds from the north and northeast can have dramatic effects on your yield so if you can pick a spot that gets some shelter be it from a garden building, fence or the house itself, your plot will be protected and your vegetables will get an early start. If there is no protection available think about planting a low hedge or putting some other form of protection in place if you are intending to grow all your own supplies.

It is unlikely that you will be able to choose the type of soil as most gardens are not big enough to have a variety of soils available. This is not really a problem as most soils can be improved quite easily to give the ideal growing conditions. The best soil for growing vegetables is said to be a ‘rich and sandy loam’. That is a soil type that is almost never found but always made! It needs to be full of nutrients that are easily available for the plants to grow well. This can be achieved by the addition of compost and plant feed, either organic or chemical depending on your preference. The ‘sandyness’ refers to drainage. If your soil is too heavy the water will form a sticky mess that isn’t good for your plants, equally if it is too sandy the water will pass through before the plants can take advantage of it. You can easily add sand or soil conditioners to get your drainage right.

Before planting you should make sure that the plot is well dug and prepared for your precious seedlings. In an ideal world we would plan our vegetable garden in the autumn, digging it over and working in lots of organic material. The winter weather would help to break up the soil and work in the nutrients giving a perfect growing medium when the warmer Spring weather comes. However, it isn’t the end of the world if you haven’t done that. You might have to work a little bit harder at first to make sure the soil is clear of weeds, stones and other rubbish but that won’t take long and the sense of achievement when your new vegetable plot is all prepared is well worth it.

My vegetable garden is one of the most satisfying parts of my garden I love to go out each day and pick the vegetables that we will be eating, knowing that they are as fresh and wholesome as they can be. The constant supply of fresh seasonal foods is a great reward for the little effort that it takes to maintain.

Lizzie Westerley has spent many pleasurable years developing her garden and her gardening skills. You can find more of her insights and information on how to make your garden equally magnificent at The Garden Magazine

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