How do I grow vegetables in my garden?
Growing your own vegetables in your garden is immensely satisfying and rewarding. Nothing beats the flavour or the satisfaction of going out into the garden and picking your own home grown veg. It not only saves you money it is great for the planet and good for your health because you know exactly where your food has come from.
If you are new to growing vegetables it can seem like a daunting task. The good news is that if you start small and build up, you can soon be gardening like a pro.
You don’t need a lot of space to be able to grow your own vegetables. Many plants can thrive in containers and window boxes or in a small area so if you don’t want to convert your entire lawn to a veg patch, you don’t have to. You don’t need a greenhouse or a whole range of tools either. Obviously these will help but to get started, the best advice is to just do it and see how you go.
One option for growing vegetables in your garden is to use your existing borders and plant your vegetables alongside your flowers. You do need to consider the amount of shade in doing this. Most vegetables need to be in sunlight for around 6 hours a day so a bright sunny spot is best. You can use these areas for growing all sorts of vegetables and it does add interest to any garden.
Growing runner beans up the side of a fence for example, creates a riot of colour that looks fantastic and also gives you delicious beans to eat in late summer and autumn. You can also grow beans and peas by creating wigwam supports from bamboo canes.
Always check out the planting cycle of plants. Many vegetables have very long time periods over months when they are suitable for planting but in some cases, you may find that you are too late to successfully grow something from seed. If this happens you may be able to buy ready grown small plants from the garden centre or nursery. If not, put your plans on hold for that particular veg plant for next season.
Making a vegetable patch.
Digging up some of the lawn and creating a veg patch is a great idea. This is best carried out in the early part of the year but if you want to do it now, go ahead and get started. This is quite a big job so it is never too early to start and whatever the time of the year you do this, there will be a vegetable that can be planted. Broad beans and potatoes for example can be pretty much planted all year round. If you plant your potatoes in autumn they will be ready for December.
To create your veg patch first mark out the area with string and then get digging. Turn the grass over with a spade and leave it exposed to the air for a week or so. This will cause the grass to die back and then you can remove the dead grass by shaking it on a garden fork so that you don’t lose the soil. Use the dried grass roots as a base for your compost heap. Once your veg patch is prepared digging in some compost to fertilise the soil will help provide the perfect bed for your growing veg.
The aim of any vegetable patch is to provide food all year round so you should divide this into three sections, rotating each section each year with different crops so that the soil retains nutrients and does not become depleted.
For example one area should grow root crops, the other brassicas such as cabbage and broccoli, and the third area everything else such as leeks, tomatoes or lettuces. The idea is that all areas should have grown all plants over a three year period. You will need to feed and fertilise your soil depending upon the crop.
The size of your veg patch will depend upon the amount of space you have available but even a small area can yield a surprising amount of food if you plan it out carefully and use the space wisely.
Most vegetables can be grown from seed and put straight into the ground once the risk of a frost has passed. You should always read the seed packet and follow the instructions for best results.
However if you want to move things along and have started late in the season, buying in small growing plants from a garden centre is a good alternative.
Growing vegetables in containers and baskets
You can grow vegetables in just about any type of container, from individual pots, to window boxes, old buckets or anything else you can think of.
The important thing to remember is that plants need drainage so placing stones at the base of the container will help. They also need frequent watering, especially in dry weather and a weekly liquid fertiliser (that you add to your watering can) or a dry release fertiliser (one that sits in the container) will help your plant obtain all the necessary nutrition to make it grow.
Tomato plants which require a lot of sun, are very suitable for container gardening. Don’t forget a few pots of different culinary herbs, peppers and leafy greens such as lettuce and spinach. All these can been grown successfully in containers and with your leafy greens you can just snip off the leaves that you need and leave the plant to grow more.
Even small space gardening can be used to grow potatoes if you grow them in a potato sack. These can be bought ready filled with your seed potatoes or alternatively you just buy the bags, add the compost and the seed potato, water and leave it to nature. Growing bags are ideal for patios and for growing veg without doing much to the garden. In addition they can be used on balconies so you don’t even need to have much outside space to enjoy growing your own veg.
Other small space solutions include vertical growing mediums – such as a pallet garden, made from shipping pallets where you can grow a wide range of leafy veg without taking up much room.
Growing vegetables in your garden is extremely rewarding and you don’t need to be an expert to do it successfully. The key to success is to follow the growing information on your seed packet and to gradually allow your expertise to grow organically along with your vegetables!