Make the most of even a small plot in your garden, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many different (and delicious) veggies you can grow!
Growing your own can save you money, in addition to being good for the planet and satisfying your epicurean appetites. It can also go a long way in encouraging kids to be more adventurous with food – if they grow it, they’re much more likely to eat it.
1. Find a sunny place
Veggies need plenty of sunshine to grow, so start your patch in a spot that gets at least five hours of sun per day. Pick a location that’s away from other plants to reduce the risk of slugs crawling out of bushes and beds to feast on your veg.
Many vegetables, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, need shelter from the wind. They don’t grow well when rocked at their roots, and their leaves may blacken with windburn.
2. Dig deep
Give your patch a thorough digging over, to break up the soil and remove any weeds. Dig down to at least one spade depth, or more, removing as many stones as possible. In terms of weeds, remove any roots and stems to stop them re-growing.
3. Get the soil right
If you have chalky or heavy clay soil, it’s easier to grow veg in raised beds. Fill these with a mix of soil-based compost, topsoil and green waste. If you’re planning on growing in-ground, it’s a good idea to do a pH test with a kit before planting. Soil that’s neutral is best, but you can add sulphur to alkaline and lime to acidic soil to neutralise it if need be.
4. Design your plot
Planning the layout of your veg patch is a good way of ironing out any potential glitches in advance. If you’re thinking of including several beds, plan them in groups to make it easier to rotate veggies around the plot – this helps avoid build-up of pests and diseases.
Add a bit of colour to your plot by including flowers for cutting, such as sunflowers and sweet peas.
5. Give your plants enough space
Plants hate being cramped and are likely to be weak and small if they haven’t got enough space. As a rough guide, leave about 20cm around a row of salad leaves, 35cm around a row of carrots, and 45cm around a row of beans. Courgettes will need 75cm to one metre per plant.
Don’t forget to give your beans something to climb, like a stake or trellis.
Caring for your veg patch
Looking after your plot doesn’t need to take up all your spare time. Familiarise yourself with the how, why and when of veg care, and don’t forget to check on your veggies regularly to see how they’re doing. This way, you’ll notice if your seedlings are thirsty, or if anything is getting eaten by slugs.
The key is in spotting any issues before they get out of hand, and turn into time-consuming tasks. For more handy tips on maintenance, have a look at our garden grooming guide.