Growing Your Own Vegetables – Vegetable Garden Planting
The Vegetable Garden – Planning and Planting
There is nothing quite as satisfying as growing your own vegetables, but first things first, you will need to understand that planning a vegetable garden can be just as important as the planting the seeds and vegetables themselves.
Vegetable plots for vegetable garden planting, like gardens, come in all shapes and sizes and face every direction, mostly the wrong one, but once in position there is nothing one can do but accept the situation.
Planning a Vegetable Garden
Printed plans and articles in books are usually shown as rectangles or squares when it comes to planning a vegetable garden, but this is mainly for convenience of putting them down on paper. However there are certain principles and practices to observe whatever the shape, whether it be a triangular corner site, or a long strip – which can often be a veritable wind tunnel – by the side of the house.
The further that the vegetable garden plot can be sited away from the house or overhanging trees the better. The shade caused by a building is preferable to that cast by trees because not only is there an overhead canopy with trees but also searching roots. A tall dividing hedge between gardens can cause similar problems.
Vegetable Garden Planting
Permanent crops such as asparagus, rhubarb and horseradish should be located at one side of the garden so that they will not interfere with the regular digging, planting or cultivation of other vegetables. In a situation where there is a prevailing wind or, worse still, draught, an artificial windbreak such as that provided by plastic mesh should be provided in preference to using fruit bushes. All the same, these can be used to supplement and reinforce the main windbreak. Fortunately, the vegetable crop which lends itself for use as a windbreak, the broad bean, is the earliest crop sown and the toughest.
With vegetable garden planting, it is good also to remember that every foot of height gives lateral wind protection of 8 feet. Thus a crop of broad beans, planted at the windy end of a plot, growing up to a height of 2 1/2 feet will give some 20 feet of protection on their sheltered side. It is usually recommended that broad beans be planted in a double row with the beans spaced 6 in apart. My plan for many years has been to plant a bed of broad beans, four plants wide, thus making a double row barrier. In an extremely windy area it is a good idea to stop the growth of the beans on the outer row by pinching out their tops when they are about a foot high.
This creates a sloping side so that the broad leaves of the beans will carry the wind upwards and over the top, thus improving the windbreak. It is essential to secure the beans by putting a string on each side and to take two more diagonally through the rows. This protection will make a significant difference to the earliness of the crops grown in its shelter. Another method, when vegetable garden planting, of sheltering young plants is by drawing upwith a hoe on each side or, if there is a prevailing wind, on the windward side of the crop.
Sowing Vegetables Seeds
It has been customary and even traditional to sow seeds of beetroot, carrots, spring onions and similar crops in single drills but I personally prefer to make wide drills. Using beetroot as an example; single plants in a thinned-out row have no protection and if they are spaced as recommended at up to a foot apart a great deal of the land is wasted. My drills for such subjects are a spade width and in fact can be made with a spade. On calculation this method produces roughly three and a half times more in terms of yield than from a single row.
To illustrate this point let’s look at onions and beetroot vegetables seeds. If onion seed is sown thinly over the broad drill spring onions can be pulled from the narrow bed for as long as they remain suitable for salads or even for flavouring and then the remainder allowed to develop. This produces bulbs ranging from little pickling onions to bulbs the size of an old-fashioned pocket watch on the outside of the broad drill. In the case of beetroot one wide row will produce young beets which can be pulled when about the size of golf balls on a regular basis. This gradually thins out the roots to about 4 or 5 in apart allowing sufficient room to grow on to maturity for storing.
You can buy packets of vegetables seeds, containing mixed varieties now. This means you can have round, intermediate and long beet in one row which may be selectively thinned without waste as the thinnings can be used.
In addition to trebling the crop from virtually the same area of ground, they provide one another with mutual protection. If a row 30 feet long provides too many vegetables to be conveniently used, then half the row may be sown in mid-April, for example, and the other half in early May. There is no rule to say that a row must be sown completely in one go. The same technique can be used for sowing a part or even a third of a row of lettuce seeds to provide a succession. By the way, the so-called beetroot seeds are, in effect, corky capsules which contain at least two shiny black seeds. This means that half the seeds you sow are thinned out and thrown away in any case.
Pelletted Vegetables Seeds
Over the years, various attempts have been made to popularise pelletted vegetables seeds for growing your own vegetables. These seeds are smaller seeds that have been coated to make them bigger and more easy to handle. In the case of beetroot, pelletted seeds mean that the shiny black seeds have been extracted from their capsule and there will be only one seed in the pellet instead of the two or more found in the corky capsule.
On the whole the British gardener has not taken kindly to pelletted seeds, mainly because of an apparent reduction in germination. This may be due in some degree to the pellet formulation but certainly in all cases which I have investigated, it has been found that dryness of the soil has been the cause. It must be remembered that the pellet must absorb moisture before this can be transmitted to the seed and unless the soil is very damp, germination may be retarded or will not take place.
Making a wide drill This can be easily done by putting down a line and taking out a shallow scraping or, with a shovelling motion, take the top inch of soil and put this to one side of the drill. Ideally the seeds should be covered with specially prepared soil. This involves mixing up a proportion of the excavated soil with equal parts of peat and sand putting this through a 1/4 inch sieve. Then dust this over the surface by hand, ensuring that the seeds are at the correct depth, which is approximately 1/2 inches.
Whether V-shaped drills are taken out with a special tool, a piece of stick or a corner of the hoe, they are invariably made too deep and, unless the operator is very skilled, irregular in depth. A hand covering ensures a more precise depth. I have always been impressed with the results that blind gardeners obtain and have come to the conclusion that much of this is due to their meticulous precision in measuring not only depth, but spacing. It is very little trouble to make a depth gauge for sowing fine vegetables seeds, which is about the thickness of an ordinary match box.
Successional Sowing and Planting Vegetables
In the days before the importation of vegetables and fruit by air all the year round and the introduction of the freezer, professional gardeners were expected to maintain a supply of fruit and vegetables throughout the year from their employer’s garden. Even in the largest establishments, the only aids were the hot bed and the ice house. The latter being a cave dug into a hillside or a specially constructed building in the woods which was filled with ice laboriously cut by handsaw – from the lake and stacked in the ice house in winter. This would last, with luck, to the end of August. Hot beds which were fermenting heaps of manure and leaves covered with frames were used to accelerate growth.
When growing vegetables very often it is a case of feast or famine but these surpluses and poor crops can be evened out by the use of a freezer. To make the best use of the freezer, varieties most suitable for freezing should be carefully selected from a catalogue.
To avoid a glut, or if the summer holiday coincides with the maturing of the most desirable crops such as peas or beans, due regard must be given to sowing or planting times. With regard to vegetables most of them mature from 12 to 14 weeks after sowing. Therefore, calculation of sowing times should be made backwards from the time that you need the crop. Such calculations, however, cannot be precise because of variable weather conditions and it is advisable to make three sowings at ten-day intervals. Supposing, for example, you want something ready on August 20th. You calculate back 14 weeks which brings you to mid-May so that your sowings will be the first week in May, mid-May and then another 8 to 10 days later.
This brings us to the question of varieties of vegetables designated as early, second-early or mid-season and late. This refers to the time of maturity. For example, an early variety of pea may take 90 days to come to maturity whilst a late variety may take 100 to 110 days. This means that you can sow an early variety late because it will mature more quickly than a late variety. So in the case of peas it is possible to use one early variety sown at 12- to 14-day intervals to provide cropping right through to October. By using some form of protection such as cloches at each end of the growing season, another fortnight can be gained.
In the milder parts of the country, vegetables such as spring greens, lettuces and broad beans can be sown in October along with the overwintering hardy crops such as spinach, sea kale, beet and lamb’s lettuce. These together with the hardy brassicas, such as savoys, winter cabbage, and stored white cabbage mean that greens can be had all the year round.
Intercropping vegetables means slotting in early-maturing crops between those which take longer. For example, starting at one end of the plot with the hardiest crop of broad beans the next sowing would be of early round-seeded peas leaving a 3 foot space which, later on, when the soil has warmed up, could accommodate two rows of beetroot or carrots. Then comes another sowing of beans or peas with a space between for lettuces and any other dwarf crop. This enables more of the ground to be covered by foliage so there is less moisture lost from the soil and the watering can be left to nature.
Discover this exciting world of growing your own vegetables, and you’ll have an abundance of amazing vegetables all year round. Vegetable garden planting can be immensely rewarding and satisfying for anyone of any age, but remember that planning a vegetable garden is the initial and also very important stage in all of this.