Starting a Vegetable Garden – Vegetable Garden Tips
When starting aproperly, it should always be well-defined with clear boundaries. These boundaries, can be useful and filled with more than one kind of plant. Espalier fruit trees, a row of soft fruit, alpine or a herb row, some low-growing interlaced with them, anything like this will be preferable to a strictly utilitarian hedge such as box or greedy privet.
Order is essential in the vegetable garden, for it saves time and trouble. So, when planting or sowing, always use a line so that you grow straight rows of vegetables. I have found that a plastic-covered clothes line is very useful for it is white, so easily seen and cleaned and tough. Your rows, where convenient, should run from north to south.
Ideally, divide the crops into three types; brassicas, roots (potatoes, parsnips, carrots, beets) and the remainder (onions, peas, lettuce, spinach) and make sure that each group is grown in a different area each year. Those vegetables which should be most succulent and leafy — the peas, beans, lettuce and spinach — should go into the richest. Next year, the same soil will do for the roots and in the third year the plot, with possibly the addition of lime, should be used for the brassicas. This is the general rule for the effective rotation of crops.
But I feel that few of us have enough ground to be able to devote an entire patch to one type of vegetable and then to leave it empty when they have been cropped until the next year comes round. I don’t follow strict, three-patch rotation but I do keep a clear plan so that I follow top-growth vegetables by tail-growth kinds.
If you have a tiny plot, you can divide it into four by walking down to the middle from the centre of each side. Once you have these four squares with a path along all of them, you can also divide your crops, placing the neater looking and quicker maturing salad crops in the square most easily seen from house or ornamental garden. Place beans, brussels and other longstanding crops further away. You can also arrange to empty one small plot and have it really well dug and manured and treat it in the way I described for rotational cropping. It would be a small plot but it need not remain empty for long.
Owners of deep freezers will find that they can clear a crop quicker than other gardeners, and the rotational type of cropping suits their purposes admirably.
Succession is as important as rotation and, I think, more practical in a small garden. One crop can follow another in many cases in the same year. To take only lettuce as an example, seed should be sown for succession as soon as the first sowing has germinated and is showing above the soil. This way, you are never without something for the summer salad bowl.
The catalogue from a good seed company will help you greatly. Modern varieties of plants are such an improvement on the old ones. There are now small, compact types of cabbage, lettuce and other greens ideal for small gardens. Many newcomers are “longstanding” which means that lettuce, for example, don’t bolt to produce flower and seed quickly, and so a row will serve you over a much longer period than it used to. Cauliflowers can be timed to mature in a certain number of weeks. Cabbage keep a nice tight head and take little space.
Choose seed of varieties which suit your purpose. For example, you probably know early in the year the date of your holiday, so try not to choose or sow seed which will mature at this time. Choose instead earlier or later varieties.
If you are starting a vegetable garden, you will need to order your seed in plenty of time, and prepare your soil as early as you can so that as soon as the season is right you can go into action. Choose a dry spell for your seed sowing. Treat each seed as a potential plant. Where you can handle the seed, sow it singly. Thick-sown seed is wasted seed.
It really is worth while to invest in cloches even if you have no more than enough to make one row across your garden. By using mine I find that all through winter I have fresh salad of Lamb’s Lettuce, sometimes called corn salad, winter radish, land cress which is very much like watercress, lettuce and endive. These, mingled with shredded savoy or Brussels sprouts, give one a great variety in raw vegetables at a time when they are very expensive in shops. Money saved this way will soon help to pay for cloches.
After having protected plants in winter, the cloches can be moved along to warm and slightly dry the soil for early seed sowing and planting. They can be placed over early potatoes, peas, lettuce and carrots and, when they have served their turn here, they can be moved over the strawberries to protect them from the birds. Alternatively, you can use them to force the strawberries to fruit early by covering them with cloches in February. You can then use them to provide warmth for all kinds of gourds (family) sown or planted outdoors. Stood on end securely, they will protect on the cool or windy side of plants. One word of warning, do not place cloches near fruit trees where windfalls can damage the glass.
If you have no cloches, bell glasses or garden frames, you can give half-hardy or tender seedlings, including small tomato plants protection by using a two-pound jam-jar or a transparent plastic vessel of some kind. Merely place the jar over tiny individual plants. To sow all gourds outdoors, press the cover in the soil to indicate the area, remove a little of the soil in the centre and replace with some of better quality should this be necessary. Sow the seeds and cover tightly. This is an excellent way of sowingset in rows across the garden. Do not remove the cover until all fear of frosts is passed. Do not remove it to water the plants. They should be quite all right.
Some vegetables, like other annuals, are sown where they are to mature. These should be sown very thinly if they are small seeds. If they are large enough to handle, such as peas, it is possible roughly to space them, but I never go to the trouble of doing this precisely.