Garden Club - How to plan your vegetable plot

Strictly speaking, this should be done first and next year will be doing that. However, with the potatoes in the potatoes sacks, the tomatoes allocated a hot spot in the garden, the strawberries, green beans and broccoli on order, I have an idea of how much space I have left. Next week I will think about what vegetables and companion planting I will need and where I am going to grow these crops.

(With thanks to my NVQ learners who work in the local garden centres and helped put this guild together.)

Top Tips for Setting Up a Vegetable Patch

If you’re looking to keep your vegetables as organic as possible as well as save some money on your weekly shop, then setting up a vegetable patch is the answer – especially for those who love spending time outside.

Here’s our guide on how to put together your vegetable patch.

Consider the space available

Not as much space is needed as you might think. It’s perfectly possible to grow vegetables in containers on the patio, in raised beds or in a vegetable patch as small as three square feet. If you’ve got a lot of space to work with, of course, then ‘the grow your own world’ is your oyster.

I am going to grow my vegetable in between the plants I already have. So I will be using my boarders.

Pick the right location

To get the best results, you’ll need to pick out a light airy spot that gets a lot of sun during the day, and won’t be overshadowed by taller plants. Virtually every type of common ‘grow at home’ vegetable loves the sun, and will want nothing more than to soak up as much as they can. However, you also need to ensure that your plot has some shelter – you don’t want it to be too exposed, otherwise wind and the elements in general can cause quite a lot of damage. A decent windbreaker is an easy way to combat a site which is a little exposed to the elements.

Prepare your patch

First things first, you’ll need to give your patch a thorough going over in order to break up the soil and get rid of any remaining weeds. You should dig down to at least one spade depth – and a bit further if possible. Take the time to remove any weed roots or stems so that they can’t re-grow and remove as many stones from the soil as possible. 

Get your soil ready

Soil is probably the most important factor when setting up a vegetable patch. The best soil for growing vegetables will include a wide range of both compost and general organic matter. Good matter can include things like composted leaves or shredded aged bark, but whatever you use, make sure that you’ve incorporated enough of it to prevent the soil from becoming either compacted or sandy. A good mix should bind together as you squeeze it, but break apart easily enough when it’s disturbed. This balance means that the water will be retained, but won’t drown the soil.

Top Tip: Only prepare the ground that you’re planning to actually plant up.

Arrange the plants well

Once you’ve got the space planned out, it’s important to arrange the plants carefully. Planning your space out in advance can help make it more efficient. Rather than planting in square patterns or rows, consider staggering the plants by planting in triangles instead. By doing this, you can fit 10 to 14 percent more plants in each bed. Avoid planting too close together, certain plants won’t grow well if they are overcrowded.

Look into companion planting

Some vegetable families grow particularly well when planted together in the same bed. For example, vegetables from the cabbage family like to be planted with beets and members of the green leafy vegetable family. Some herbs can help deter pests too and others help to improve disease resistance.

Include vertical growers

If you’ve got a limited amount of space available, then it makes perfect sense to include some vertically growing plants such as tomatoes, Pole beans, peas and cucumber. As well as being a space-saver, vertical growers are less susceptible to fungal issues and are therefore easier to monitor – it will be clearer when they are ready for harvesting. If your bed is by the fence, you can make use of trellises to help promote growth.

Use pots for flexible planting 

If the size of your garden is restricting your imagination a bit, remember that there’s always the option to have a few pots for growing vegetables on the patio (or even indoors). Some plants and herbs will actually prefer being indoors – Basil is a perfect example. More tender seedlings can also benefit from a bit of time indoors, especially during the early summer.

Control pests, exercising caution

Unfortunately, pests really are largely unavoidable in any vegetable garden. However, there’s no need to immediately douse them in pesticides only about 3% of garden insects are legitimately damaging. Where possible, avoid using brutal pesticides (remember, plants don’t really like them either). Only apply pesticides first thing in the morning when the pollinators and beneficial insects are least active, and if possible use an organic pesticide. Pesticides will kill the good insects, too – so don’t attack too vigorously. If your plot needs pesticides as an adult to do this for you.

Fertilise appropriately

Whilst fertiliser can be very beneficial in certain situations, overdoing it (especially if it is nitrogen based) in the early months can actually mean a lower harvest. Even if the greenery might be a tiny bit greener, the amount you reap come harvest time might be negatively impacted. Rely instead on good organic compost. Ask an adult to help you with this as it is a very smelly job and manure can carry germs, which means really good hand washing afterwards.

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