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Handy Hints For Starting Your Own Veggie Patch

Updated on March 24, 2014

Get the Grow-Your-Own Habit

Perhaps this has been your new year's resolution for a few years in a row. You are concerned about eating food that has been shipped thousands of miles across the world? You really want to know what has been used to produce what you eat. Maybe you’d like your children or grandchildren to be aware of where their food comes from and eat more healthily. Lots of people have realised they can achieve all of these, and spent more free time outdoors by getting the grow-your own-habit.

So how to start? It can appear complicated and technical and, although there is a much to learn and study as your interest develops, you don’t need to be an expert on soil P.h. to begin. However along with your time and enthusiasm, here are some lessons learnt from someone who already picked up a garden spade and made the journey to the back yard.

Summer In The Veggie Patch

Runner bean plants flowering in the sunshine will brighten up any garden
Runner bean plants flowering in the sunshine will brighten up any garden | Source

Space For Plants

  • First of all it doesn’t need to be a big space, it could be pots or growbags on a small patio or yard or herbs in the flower border.
  • If you do have a generous amount of space that you are struggling to keep under control planting up a chunk of it with some fruit bushes might save time in the long run and be easier than a constant battle with weeds and brambles.
  • Avoid areas too close to trees, particularly conifers. They are very thirsty and will win the battle for moisture and nutrients.
  • Start with a small patch and dig it over with a garden fork to break up the soil and get the weeds out.
  • If the soil is poor quality, sparse or heavy clay it will need some assistance. Digging in compost in the autumn makes it easier for the frost to get in over the winter and break up clay heavy soil.
  • Garden waste such as leaves and grass cuttings can be composted down for home-made compost and dug back into the garden, but it’s not a good idea to put in anything unwanted as the seeds and roots will spread it all over and cause it to return with a vengeance next year.

Novice or Expert?

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Growing Organically

Simply put, organic means using natural non-artificial or chemical methods. There are organic fertilizers available for improving the soil but managing weeds, pests and diseases organically is more of a challenge.

The most common organic growing techniques are:

  • Companion planting. Flowers such as Calendula (common marigold) and nasturtiums planted next to the vegetable patch to distract aphids.
  • Encouraging natural predators. A woodpile and a pond, no matter how small, (even an old sink or basin sunk into the ground) will attract predators that will help keep pests down.
  • Prevention. Try to get to the weeds before they go to seed and blow all over the neighborhood.
  • Don’t forget lavender to attract the bees.

Helping Your Veggies Along

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Lavender has calming properties and will attract bees to the gardenCalendula growing with the vegetablesNasturtium drawing away pests such as caterpillarsA mini greenhouse, propagator or cloche will give plants an early start
Lavender has calming properties and will attract bees to the garden
Lavender has calming properties and will attract bees to the garden | Source
Calendula growing with the vegetables
Calendula growing with the vegetables | Source
Nasturtium drawing away pests such as caterpillars
Nasturtium drawing away pests such as caterpillars | Source
A mini greenhouse, propagator or cloche will give plants an early start
A mini greenhouse, propagator or cloche will give plants an early start | Source

Choose Your Crops and Get Started

  1. Choose something appropriate for the space. For instance root vegetable grow under the ground and will generally do better out in the garden. However salad stuff, courgettes, peppers, aubergines, spinach and chard will all live happily in pots.
  2. Mark what you have planted in each pot or tray, even if there are only a couple of different types in a few weeks it’s hard to be certain which is which.
  3. Don't over-water. Sitting in waterlogged soil can cause the seeds to rot.
  4. When planting out, spacing doesn’t need to be exact but it’s worth imagining how much space two fully grown plants next to each other would need.
  5. Protect from slugs and snails. They are voracious and it is heart-breaking to see entire crops wiped out in one hedonistic slug-fest night. They can be deterred with barriers of sharp grit or copper tape or look for slug pellets that don't go into the food chain if you are trying to be as organic as possible.
  6. After harvesting leave a few plants to go to seed. After flowering most plants will produce seed pods. These can be dried, stored in a cool place and used next year instead of buying more.

Keep Your Tools In A Safe Place

Source

Ideas For Different Spaces

Large Spaces
Small Spaces
Pots
Cabbage & Broccoli
Onion & Garlic
Lettuce & tomato
Potatoes
carrots
Peppers
Artichoke
parsnip
Radishes
Sweetcorn
Beetroot
Herbs

Time To Get Started!

Source

"A happy life is made up less of great events than little lovely moments" Maya Patel

What Are You Waiting For?

There are lots of other hints and tips but the best way to find out what works in your garden is to get your boots on and get out and try it. As well as enriching your diet and increasing your level of exercise and fresh air, gardening will help with stress and is a wonderful way of meeting your neighbors. Start preparing now and when your first shoots start to appear you’ll be hooked!

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