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How to Make a Garden Vegetable Plot Cheaply

Updated on March 20, 2021
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Diana was a member of the Royal Horticultural Society. She & her family all love gardening. She enjoys photographing & painting plants too.

My Path to Building a Garden Vegetable Plot

I started gardening fifty years ago when we moved into our house which had a very unkempt infertile back garden--it looked as though it had never been touched.

There were no flowers or shrubs, and the whole area was just grass, growing on uneven ground. It was fine for children running around playing, or for sunbathing on deckchairs, but it was totally unproductive. All that was about to change. Read here how it developed, and you can do the same, at very little cost.

This is a good beginner's project.


Bit-by-Bit We Worked on the Garden Generally

We nursed it Into some semblance of beauty, well-stocked with mature plants.

We discovered that roses do quite well in clay, but not much else.

Occasionally I planted a few odd vegetables, and I began to see how much the plants benefitted from decent treatment such as finding the right conditions for them, and feeding them well with appropriate nutrients.

What Was the Turning Point?

The soil was very poor, and in order to to break up the London clay which was as hard as iron, and very difficult to dig. So over the years the garden was fed with:

  • Manure
  • More manure and then
  • Sand

This hard work was worth the effort, because the whole area was then more fertile and productive.

The Makings of a Beautiful Garden


Progressing Slowly

We knocked down our air-raid shelter (most London gardens had one at that time), and we hit upon the notion of using the rubble to build a rockery. Not very glamorous, but when facing forward and hidden with plants, the rocks looked almost natural.

Only part of the garden border was really sunny, the rest being in partial shade, and, through lack of knowledge, I lost a lot of plants which required full sun and failed to flourish in half-shade or full shade.

Gradually I Learned to Follow Planting Instructions Instead of Making it up as I Went Along

The results, if not spectacular, were at least rewarding.

I tried in a desultory fashion to grow the occasional vegetable, without much success. Then, on my retirement, I went at it hammer and tongs, or shall we say shovel and prongs!

My Vegetable Patch was Born!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Birth of a Garden Vegetable Plot
The Birth of a Garden Vegetable Plot
The Birth of a Garden Vegetable Plot | Source

The Basics of Growing Vegetables

This section will just give you an overview of what it is that you need to know.

This is a wide subject, and whole books are written about it, so here you will find just general instructions to set you in the right direction and whip up some enthusiasm to get you started.

If you need more specialized information, you may need to do a little research yourself.

Getting Started:

  • For a productive vegetable patch, you need good well-nourished soil, free of stones and weeds.
  • Digging and feeding virgin soil is very hard work, and there are tilling machines which do the job, but if there isn't one available, you just have to dig over the area yourself, to the depth of your spade, and a little deeper if possible.
  • Then you mix in sand and manure with the earth and, if the soil still doesn't break up easily, add some potting compost and rotted organic material to enrich it.
  • Keep chopping it all up, mixing it and exposing it to the weather and turning it over, until the earth feels crumbly and breaks up.

Plant Your Seeds or Small Plants in Rows

  • Allow sufficient space between them for you to be able to walk along without treading on any plants. This will enable you to do weeding and harvesting. I use paving stones to make a rustic pathway between oblong blocks of planting; others use planks, or just a rough pathway.
  • Follow the instructions on the seed packets or from books or the internet, to make sure that you give your seeds the best chance of survival.
  • Choose your siting of specific types of vegetables carefully. Some plants will grow in semi-shade, such as beans and cabbage, but most other vegetables need sunshine as a basic requirement. You would find it helpful to draw a plan of your vegetable patch, marking out which plants you are going to plant where. You also need to plant them in the right season and temperature, and some plants need to be started off indoors or under glass, to give them a good start.
  • They also need regular watering to prevent the little seedlings drying out and, as they develop, they need to be fed with plant food.
  • Some rather spindly plants such as tomatoes and peppers need to be staked to prevent them toppling over, or being blown over by wind.
  • Some plants are prone to specific pests, such as cabbage flies, slugs and snails, and others are prone to rust and other fungal diseases. Tomatoes sometimes suffer from rot, which you can recognize because the tomatoes develop and then, instead of turning red, they start turning brown and become unusable.

Some Vegetables Are Quite Ornamental, so Good Value From an Aesthetic Point of View

Runner Beans are what I call good value plants:

  • They grow nearly as fast as the ones in the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, germinating in a couple of days after planting.
  • They don't take up a lot of space width-wise, so you can put them at the back of a border, climbing up canes or a fence.
  • Tthey have a profusion of pretty red flowers which bloom in sequence from about June to October.
  • The flowers are replaced by attractive pendant bean pods two or three weeks after the flowers have appeared. and they are quite happy growing in part-shade, so you can save your sunny patch for heat-seeking plants.

Runner Beans With Their Red Flowers Look Good Against a Wall or Fence

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Runner Bean Flowers--Just Look at Those Spectacular Red Blossoms Close-up! When You Pick the  Beans, More Flowers Grow, Producing Even More BeansHere Runner Beans are Growing in a Mixed Flower Bed  (This photo was taken at night)Runner Beans Growing up my Garden Fence
Runner Bean Flowers--Just Look at Those Spectacular Red Blossoms Close-up!
Runner Bean Flowers--Just Look at Those Spectacular Red Blossoms Close-up!
When You Pick the  Beans, More Flowers Grow, Producing Even More Beans
When You Pick the Beans, More Flowers Grow, Producing Even More Beans
Here Runner Beans are Growing in a Mixed Flower Bed  (This photo was taken at night)
Here Runner Beans are Growing in a Mixed Flower Bed (This photo was taken at night) | Source
Runner Beans Growing up my Garden Fence
Runner Beans Growing up my Garden Fence

In the photo above, you can see those dainty scarlet flowers in perspective, waving in the breeze.

I planted some runner beans in the garden, and then, bubbling with enthusiasm, I planted a few more plants up a fence just beyond the perimeter of my garden, relying on the fact that they weren't doing any harm, and looked a lot better than the brambles that were previously there, so the land-owner should not be too upset, if they did happen to notice (naughty-naughty!).

Courgettes or Marrows Have Attractive Flowers Too

Courgette or Marrow Start as Yellow Flower Heads and the Vegetables Develop Out of the Flowers
Courgette or Marrow Start as Yellow Flower Heads and the Vegetables Develop Out of the Flowers | Source

Take the Poll Below

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Have You Tried Growing Your Own Vegetables?

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10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting a New Vegetable Garden

A Complete Guide to Digging & Planting Your First Vegetable Garden: Tomatoes, Peppers & Herbs

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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