Starting your own vegetable patch is a great way to get more out of your garden, and save a lot of money in the process. That £5 tomato plant you bring home can easily provide you with several kilograms over the course of a growing season. Aside from that, the flavour and texture of the veg you’ll grow in your own garden can have a massive edge on anything you’ll buy in the shops. If you’re interested in starting your own vegetable garden from scratch, here’s some handy idea’s to help you set a great foundation to work with.
Have a look at your garden and try to figure out the best possible place for your vegetable patch. If it’s possible, you should start your vegetable garden in a sunny, sheltered place; somewhere you’d want to sunbathe. The majority of the plants you’ll be growing here are going to be annuals. They’ll have a short timespan to work with, and will need to grow pretty quickly. To make sure they perform as best as possible, they need to be getting all the sun they can get, so avoid setting it up near any overhanging trees or sheds that cast a big shadow.
Aside from thinking about the sun, a lot of crops such as cucumbers and tomatoes need a decent amount of shelter from the wind. If they’re constantly being rocked at the roots they won’t grow well, and the leaves may go black with wind burn, or be damaged by some other kind of plant stress. Plan to set up some hurdles or fence panels to protect these plants from any chance of wind damage. Remember that a windbreak can protect a plant up to five times its height, so a two-metre hurdle will be more than enough for most of the crops you’ll be growing.
If you want to get the most use and yield out of your patch as possible, you need to make sure you clear the area of any perennial or annual weeds before you start any actual planting. Unless it’s seaweed for growing vegetables, you shouldn’t let any kind of “weed” get close to your veggie patch! If you want your growing operation to be totally organic, you’ll have to clear the grass away. You can stack the turf you pull up somewhere upside down. This will eventually compost into some gorgeous top soil, which you can use on your beds a few months down the line.
After this, you can carefully dig it over, making sure you’ve got rid of any roots of invasive perennial weeds, for example horsetail. Bindweed, Japanese knotweed, and ground elder can all pose a massive threat to the health of your vegetable patch, and can cause a lot of damage before you catch onto anything visible. When you’re clearing out the space for your vegetable patch, make sure you do a thorough job of clearing away any roots you come across.
Once you’ve cleared away all the perennial weeds, you may still have an issue with annuals. If you find that these are a problem to your patch, it’s a good idea to cover the whole patch here in the early spring. This will help to warm the soil up, allowing you to plant or sow a few weeks earlier than you’d be able to if you were to leave the patch exposed to the elements. The best thing for this is a sheet of clear plastic. This will keep the soil warm and dry, and because they let the natural light stream through, they’ll bring any dormant weed seeds into life, giving you a better idea of any work that needs to be done before you’re ready to start growing.
When you take the cover off to actually start planting, you’ll be able to pick or hoe the weeds away, rather than having to spend a long time digging around looking for roots. Another good tip for controlling weeds is using a layer of mulch in order to prevent any weed seeds, like dandelions’, from drifting in and starting to grow in your vegetable patch. Before you lay down those first seedlings, lay two inches of good mulch in between the rows. This will keep the whole vegetable patch relatively weed-free throughout the year.
Once you follow these steps, you’ll have a vegetable patch in perfect health, ready for you to grow all kinds of yummy and nutritious food in.