Assuming that you have an actual garden, no matter how small, I can't do better than to point you towards my eBook on the subject, which covers everything from what to grow, how to do it, water management, etc.
You don't need a Kindle or Tablet to download it, by the way: Amazon kindly provide a free programme (or “app” for our younger readers) so that you can download it to your own pc or laptop. There's a box on the right, below the “click here to get it” boxes, titled “Read on Any Device. Get free Kindle app” just click on that and away you go.
So what are the important points of setting up a new vegetable garden? It seems to me that the main point is to make it efficient, which means making it easy: that means easy access, easy working, easy watering, and easy cropping.
This book draws together all the experiences I have of creating new vegetable gardens, of updating old ones: the good points, the bad points, the mistakes, the failures – so you can benefit from my experience, and get it right first time.
And if you have Kindle Unlimited, it's free to download! (only a fiver if you don't, and worth every penny, if I do say so myself).
If you are
too mean to spend five quid not able to obtain the eBook, here are the potted headlines, based on advice from the RHS, with a few additional comments from me:
1) “A sunny site is ideal, but more shade-tolerant crops include beetroot, chard, peas, runner beans, spinach and salads.” This is very good advice.
2) “Growing your plants in soil (ie in the ground) is ideal, but if your plot doesn't even support weeds it might be unsuitable.” I can't say I have seen a garden which does not even support weeds!! If your garden is full of horrible weeds such as couch grass, ground elder and/or bindweed, however, see item 3.
3) “Growbags or containers filled with potting compost will give good crops where soil is not an option.” Be aware that they will only last for one season, but if you don't have any beds yet, starting with a couple of growbags gives you a chance to try it, for very little money. They also take up a lot less room than a “proper” veg bed, and are only temporary. So they might be the ideal choice, if you are not quite sure if growing veg is really something that you want to do. 4) “Clear an area of weeds by digging. Ideally add garden compost or rotted manure and fertiliser to improve the soil. “ If you have a weedy corner that you think would be good for veg, get out there with a garden fork, and dig it over. Lovely healthy exercise! Pull out every scrap of root that you find, as well as all the green stuff on the surface.
5) “Sow seeds of whatever you like to eat. Crops that taste best freshly gathered are many peoples favourites - salads, tomatoes, new potatoes, chard and other leaves” . This is such good advice: so often, new gardeners think they have to plant spinach, Brussels sprouts and, errr, something else unpalatable, just because “that's what Grandad always grew on his allotment”. Not so! Grow only the things you like to eat. I would also add, grow things which are expensive to buy, such as raspberries.
6) “There is no need to buy expensive seeds, bargain ones in supermarkets meet the same legal standards “. Very true: you don't need to go to an expensive online supplier: most supermarkets now have a rack of veg seeds, usually in the fresh veg section.
7) “Seeds need warmth, moisture, light and air most easily provided by sowing in pots, covering very lightly with sieved compost and watering ideally from below by standing pots in a shallow dish of water “ Again, good advice, although it misses out the essential word “indoors”. Sow your seed in pots, or in seed trays if you have them, and put them on a window ledge so that you remember to water them a little every day. Also, a lot of seeds are temperature-sensitive, so if you put the pots outside, they may not germinate until long after you have lost interest in the whole idea.
8) “Sowing outdoors is best for peas and beans, as many plants are needed for a decent serving. Leave a finger width between small seeds, two fingers between peas and a hand's width between broad beans. “ Again, very true: there is no point trying to grow peas in a growbag.
9) “Water heavily every 14 days if drought strikes and keep weeds down” Water “heavily”? *rolls eyes* "drought?" There must be something lost in translation here. There are two parts to this advice:
Firstly, the seeds. You should check them every day, and water if they are drying out. How will you know? Gently dab your finger on the surface of the soil. If a few grains of soil or compost stick to your finger, it's ok. If your finger comes up perfectly clean and dry, they need watering. Their advice about watering from below is a good one: if you have done so, check that the water-filled tray still has water in it.
Once you have planted your germinated seedlings outdoors, in the soil or in growbag, then you will need to water them, but not "heavily".
Always water gently. Don't drown the poor things, and don't pour the water on so hard or fast that it washes the soil away. Water slowly, trickle the water gently around the stems of your new seedlings, don't jet-wash them with the hose, or flatten them with a cascade from above. Where possible, water just the soil and the base of the plant, not the foliage.
As for “keep weeds down”, that means to tease out any cheeky weeds that dare to sprout in among your seedlings, because they will be competing for water and light, and being weeds, they are bound to be a great deal better at it than your delicate little veggie-lings! And how do you know if they are weeds or not? When you plant your seeds, or when you plant out the sprouting ones, plant them in neat rows, not at random. This way, you'll easily be able to spot any infiltrators.
Right, there you go, easy veg starter information: so what question will we answer tomorrow? Over to you...
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