Growing your own produce is a hot topic these days. What could be fresher and more rewarding than a few veggies or herbs harvested from the vegetable plot and popped straight in the pot or tossed in a green salad, and it’s a lot easier than you might think!
Some tips for first timers!:
– Start slow, start small
– Build raised beds
– Be creative!
– Enrich the soil
– Mulch, mulch, mulch!
The size of your garden and soil type will dictate what crops will thrive. The secret to a successful vegetable garden, whether sandy or clay soil, is plenty of organic compost to improve the soil. This should be added during the Winter months. After a few years of adding organic material to your sandy soil it will be a haven for any plants or vegetables. Squash,pumpkin, butternut, peas, cabbage, lettuce, cauliflower, potatoes, tomatoes and onions will all flourish in an enriched sandy soil. Clay soil needs plenty of well-rotted manure or compost dug in. The soil needs to be loose and aerated to allow water and oxygen to reach plant roots quickly. A faster way is raised beds filled with a good quality compost or top soil.
It’s important to practise crop rotation as different plants use different nutrients and rotating your crops will keep the soil from depleting all its nutrients. Keep a plan and record new planting to help you remember where you last planted what!
Swiss Chard (Bright Lights) looks stunning when planted in garden borders. Plant it in clusters in the garden for effect. Different coloured lettuce, whether planted together or in rows are ideal for borders, runner beans and tall-growing tomatoes are perfect for covering a garage wall or fence.
Herbs are a great asset, especially if you can grow a selection near the kitchen door, handy when you are busy preparing a meal, and the herbs smell delicious too! Most herbs aren’t too fussy on soil type and will happily grow in pots or in the ground. The flowers of chives, garlic, fennel, coriander and rocket make a tasty edible garnish to meals, also pansies and violas can be used as a garnish for fruit salads and ice cream. Nasturtiums are the easiest plants to grow. The leaves are delicious, and the bold yellow, orange and red flowers add a peppery and visual zing to salads.
Small apple, pear, olive and many citrus trees, especially the kumquat will fit in to any size garden, though larger trees can be kept to a manageable size by hard pruning. Grape vines will double up as shade over a pergola, not to mention fruiting pomegranate shrubs, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries ( which prefer an ericaceous soil).
Starting a new vegetable patch in your garden has wonderful benefits. You will find it therapeutic and relaxing, and, not only are you becoming more self-sufficient, you are also contributing to the environment.