A good, healthy vegetable plot is essential if you’re planning to grow your own. Our guide will give you all the information you need to set up a sucessful plot that will give you years of happy vegetable gardening.
Choosing your vegetables
Deciding what to grow is one of the best things about vegetable growing, but it’s important to choose carefully and not get too carried away. Choose vegetables you really like, and look out for interesting varieties that you can harvest progressively. This will ensure that you have a ready supply of delicious vegetables throughout the growing season.
Vegetables can be ordered into four main groups, so choose the vegetables you like from each of these groups.
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, swede and turnips
Potatoes, beetroot, carrots, chicory, artichokes, parsnips and salsify
All other vegetables and salad crops
Peas, all types of beans
Once you’ve made your selection, divide up your plot into four beds. Grow vegetables in four separate beds, grouped according to our guide. The reason for this ‘grouping’ is that you should not a grow the same vegetable in the same place year after year. Continuous cropping of the same plant can exhaust the soil of nutrients and pests and diseases can build up.
The answer to this potential problem is consistent plot rotation: in your second year of vegetable growing, your vegetables will ‘move up’ one bed. Your group two vegetables will be planted where the group one vegetables previously were, group three moves to the group two bed and so on. This allows the soil to recover, and the rotation can even be beneficial to future vegetables: for example, the nitrogen that peas and beans naturally deposit in the soil is perfect for encouraging growth in cauliflowers and cabbages.
When you’re laying out your vegetable plot, bear in mind these starter tips:
- Beds about 1.2m (4ft) wide with paths all around are perfect, because you can water and weed without having to tread on the bed.
- Leave sufficient space between the beds to allow easy access to the plants. A path with a hard surface the width of a wheelbarrow is ideal.
- Make sure there is a source of water nearby. It may be worth investing in an outdoor tap or installing a rainwater butt nearby.
- If your soil is poor or doesn’t drain well, consider building raised beds. By creating a retaining wall from bricks or old railway sleepers, you can add a thick layer of organic material that will improve the soil. In addition, raised beds are easier to tend and don’t need digging over in the autumn.
- If you’ve only got a small space, choose early or dwarf vegetable cultivars as they require less space and can be planted closer together.