Grow your own

Getting Started

Preparation is key

When it comes to successful vegetable growing, a little preparation goes a long way. Find out all you can about your soil, draw up a plan for your plot and then you can start the fun bit – choosing which of your favourite foods you want to grow.

Setting up your plot
When you’re thinking about where to grow fruit and vegetables in your garden, bear the following considerations in mind for the best results:
Vegetable garden

Choosing your site
  • Try to find a sunny spot with good drainage. A south-facing aspect is ideal.
  • Avoid overhanging tree branches and shade cast by buildings or hedges.
  • Make sure there is plenty of water. Avoid the area next to hedges as this tends to be dry.
  • Provide shelter from wind. You may need to put up a windbreak.
  • Make sure there is protection from marauding wildlife. You may need a rabbit and/or deer-proof fence.

    The layout
    Fruit and vegetable plots require quite a lot of work – planting, weeding, watering, tying, harvesting, manuring and so on. So make your life as easy as possible by designing the plot ergonomically – making it low maintenance.
    Vegetable plot A good idea is to divide the plot into four areas – this enables you to rotate the crops, minimising disease problems.

    Ensure the paths between the beds are wide enough to take a wheelbarrow, and have a hard surface – paving slabs will stop your feet getting too muddy.

    Plot Beds about 1.2m (4ft) wide with paths all around are perfect, because you can water and weed without getting on to the bed.

    Make sure there is a source of water nearby. It’s worth forking out a few quid and getting an outdoor tap. You’ll thank me on those hot, sunny days when you don’t have to carry heavy watering cans hundreds of yards

    Saving space
    There’s room for a few fruit and vegetables in any garden, no matter how small.

    Sweetcorn and marigold You don’t have to have a dedicated fruit and vegetable plot to grow them successfully. You can mix them in with your flowering plants. It’s what cottage gardeners have done for centuries.
    Rhubarb chard You can grow vegetables among ornamentals (or vice versa). There are many varieties which have ornamental qualities, such as red flowered beans, crinkly leaved lettuce, black French beans and yellow tomatoes.Even the frilly foliage of the humble carrot is pretty.
    Use vertical spaces in the garden. How about creating a temporary ‘hedge’ of runner beans over a net, or putting a few willow teepees in a bed and growing beans, gourds, cucumbers or melons over them?
    Container peas Then there are containers. A patio of potatoes, prize petunias and pelargoniums will get them talking! Salad leaves, herbs, courgettes and climbing beans all grow perfectly well in containers. On a warm sunny patio, add tomatoes and sweet peppers to the list.
    Of course, you could always get your hands on my space by getting an allotment – link to Go further section.
    Developing a productive garden
    Growing vegetables and fruit successfully is basically no different to growing ornamental plants successfully. Take care of them and they’ll take care of you. Start with good plants or seed, give them what they want: food, water and light – and they’ll do the work for you.
    Organic manure Improving the soil
    Vegetables and fruit are greedy devils, and where do you think they get all the goodness they need? Yes, the soil. It’s important to incorporate lots of bulky organic manure and fertiliser every year. See the section on digging in Module 4, Practical planting.

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