Growing your own vegetables is endlessly rewarding. Imagine harvesting fresh and healthy peppers, sugar snap peas, green beans, tomatoes and spinach to name but just a few. The famous physician and mind-body expert Deepak Chopra talks about eating ‘the seven colours of the rainbow’; planning and growing your own choice of vegetables would mean instant access to some of these colours. Red tomatoes, orange carrots, yellow bell pepper, green spinach, purple beetroot, together with a few fruits, and you’re almost there!

It’s always best to start small and work upwards if this is your first attempt. Learning which vegetables to pick and how to tend to them is easier than you might imagine. There is also the added bonus that it is an activity that could be shared with children or grandchildren, so you’re getting the next generation out in the garden and having fun too! Let’s get started with some easy steps.

Picking Your Location:

There are three essentials when considering your location:-

Sunshine: soil temperature depends on sunshine. More sunshine equates to light and heat which in turn will allow your vegetables to thrive.

Water: choose a location that is close to a source of water as you will have to give them a drink in dry spells, especially tomatoes or peppers or any other warm-season vegetable.

Quality soil: not all, but most vegetables, do better in moist, well-drained soil which is rich in organic matter.

Deciding what to Plant:

Some questions to ask to help you choose which vegetables to plant:-

What do you and your family like to eat? What is difficult to buy in shops or at farmers’ markets? What is expensive to buy but easily grown and managed at home?

A common mistake for first time growers is over-estimating the number of plantings especially warm- seasoned vegetables like tomatoes as they keep ‘giving’ throughout the season. How many times have you had a bag of tomatoes given to you by friends or family as they have far more yield than they could ever eat. You may not need very many plants to give you the quantity you require.

Suggestions for a first-time vegetable garden grower:-

Carrots, beans, beetroots, lettuce, swiss chard, spinach, radishes and tomatoes.

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Space required:

It does not have to be a large space, in fact smaller is best, especially to start with. You can even use containers, but if you do be cautious about over-watering due to the lack of drainage. More importantly your space must be healthy and a small clear 1.5m x 1.5m will produce more than a weed- filled 6m x 6m bed.

Planning and Design:

When you think about traditional vegetable growing you may imagine neat rows of different vegetables that you can walk up and down watering, then harvesting. This method is called Row Cropping and does exist, but it’s best suited for large or commercial vegetable gardens. A more economical and efficient method for a small garden or beginner vegetable grower is to choose Intensive Vegetable Gardening. It has other names such as Biodynamic Gardening, Chinese Way (the method can be traced back 4000 years to China), Postage Stamp or Square Foot gardening. This method is very successful in increasing the yield and variety of vegetables grown. Whichever method you choose to call it, here are the steps to take for assured success. As it is a small area the tasks are not daunting.

Soil - the soil must be well prepared. Clear all the debris and weeds then spread organic matter (about 7cm deep) and mix or dig with the existing soil.

Spacing - plants should be organised 2 or 3 at a time in a narrow row (or as far as the gardener’s arm can reach). The idea is to never step on the soil and to utilize nearly every square inch of the growing space.

Raised Beds - a permanent raised bed can be created by bordering it with stone, wood or cement and this space is dedicated to growing vegetables season after season. Keep it small, the size depending on the length of the gardener’s arm, no wider than the reach to the centre from either side. Of course, once you get hooked you may probably need more than one raised bed.

Crop Following - or Successive Planting means you can increase your harvest without increasing your spaces. For instance, tomatoes or peppers will follow an earlier spring-lettuce crop. Then in late summer, choose a cool-season crop like carrots. It’s exciting to learn how much will grow in your ‘postage stamp’ 1.5m x 1.5m plot!

With a little planning, learning and experience, it’s possible to enjoy the maximum fruits of your labours with the minimum of maintenance.

To find out more on designing your vegetable garden contact North Leeds Garden Design today

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