As a country we are going through hard times and thoughts are always turning to how we can save a bit of money. Our parents and grandparents would have considered a vegetable patch as an essential part of everyday life. To them, digging up the potatoes for tonight's dinner was easy and natural. For us, it seems idyllic but far too hard. But it is actually much easier and more rewarding than you might think.
It is common knowledge that vegetable only retain their nutrients for a short time after being picked. The trip from the farmer to the supermarket and into your fridge could take as much as two weeks or more. However if your vegetables are just outside your door, you know you are giving your family the very best.
If you are sowing from seed, they are best started indoors or in a greenhouse. Simply plant in neat rows in good compost. Special containers can be bought from garden centres for this purpose. Remember to mark what they are as they all look pretty much the same at the early stage of germination. Remember to water them often. Put them outside for a few days before planting them to give them a chance to get used to the weather.
Preparing the soil
Take the time to dig in plenty of nutrient rich compost a few weeks before you plant your seedlings. This will give the ground time to settle. If you want you can build walls around your garden area lifting it from the ground for easier access. Vegetable can also be grown in large pots and hanging baskets with good compost and plenty of drainage.
Choosing what to grow
Obviously our first thought should be “what do I like to eat”. There is no point in growing something which no one will want. Also you may want to consider what is easy to grow and will give quick results.
- Tomatoes: everyone's favourites. These can be grown in containers and will require bamboo stakes once they grow tall enough. Pinch out newly emerging leaves to encourage bushier growth. Give them a special tomato feed once a week and water often.
- Salad leaves: These are the slugs favourites so make sure you have protection in place either organically or the nasty slug pellets. The best types of lettuces are the cut and grow again type of salad leaves. This will ensure a summer long supply.
- Runner Beans: these grow really quickly and need to be up against a wall or fence or tied to bamboo sticks. The more you pick the beans, the more they will grow.
- Carrots: One the seeds have grown the carrots need to be ruthlessly thinned. This will leave enough room between the plants for big thick carrots. Keep an eye out for carrot fly which can decimate a crop. Use fly resistant types of carrot.
These are just a few of the many options available. Some vegetable will take two years before you can harvest them, but are usually worth the wait. Decide in advance what you are going to grow and sow them at the right times of the year for a good year long crop.
Unfortunately every gardener will come across nasty insects which insist on eating your very best tomato. Keeping on top of these pests can be difficult. Sometimes simply picking the insects off the plants is enough, but occasionally only the sprays and pellets from the garden centre will do.
Choose organic if at all possible as this will keep your soil in the best condition and read up on alternatives to chemicals such as beer in a saucer for slugs. Companion planting is another way to keep insects away. If all else fails simply cover the vegetables with netting or plastic.
Getting out in the garden is a wonderful way of relaxing and having your own vegetables on the table gives a fantastic sense of achievement. Start small and each year expand your repertoire by a few veg and before you know it you will be outdoing the supermarket and impressing all your friends.