Starting a vegetable plot can seem both exciting and daunting. Whether you have a large plot available to you or just a couple of square feet the principle of locating, preparing and planning the plot are the same.
Try and choose a location that is away from large tree and hedges. These will cast shade on you plot and compete for water and nutrients. Most vegetables grow best in a sunny location so if you can choose go for a sunny spot. One that is sheltered from cold and strong winds is ideal. You may therefore wish to grow next to a fence of a garden wall.
These fruiting crops often favourites with children need more than 6 hours of sunlight in a day
- Courgettes or squash
A number of vegetables will need at least half a day’s amount of sunlight (though don’t forget in the growing period the sun is rising by 6.00am). These peas, beans and root crops are all great for growing with kids.
- Runner & French beans
But if your plot is in a shady spot, don’t despair you can still have great success with the following:-
- Most leafy crops such as lettuce, rocket & other salads
- Pak choi, spinach & stir fry greens
- Herbs such as mint, parsley, coriander, chives
- Woodland fruits such as blueberries & blackcurrants
You can create a vegetable bed in an ordinary garden border and mix your vegetable growing in with your flowering plants. You may wish however to create a number of raised beds. Normal advice on the creation of a discrete vegetable bed is that it should be no wider than 1.2m (4ft) so that it can be comfortably accessed from both sides (or half that if a bed is positioned against a fence). If you have very young children you will need to bear in mind the length of their arms and adjust the width accordingly. A raised bed, which is essentially a specially constructed container with no base and where the growing area is higher than the ground and sides usually made of wood or brick, works really well for children. The slightly raised sides prevents them from stepping onto the bed and you can create paths around the bed which makes it accessible even in wet muddy weather. You can also fill the bed with the most appropriate soil and start your growing from a base of well enriched soil.
How to Optimise The Space on Your Vegetable Plot?
You may wish to grow all year round and to do this you need to:-
- Use space between crops. Sow quick maturing crops such as ,
between rows of cabbage and slower growing plants. Use space around the base of taller plants, eg low growing pumpkins around beans. Sow fast growing crops such as lettuce in bare soil between harvests. Use space earlier and later in the year by protecting plants from cold, eg use cloches. This also speeds up growth.
- Use vertical space, eg simple wigwams for peas and beans and a wall or fence for ‘espalier’ apple trees. Planting beans is a good way of using a spot that’s shady at ground level, but sunny a bit higher, because they will grow toward the light. Beans can easily get a metre and a half tall, and have pretty flowers, so they’ll look good, too.
- Sow less seed, more often, eg sow carrots every three weeks from March to June for a succession of harvests.
Plants hate being crowded and will be weak and small if they haven’t got enough space. As a rough guide, leave about 20cm around a row of salad leaves, 35cm around a row of carrots and 45cm around a row of beans. Courgettes will need quite a lot of space – 75cm to one metre for each per plant.
Planning What to Grow
Take a look at this planting plan from www.enjoy-your-garden.com. |It has a classic plant division of brassicas (the cabbage family) root vegetables, permanent (perennial ) vegetables and others. Each section should be rotated every year to help reduce the effect of soil pests and other diseases.
For other ideas of see this garden plan for a community garden in the South of England with raised beds in partial shade.
If you recently watched the Great Allotment Challenge on BBC TV then you may be interested to know that the plans for the contestant’s allotments are available. Here is the plan for Rob’s (the winner of the second series) allotment.
If you would like more information on growing specific vegetables please see our growing with kids pages.