Did last year’s crop of home-grown vegetables disappoint? From plant selection to pest management, we’ve got six tricks that will help you grow your best vegetable garden ever.
Find a Sunny, Open Site for Your Vegetable Garden
Locate your vegetable garden in a sunny, open site as far away as possible from the road. How much land you want to set aside for your kitchen garden depends on the conditions of your plot and on how much fruit and vegetables you need to grow. Some crops take up more room than others, but on average a 9 feet by 9 feet plot should be enough to provide vegetables for a family.
Be Selective With Garden Soil
Most vegetables and many fruit trees and bushes will grow in any good garden soil provided it is loamy, rich in nutrients and has good drainage combined with good moisture retention. Applying compost in autumn will ensure that the soil has a good humus content, but if you are growing a herb garden there is no need for compost as most herbs prefer poor, dry soils.
Leave Some Space Between Plants
When sowing seeds or planting seedlings, plan to leave a good distance between each plant. Plants do not like to be too close together and diseases thrive in cramped conditions.
Rotate Crops Through the Garden
To prevent pests and diseases specific to one type of crop accumulating in the soil, annual vegetables should be rotated from bed to bed each year, completing the circuit in three or four years. Plants with a high nutrient requirement can be followed the next year by a crop with a low one to ensure that the soil is not exhausted of any particular nutrient. Keep a garden diary so that you know which vegetables you have grown where and when.
Consider “Companion Plantings”
You may also choose to incorporate companion planting principles into your garden plot, where specific plants and vegetables profit from beneficial effects that they have on one another. For example, French marigolds (Tagetes patula) planted next to broad beans will attract hoverflies. The hoverflies in turn eat aphids that might otherwise infest the beans.
Make Gardening Easier on Yourself
When planning your vegetable garden, incorporate paths or borders so that every part of the bed is within easy reach. Locating your vegetable garden near an outdoor tap will save you lots of time and energy carrying heavy watering cans. Mulch the beds with wilted grass clippings to prevent the soil from drying out and to impede the growth of weeds. If your garden soil is poor, grow your vegetables in raised beds so that you can add good-quality topsoil. Raised beds will also save you from bending down, so your back will appreciate it too.