Growing your own vegetables: Tip 1

Are you planning to grow some vegetables?  Are you are beginner?  Wondering how to start?

Any good gardener has learnt through experience.  They know their soil well and they know what grows in the different parts of their garden – and what doesn’t.  Different gardeners can give different and even conflicting advice, because conditions in gardens vary and because different people have different approaches to gardening.  This can be very confusing to the beginner.  All you can do is listen to as much advice as you wish – and follow whatever seems to make most sense or “feels right”.  Over time, you will be the expert on your garden.

Tip Number 1. Choose where you are going to grow your vegetables – and start small. You don’t have to grow everything in your first year.

If your garden has soil you have a number of choices about where to grow vegetables or fruit:

  • throughout your garden (Ornamental Kitchen Garden)
  • in separate vegetable beds (Vegetable garden)
  • in containers (Container Garden)
  • a mixture of the above
Ornamental kitchen garden at Barnsdale Gardens
Ornamental kitchen garden at Barnsdale Gardens

An Ornamental Kitchen Garden can look beautiful and – with some effort – be very productive.  Always bear in mind that trees and shrubs cast shadows (most vegetables and fruit do best in full sun) and their hungry roots rob neighbouring vegetables and fruit of nutrients and water.  Slugs and snails enjoy the cover of a mixed border and this increases your work. But you can certainly enjoy the fruits of your labour – in more ways than one..

vegetable garden with seperate beds
Vegetable Garden

If you have space for a separate Vegetable Garden position it wherever the light is best.  I recommend beds with paths between them so that you do not have to walk on the soil.  This avoids compaction of the soil helping to keep it in good condition.  The beds need to be narrow enough for you to harvest and weed from the path; usually 1 to 1.2m wide if you can access both sides and half of that if you can only access from one.  (Check your own arm span.) The beds can be any length, but anything longer than 5m and you are likely to give in to temptation and walk on the bed, rather than around it.

Container grown vegetables and herbs; care home garden
Container grown vegetables and herbs

Most vegetables can be grown in containers.  Aim for containers with a depth and width of at least 45cm, otherwise frequent watering will be needed.

The amount of time needed to care for your vegetables will depend on the number of containers you have and the area of ground you are tending.  It’s best to start small, and expand as you gain confidence.  This way you will “grow” into the time involved – rather than be overwhelmed if you are initially very ambitious.  As with so many things, little and often is best – i.e. tending to your garden on most days for at least 20 minutes.  I will confess that I love it when I have at least a couple of hours.

If you have a south-facing wall – you are extremely lucky.  The protective and heat-retentive properties of a south-facing wall are ideal for those plants from hotter climes – tomatoes, peppers, chillies, aubergines, peaches, nectarines, grapes etc.  Although a greenhouse is much more likely to yield results as far north as Manchester, UK.