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Home and Gardens

Published on February 1st, 2016 | by Perrin


Planning a vegetable plot

These are the early spring months when we decide what to grow in a vegetable garden or allotment. Whether you are new to GYO or an old hand looking to grow something new, here are some planning considerations.

What to grow: firstly understand why you want to GYO. Is it for the fresh picked flavour? No point in growing and storing maincrop potatoes but a few new/salad potatoes dug and cooked within minutes are a taste revelation. How about unusual veg? Look for ‘heritage’ varieties of everyday crops like tomatoes or give space to veg that shops rarely stock such as Salsify, easy to grow and rare in the UK. If you like salads plan to grow a row of Rocket. It is ready in a few weeks, can be succession sown for the whole summer and is very reliable. Also it is as cheap to buy a packet of 500 seeds than a bag of pre-packed rocket leaves!

How much to grow: not every vegetable yields the same volume of its crop so you do not need the same number of seeds or plants for everything. For example, runner beans can yield up to 5 times the crop per plant than garden peas. So you may decide to grow a wigwam of 6 bean plants but two whole rows of peas. If you want to harvest 30 carrots then you need to sow (at least) 30 carrot seeds but think about the consequences of growing 30 courgette plants: your entire veg plot would be covered and you could feed the neighbourhood with courgettes.

Finally, be realistic about how much time you will spend in the vegetable garden sowing, transplanting, weeding, thinning and watering before you dig up another stretch of lawn or take on a full sized allotment. Better to be successful with a few choice crops than over commit and end up stressed and frustrated. Not the point of gardening at all.

Limited space means prioritising what you grow.
Think about Fruit
If the annual cycle of veg growing seems too much like hard work but you like the thought of picking and eating fresh produce then take a look at fruit. Tree fruits like apple, pear and plum make good small trees for a garden. If you are limited to walls and fences then espalier, cordon or fan training is ideal, many readers will know that I have a fan trained apricot that produced a crop last year (very proud!), but again apples and pears are well suited to this sort of training.
If soft fruit is your choice or space is very limited, then strawberries can be grown in a small bed or even vertically in pots on a patio. They need sunshine, water and feeding and will reward you with the great taste of fruit that has not been refrigerated. I favour autumn fruiting raspberries as the pruning is so simple and they crop after the strawberries have ended.
There really is a fruit for everyone to grow so browse the catalogues and remind yourself that it will soon be summer!

Alison Marsden lives in Southborough and provides on-site advice to gardeners as well as teaching for Kent Adult Education Services and giving talks to groups and societies.

There is no long term commitment – just all the advice you need an hour at a time. Find out more at www.gardeningbydesign.co.uk or call 07803 045327

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