Once you've decided to grow your own produce, it's important to choose carefully what vegetables you want to grow. Pick vegetables and salads that you like eat and varieties that can be grow progressively throughout the spring and summer, so that you have a constant supply of delicious, fresh vegetables during the whole growing season.
Vegetables can be classified into four main groups:
- Root crops: potatoes, beetroot, carrots, chicory, turnips, parsnips
- Brassicas: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, swede, radishes
- Legumes: peas and all types of beans
- Onions and salad crops: including spring onions, garlic, leeks
Choose vegetables from each of these groups, depending on the size of your plot.
The next step is to divide your plot into four areas. Plant vegetables from each of the four groups above in four separate beds. This is because the same vegetable should not be grown in the same place year after year, as the continuous cropping of the same plant can exhaust the soil of nutrients, and pests and diseases can build up.
The way to avoid this potential problem is consistent plot rotation. This is where every year you 'move up' your vegetables into the next bed, so your group two vegetables will be planted where the group three vegetables previously were, group three moves to the group four bed and so on. This allows the soil to recover, and the rotation can even be beneficial to future vegetables; for example, the nitrogen that peas and beans naturally deposit in the soil is perfect for encouraging growth in cauliflowers and cabbages.
Tips for creating your vegetable plot
- A good size for a bed is about 1.2m (4ft) wide with paths all around it, because you can have access to the bed to water and weed it without having to tread on it.
- Raised beds are beds created with walls all around them, either from timber, plastic or bricks. They are easier to tend to and don't need a lot of digging or weeding.
- Make sure there is a source of water nearby. It may be worth investing in an outdoor tap or installing a rainwater butt nearby.
- If you've only got a small space, choose early or dwarf vegetable varieties as they require less space and can be planted closer together.