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Gardening Articles

Planning the Vegetable Patch


Growing vegetables is one of the most rewarding aspects of gardening. Even in a small space it is possible to grow a wide range of nutritious vegetables.

A reasonable quantity of vegetables can be produced even in a small to average size garden. Most species can be grown much more closely together than generally indicated if the soil is rich and constantly replenished with organic matter and a good watering regime is maintained. In a larger garden partial self-sufficiency can be achieved across a wide range of vegetables if the garden is efficiently planned and maintained.

The most important prerequisite for growing vegetables is an abundance of sunlight. A vegetable garden needs to be located in the most open and sunny part of the garden, away from overhanging trees or shade from buildings.

This often means that the vegetable garden has to be centrally sited. Not always an appealing thought but properly maintained there is no reason why a vegetable garden should not be as attractive as an ornamental garden.

Ideally the vegetable garden should be within easy access to the kitchen door. A small pathway, lined on either side with herbs, can lead to a bed containing well-mulched rows of vegetables in season.

When choosing a site for the vegetable garden, avoid large, well-established trees. Not only will they cast unwanted shadows they will also compete for moisture and nutrients from the soil. Also consider the need of some crops for shelter against prevailing winds. One way of providing this is to plant a hedge of small slow-growing bushes.

To get the most from the available space in the vegetable garden, first draw up a garden plan. Factors to be considered when making a plan include companion planting, succession planting and crop rotation. The general rule is to alternate root crops and leaf crops, ensuring that the lower-growing species are placed at the front of the garden, where larger plants will not block sunlight.

Group perennial crops such as rhubarb, asparagus and strawberries together in one bed, where they can be mulched easily in the winter.

Allow sufficient space between rows to walk, weed and harvest. Remember, however, that if the soil is enriched with plenty of organic matter and kept well watered, then plants can be grown quite close together. Keep in mind that tall-growing crops like sweet corn, climbing beans and tomatoes should be positioned towards the back of the garden.

Use graph paper to draw a ground plan for the garden, starting with the spring growth. Record how long each group of plants takes to mature in your particular climate. After several seasons a pattern will emerge.

In this day and age there are good reasons for adding a vegetable garden to the general landscape. Increased knowledge about the effects of pesticides and chemical fertilizers on the food chain is a concern to many families. It is possible to supplement the average family diet with home grown vegetables that are not only free from chemicals but also rich in nutrient value due to their freshness.

Michael Russell

Your Independent guide to Gardening

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Copyright 2006 - Rachel Suesskow - A Juggling Mum