Starting a Vegetable Garden to Fight Tough Economic Times
As the majority of us start to find ourselves with much more time on our hands and a lot of time at home, lucky garden owners have started to wonder at the further possibilities of what they can do with their little patch. During a period of panic buying and some food shortages, perhaps you too have been considering growing your own fruit and vegetables. If you initially dismissed the idea as too much like hard work, then think again.
You can grow food from seed to plate in a surprisingly short timescale (although not necessarily quick enough to feed yourself homegrown food before the end of the lockdown) and are undoubtedly likely to save money on grocery bills. Also, don’t underestimate the sheer feeling of accomplishment at serving up food that you grew, from nothing but seeds, to your family.
Starting Your Garden
If you have a favorite sunbathing spot, sadly, this may be the very patch of garden you need to sacrifice. Most vegetables, like most plants, crave sunlight and dislike being caught in cold breezes (wind can shake some plants’ roots, and others will show signs of windburn on their leaves).
Treat them like sunbathers and find a suitably sunny and sheltered spot to get them off to the best start (although if you’re not willing to sacrifice your prime sheltered spot, a quality windbreaker may be able to make up for exposing your plants to the cold).
Your patch will need to be cleared completely, and weeds carefully kept out over the following days (they creep back in all too quickly). Covering the patch with a layer of mulch, ideally, an inch or two deep should help keep out weed seedlings.
Finding compost for this layer should be both cheap and easy, anything from leaf to mushroom compost will do. Be careful when sourcing your compost that this source isn’t likely to have weeds as a central component, as this may defeat the object. Warming the soil (by covering it with a groundsheet, for instance) can allow you to sow a little earlier.
The Ideal Layout
The ideal pattern is to divide your patch into four, with different crops in each quadrant, and perhaps room for a little planting at the central hub where the quadrants meet. Each quadrant should be used for a different crop type, one for legumes (beans, peas, mange touts) one for root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, beetroots) one for leafy salad plants, brassicas, and herbs (cabbage, lettuce, rocket, mint, parsley) and another for the more unusual vegetable such as gourds (cucumbers, courgettes, squash or pumpkins) or tomatoes.
The reason for dividing the soil in this way is that all crops have an effect on the soil they are grown in and can potentially build up diseases, leach the soil of certain nutrients, and otherwise make it more difficult for crops of the same type in future seasons. Other crop types will have different effects, and, over roughly four years, the soil should replenish itself, which is why rotating crop types through these four patches is an idea that has lasted so long.
Taking Care of Your Patch
Of course, some soil will need nutrient supplements from the get-go. Soil types vary widely from town to town, even from street to street, so knowing your soil and buying appropriate supplements for the crops you want to grow is vital. There are plenty of guides to identifying soil and purchasing the right feed online, and most garden centers will stock what you need. You should also measure your topsoil to know how many supplements might be required.
When Summer comes round, the soil will inevitably get dry (and some crop types can be particularly thirsty), so you’re going to need a hose to water the patch. The ideal situation is a hose reel, which requires minimal setup, and there are many varieties of these to choose from.
Enjoying the Fruits of Your Labor
For a beginner, thinking about what to plant can be tricky. Still, there are excellent online guides available to which crops are quicker growing and more abundant and require less work than others.
Then comes the act of lovingly tending to your plants, weeding, dealing with pests, and, finally, harvesting and sitting back and enjoying your homegrown fruit and veg.