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A beginner’s guide to starting a vegetable garden

At Addingtons we can help to provide a vegetable area for you with your garden design. However if you are looking into this yourself as to how to create a vegetable garden yourself; some tips are below taken from the Telegraph.


Choose your ground

Give vegetables the sunniest spot you have. Sunshine makes for stocky, disease-resistant plants and sweeter flavoured onions, carrots,tomatoes and chillies. If you need shade, for salads or strawberries, it’s easy to create some with netting or a wattle fence.

Most ordinary garden soils are fine for veg growing, but avoid extremes. If your soil is thin – less than a spit deep (the length of your spade’s blade), or full of stones that cause your carrots to kink, build raised beds or grow crops in large pots. Clay soil is nutrient-rich and good for summer crops. But as this type of soil sits cold and wet in winter, you’ll need to build raised beds to extend your season.


Slugs and snails

Keeping your plot neat and tidy by clearing weeds and leaves gets rid of the places where molluscs hide. Don’t have long grass or dense flower borders adjacent to your veg plot as slugs hidden within will mount night-time raids on your crops.

Where possible put a path (ideally paved, but compacted soil is fine), in between beds as a no-man’s – or rather no-slug’s – land where they will be easily picked off by you or the birds. The lower surface area, compared to a covering of bark or raked earth means that they are also more likely to encounter a sprinkle of organic slug pellets.


War on weeds

A “clean” weed-free plot before you start is the key to success with vegetables. Otherwise you risk an endless war of attrition to prevent your plot from being swamped. The non-chemical approach is to pull out weeds and their roots as you dig.

If there are perennial weeds with spreading wiry or deep roots, such as docks and couch grass, then cover the soil with card or doubled-up sheets of newspaper topped with a 2in (5cm) mulch of compost.

This is sufficient to stop even persistent weeds regrowing, but is soft enough to cut through with a trowel when you are ready to plant pot-grown veg and fruit.

Given the choice, most gardeners would be chemical-free, but if you are time-poor it is better to start with a clean plot than fail and give up in the first year. The best weedkillers contain systemic glyphosate that kills right down to the roots, then breaks down in the soil and will not affect subsequent crops.

Spray on a dry day and be prepared to reapply in spring.


Allotment or not?

An allotment buzzing with life and brimful of fresh produce is an achievable dream if – and this is where it goes pear-shaped – you have time to tend it and conquer the weeds. Before you commit make sure the plot is right:

• Choose a site near where you live. Every mile to drive will be a disincentive to go.

• Some sites are more family-friendly than others. Look out for play equipment on other plots if you have young gardeners in tow.

• Proximity to the water supply and the drop-off point for things such as manure deliveries reduce time and effort lugging stuff about. If possible, avoid shade-casting perimeter trees.

• Not all plots have water. To become self-sufficient you will need to buy a shed, gutter and water butts.

• Don’t feel obliged to take the first plot offered to you if you don’t feel it can work. You are better to wait and get one close by than struggle with one that’s not right.


Advice you can ignore…

• Crop rotation: the sensible farming practice of not growing crops in the same place doesn’t work on a small scale, as the crop turnover is too fast. Instead, try not to grow things in the same spot two years running.

• You can ignore the feeling that you are a failure if you buy veg plants rather than sowing your own. Super-reliable grafted melons and cucumbers are worth the money.

The same goes for slow-starting seeds that require a heated propagator, such as chillies and aubergines.


…and what you can’t

• Advice on seed packets. Never start earlier than recommended, as plants that get off to a weak start in low light never recover. Far better to sow later, in the middle or towards the end of the recommended sowing window, when seedlings romp away.

• The make-your-own-compost rule. Use lawn clippings, green prunings and kitchen peelings. When turned to compost they help feed your veggies and in turn feed you.