AS lockdown continues, we are all limiting trips to and spending at the supermarket. So, with extra time on our hands, why not think about about growing your own vegetables?
Even the smallest gardens can accommodate some veg or another be they in a raised bed or through the convenience of a potato barrel or humble grow bag, writes James Iles.
Laying some well planned foundations for your own plot couldn’t be easier and winter time is an ideal opportunity to start creating and preparing raised vegetable beds.
Digging over empty beds and new vegetable plots is essential as weather permits and if you have time, try barrowing some manure or compost on to the soil ahead of the planting season.
An easy way of growing your own vegetables is by creating a system of four raised beds which will contain veg which can be rotated on a four-yearly basis.
These should be about four feet square with a four feet wide path between them for ease of access.
You could construct these cheaply enough with some pressured treated timber (allowing some extra length to make pegs with) from your local DIY store though many garden centres and websites stock pre-manufactured beds for around £30.
Start off by double digging the beds and adding organic matter.
If this is done properly now it will be worth the effort as in future winters you can just top dress with organic matter.
Now plan your crop rotation – this is needed to avoid the build up of pests and to make the best use of the nutrients in the soil.
Vegetable crops can be broadly divided into three main groups for the sake of rotation.
Brassicas – cabbages of all types. These include sprouts, kale and cauliflowers which have a high nitrogen need from the soil and can be affected by club-root disease.
Swedes and turnips are included in the brassica group as they too are affected by this disease.
Root Crops – Potatoes, parsnips, beetroot, carrots and Jerusalem artichokes which have a lower nitrogen need and so can follow on from brassicas.
They are also more likely to be mishapen if fresh manure has recently been added to the soil. Onions are often grown with root crops too.
Peas and Beans – Peas and beans get their nitrogen from the air and not the soil but because, as they have nitrogen-fixing bacteria on their roots, they actually add it back to the soil ready for the brassicas to follow in their bed the following year.
Lettuces, marrows, leeks and spring onions are often sown with peas and beans as they are neither brassicas nor true root crops.
The fourth bed could be used for growing asparagus which needs it own bed and could be interspersed with an annual crop of sweetcorn.
Get ahead by sowing a few early crops such as lettuce, cabbages, cauliflowers, radishes and carrots, turnips, peas and broad beans indoors to grow on before planting out.
Alternative ways to grow your own vegetables for those with limited space include the potato barrel which is available from garden centres and websites for around £30 or if you’re not fussed by appearances and want a higher crop yield go for a pack of three potato bags for about half the price.
Grow bags are always a space saving convenient way to grow any plant particularly lettuces whose leaves can be picked on demand in the summer but also tomatoes on canes or even carrots.
Whichever options you choose and however many vegetables you decide to grow there is nothing quite as rewarding as dishing up your own home-grown veg for dinner.
It doesn’t come any fresher than this!
Consider adding fruit to your garden too for a delicious harvest.
Fan-trained or espalier apple and pear trees will fit neatly against a fence so they don’t have to take up too much room. Cordon-grown fruit trees can also be kept in large patio pots.
Don’t forget tomatoes or strawberries too which can also make an interesting edible hanging basket as well as being ideal for growing in pots or in borders.
James’ Instagram account is @jigsaw_gardening