Nothing can compare to the satisfaction of feasting on home grown fruits, vegetables and salad crops that you have lovingly grown yourself.
If you do decide to go about developing a dedicated area in your garden for growing vegetables be very practical and ask yourself a few basic questions to discover how you will really use the area. Vegetable growing can be much more intensive to growing ornamental plants and can require more planning and attention. Consider how much time you would want to spend in your vegetable patch and what crops you really want to grow. If you are starting from scratch it may be worthwhile starting with some easier crops such as salads, herbs and potatoes that will allow you to develop your confidence and eventually widen the range of crops you grow. It is essential that you grow something that you will actually eat once harvested! Otherwise it will all seem like a lot of wasted time and energy.
The potato is one of the most popular vegetables in the UK and is incredibly easy to grow, making it a perfect crop for a beginner to start with at this time of year. Potatoes fall into three categories; early, second-early and maincrop, depending on when in the season they will be ready to be harvested. Before planting, seed potatoes need to be chitted, particularly if you are planting early potatoes. Chitting simply means placing your potatoes in a cool, frost free and light position and allowing them to develop short shoots. Place your potato in an egg box or seed tray with the end that has the the most buds facing up. Keep them somewhere bright, but away from direct sunlight. After around 6 weeks the shoots should develop to ½ – 1 inch long and they can be planted out. This essentially is speeding up process for you and once planted will speed up the harvest as you have already given them a head start. They are easily grown in your vegetable garden or even in pots if you have a patio or small garden.
A particularly important aspect to vegetable growing is crop rotation. If you choose to grow the same crop in the same place year after year you will start to generate a build up of pests and diseases in the soil that are specific to that particular crop. Growing one crop in one spot every year can also result in the soil nutrients becoming unbalanced as one particular nutrient is being absorbed by the crop year after year. The basic rule of crop rotation is not to grow the same crop in the same place for two years running. Even in small areas this is possible as you just have to try and avoid the same patch of soil for as long as you possibly can. This will prevent the build up of soil-borne pests and diseases and will also allow the soil to be treated differently each season, improving its structure and maintaining its nutrient levels. The simplest rule of crop rotation is not to grow the same thing in the same place two years running. In fact, the larger the gap between crops occupying the same piece of ground the better.
An easy way to grow crops is in rectangular raised beds. Raised beds allow the gardener to focus their energy into weed control, soil improvement and dense planting schemes in a contained and defined area.
Raised beds are particularly efficient for gardens with heavy, wet or clay soil as they have improved drainage and will warm up faster in the spring. The trick to a correctly designed bed is that once you have constructed it you want to stay off the soil completely. Being able to access the whole bed from a pathway will allow your soil to remain light and un-compacted, allowing the crops to root easily without the surrounding soil from being trampled. You also save yourself from extremely muddy feet! The only downside is that the soil can dry out more quickly so in hot weather you need to make sure you are standing by with the garden hose or watering can. Having a water butt nearby which collects water from the gutters of your house, shed or greenhouse can make this easier.