Not as much space is needed as you might think. It’s perfectly possible to grow vegetables in containers on the patio, in raised beds or in a vegetable patch as small as three square feet. If you’ve got a lot of space to work with, of course, then ‘the grow your own world’ is your oyster.
Top 10 tips for setting up a vegetable patch
If you’re looking to keep your veg intake as organic as possible as well as save some money on your weekly shop, then setting up a vegetable patch is the answer – especially for those who love spending time outside. Here’s our guide on how to put together the perfect vegetable patch.
1. Consider the space available
2. Pick the right location
To get the best results, you’ll need to pick out a light airy spot that gets a lot of sun during the day, and won’t be overshadowed by taller plants. Virtually every type of common ‘grow at home’ vegetable loves the sun, and will want nothing more than to soak up as much as they can. However, you also need to ensure that your plot has some shelter – you don’t want it to be too exposed, otherwise wind and the elements in general can cause quite a lot of damage. A decent windbreaker is an easy way to combat a site which is a little exposed to the elements.
3. Prepare your patch
First things first, you’ll need to give your patch a thorough going over in order to break up the soil and get rid of any remaining weeds. You should dig down to at least one spade depth – and a bit further if possible. Take the time to remove any weed roots or stems so that they can’t re-grow and remove as many stones from the soil as possible.
Only prepare the ground that you’re planning to actually plant up.
4. Get your soil ready
Soil is probably the most important factor when setting up a vegetable patch. The best soil for growing vegetables will include a wide range of both compost and general organic matter. Good matter can include things like composted leaves or shredded aged bark, but whatever you use, make sure that you’ve incorporated enough of it to prevent the soil from becoming either compacted or sandy. A good mix should bind together as you squeeze it, but break apart easily enough when it’s disturbed. This balance means that the water will be retained, but won’t drown the soil.
5. Arrange the plants well
Once you’ve got the space planned out, it’s important to arrange the plants carefully. Planning your space out in advance can help make it more efficient. Rather than planting in square patterns or rows, consider staggering the plants by planting in triangles instead. By doing this, you can fit 10 to 14 percent more plants in each bed. Avoid planting too close together, certain plants won’t grow well if they are overcrowded.
6. Look into companion planting
Some vegetable families grow particularly well when planted together in the same bed. For example, vegetables from the cabbage family like to be planted with beets and members of the green leafy vegetable family. Some herbs can help deter pests too and others help to improve disease resistance.
7. Include vertical growers
If you’ve got a limited amount of space available, then it makes perfect sense to include some vertically growing plants such as tomatoes, Pole beans, peas and cucumber. As well as being a space-saver, vertical growers are less susceptible to fungal issues and are therefore easier to monitor – it will be clearer when they are ready for harvesting. If your bed is by the fence, you can make use of trellises to help promote growth.
8. Use pots for flexible planting
If the size of your garden is restricting your imagination a bit, remember that there’s always the option to have a few pots for growing vegetables on the patio (or even indoors). Some plants and herbs will actually prefer being indoors – Basil is a perfect example. More tender seedlings can also benefit from a bit of time indoors, especially during the early summer.
9. Control pests, exercising caution
Unfortunately, pests really are largely unavoidable in any vegetable garden. However, there’s no need to immediately douse them in pesticides only about 3% of garden insects are legitimately damaging. Where possible, avoid using brutal pesticides (remember, plants don’t really like them either). Only apply pesticides first thing in the morning when the pollinators and beneficial insects are least active, and if possible use an organic pesticide. Pesticides will kill the good insects, too – so don’t attack too vigorously.
10. Fertilise appropriately
Whilst fertiliser can be very beneficial in certain situations, overdoing it (especially if it is nitrogen based) in the early months can actually mean a lower harvest. Even if the greenery might be a bit more lush, the amount you reap come harvest time might be negatively impacted. Rely instead on good organic compost.