Once you’ve got the plot set out and the layout planned, you’re ready to start vegetable gardening proper. The best vegetables (and the healthiest) are always grown on the best soils (we’re not talking hydroponics that’s another kettle of fish). So it pays dividends to invest as much time and effort initially into preparing your soil for your vegetables. It’s also the easiest time to do it. Finding out later on that you needed to dig more compost in when you’ve already started your vegetables is difficult (not impossible but just more fiddly) to say the least.
Companion Planting in Your Vegetable Patch
These are what’s called the symbiotic relationships in the vegetable kingdom ie plants when planted in close proximity to each other ‘help’ or benefit each other and reduce your requirement to resort to sprays to control disease and insects.
Plants that are good companions include :
- asparagus with tomato, basil and parsley
- celery with onions, tomatoes and nasturtiums
- eggplant with beans and marigold
- pumpkins with corn and marigold
Rotating your crops would ensure that you don’t deplete your soil of any one particular nutrient and also prevents the deadly buildup of diseases in the soil that plague a particular group of vegetables.
It takes a bit of planning and practice to get crop rotation right – generally the rule of thumb is to break up the vegetables you plan to plant into their basic family groups ie cucurbits, mescluns,
brassicas, legumes, alliums, crucifers, solanaceae (potatoes) and your perennial vegetables which come back year after year ie asparagus. The aim is to rotate your crops so that the same family group returns to the same spot every 3-4 years – so it makes sense to have 4 vegetable plots to work around.
Planting out in blocks
This means you ‘try’ to plant out your vegetables so that you avoid a feast or famine type situation (where you’re harvesting tonnes of beans all at once for example). If you plant out in blocks that will ensure that you can harvest what you need with the minimum wastage. Unless you have obliging meighbours who will take your extra heads of lettuce, there’s no point having 10 all ready for harvest at the same time! The only vegetable I’ve found hard to manage is the zucchini – they just seem to grow as you look at them! Thankfully the one plant seems to suffice for my family of 4 and even then usually we have a zucchini week where everything and anything seems to have zucchini as some ingredient or other.
Watering your vegetable garden
I water my vegetables with rain water. That’s because I have a rain barrel that collects the runoff from rain on my backyard pergola roof. You need consistent watering for good results in vegetables. Water the soil around the vegetables NOT the vegetables or you risk having fungus/mildew problems. You may want to consider using a soaker hose if your vegetable garden is very large to make watering easier.