Choosing a Site for Your Vegetable Garden
Creating your own vegetable garden may seem a little daunting, but by carefully selecting a suitable area for your garden you will bring success a bit closer. Start off with easy crops, such as salads, radishes and herbs, and increase your range as your confidence grows. This article will help you understand more about your chosen vegetables and the conditions they require.
Sheltered or Sunny Walls
A wall that faces the sun provides plants with protection from the wind and reflects the sun's heat back onto your crops during the day. It will also absorb heat and release it at night when the air temperature falls. A sheltered microclimate is ideal for growing heat-loving vegetables, such as tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers, so if you have one in your garden, make the most of it. Improve the soil, create a raised bed, or position pots at the base of the wall. Remember to keep plants well watered.
Tips for sunny walls:
- Add supports, such as wire mesh, to the wall to secure tall and scrambling plants as they grow.
- Take advantage of a sunny wall as the perfect backdrop for tomatoes in a growing bag.
- Be adventurous and try growing more unusual crops, such as sweet corn and chili peppers.
Small Vegetable Beds
Make the most of a small space by planning your crops carefully and squeezing as much variety into the plot as possible. Many vegetables are attractive plants in their own right, but add extra color to the beds by including some flowers, too, which will not only look good but also help attract pollinating insects. Planting vegetables close together also means that there is little bare soil on which weeds can establish, helping to minimize maintenance, but crop yields may be slightly reduced.
Tips for small vegetable beds:
- Densely planted vegetables need rich soil, so work in plenty of organic matter in fall.
- Choose vegetable varieties with interesting colors and forms to add drama to your beds.
- Be wary of planting too close to tall hedges, which cast shade and take moisture from the soil.
Growing Under Cover
Protecting crops from cold and wet weather in a greenhouse, cold frame or under cloches gives them a head start in spring, extends the growing season into fall, and allows a range of tender vegetables to be grown that may not perform well outdoors. Fitting large structures into a small garden can be difficult, so consider whether you have a suitable site before buying costly equipment. Site greenhouses and frames in full sun, away from overhanging trees, but sheltered from the wind as much as possible. Plants under cover rely on the gardener to provide adequate water and temperature control, which can amount to a lot of work, so make sure you have the time.
Tips for growing under cover:
- Control greenhouse ventilation to regulate temperatures and remove damp air that can encourage disease. Automatic ventilation is a good investment.
- Use cold frames and mobile cloches for raising seedlings and protecting young plants.
- Where there is no space outdoors, try sowing seeds and growing heat-loving crops on a sunny windowsill.
- Install a water supply, such as a rain barrel, next to the greenhouse to make life easier.
Filling pots, troughs and window boxes with a range of vegetables is one of the best ways for those with little or even no garden to harvest their own, homegrown produce. Tomatoes, salads, dwarf beans, herbs and some root vegetables are just a few of the crops that will thrive in containers and can make attractive displays on patios, steps and windowsills. Containers filled with good-quality potting mix are also useful in gardens with very poor soil or where soil-borne pests and diseases make vegetable growing difficult. However, containers can be expensive to buy and fill with potting mix, and without regular watering and fertilizing, plants will not perform well, so consider the practicalities before you begin.
Tips for container growing:
- Keep costs down and be creative by making your own pots from galvanized metal bins or plastic containers.
- Good drainage is vital to prevent soil from becoming waterlogged, so be sure pots have holes in their bases.
- Choose large pots, as they hold more soil, take longer to dry out, and suit many vegetables well.
- Look for vegetable varieties suited to container growing, such as short, round carrots.
Text copyright 2007 Royal Horticultural Society