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GARDENING Ten top tips for growing vegetables

Outdoor Living

Top tips for creating the perfect veg garden

Organic Growing
Hans Wieland

Shelter from the wind
Wind affects plant growth, it lowers the temperature and increases moisture loss. It can physically damage plants. Shelter can be created by hedges and trees or artificially with wind breaks.

Assess your soil
You can make a simple soil test using the jam jar method or the finger test, but you could also look at plants that indicate the type of soil: Chickweed, nettles, cleavers – rich soil, silverweed and creeping buttercup – clay soil, rushes and watermint – wet soil, plantain and creeping thistle – compacted soil.

Use green manures
Green manures like compost and farmyard manure can improve your soil in many ways. Sowing rye and winter vetch for overwintering can help fix nitrogen, other green manures like phacelia add organic matter to the soil and are great for feeding bees. Landsberg mix is great for covering your beds over the winter and suppress weeds.

Cover the ground
Covering the ground now with black plastic, cardboard, carpets etc kills of grass and keeps weeds down and makes bed preparation next year much easier.
This might not look pretty, but is of great help and getting a head start next year. It also prevents the leaching of nutrients through heavy rainfall in the winter.
Plan your garden
Ask yourself the following questions: What do I want to grow, what would my family like to eat, how much do I want to grow and do I want to preserve some of the produce, do I have storage space, where in my rotation plan will the crops grow? Remember: Rotation keeps your soil fertile and hinders the build up of pests and diseases.

Try raised beds
Raised beds are an efficient method for intensive cropping and minimum maintenance, because crops can be planted more closely together than using conventional rows. Raised beds also lend themselves to being covered with cloches to raise temperature and protect against pests.

Prepare propagation area
Get a heated bench. This is especially important if you have or will have a polytunnel or greenhouse. Organise a bench with a heating mat or heating pads to provide the right temperature for propagation (18 to 22ºC). Propagating early from seed gives you a much greater choice in varieties, you can plant your seedlings at the best time and you can also use your polytunnel for an early crop, bridging the ‘hungry gap’.