WHEN we moved into our first home almost three years ago, one of our most exciting projects was putting in a vegetable patch.
Honestly, there is very little effort involved in growing your own vegetables, aside from some weeding and there is a huge sense of satisfaction from it. It also goes without saying that whatever you grow yourself is infinitely tastier than anything you buy in the shops.
The first thing to consider when planning your own vegetable patch is location. A space in a nice sunny spot that it is also sheltered from strong winds is the perfect spot.
We put in raised beds which were simple in construction and are a good long term solution. The walls of ours are made using railway sleepers which are secured at the edges with brackets and the beds are filled in with topsoil.
We don’t have a liner or membrane under ours, if you did put one in you would probably need to have your side walls two timbers high (about 400mm) in order to have enough depth of soil for the likes of carrots and parsnips. Over the last few years we have added bags of shop bought compost and mixed it in through the topsoil and this year we finally had our own compost to add to the soil during the winter to give back some nutrients. We haven’t added any fertilisers or pesticides mainly because we have cats and kids around the house that have been known to sample just about anything they can get their paws or hands on.
You don’t need to have a large space to grow vegetables, you don’t even need raised beds, you can still grow veg even if you don’t have the space outdoors to do it. Pots, window boxes, bags and barrels all made great spots for sowing vegetables that don’t take up much space.
Smaller spaces are great for growing things that yield a high return like ‘cut and come again’ lettuce, herbs, rocket, radishes, tomatoes and cucumber which you can trail upwards around a stick.
It’s worth mentioning courgette at this point because although the plant takes up quite a bit of space, it yields a huge amount of reward from just one or two plants. It’s worth planting in the corner of your vegetable bed so that it can trail over the edges so you aren’t wasting precious growing space on leaves.
There are a few things we have learned through trial and error over the past few years and one important one was to make sure your seeds are in date. If you are using seeds from last year make sure you sew them when the conditions are perfect otherwise they might not germinate, wait to put them in as late as possible once the threat of frost has passed.
There are certain plants that are worth staggering when it comes to sowing to ensure a steady supply of food over a number of months. I generally sew a row of about 2 feet in length of salad leaves like rocket, lettuce and spinach at one time then about a month later I sew some more. This means I don’t have an overwhelming supply to eat within a short space of time, these sort of plants don’t last for a long time before heading out.
Unlike root vegetables, like carrots, parsnip, beetroot that last well underground for many months so you can sew your full crop of those all at the same time.
I remember someone telling me before ‘never pass a weed’ and its true, weeds are big business in a vegetable patch. If you’d told me a few years ago that I’d be writing telling people that picking weeds is actually very therapeutic, I would have laughed, but truth be told it is, it’s hugely satisfying.
I would advise you to wait until your plants have established before you go weeding to ensure you’re pulling out the right thing.
We have tried lots of different types of vegetables and this is probably the first year we have narrowed it down to things we know we’ll eat and enjoy. We always had a core group of vegetables we planted but each year we experimented with new vegetables to see if we would like them. Some things, like beetroot, we ended up loving but others like runner beans and broad beans we wouldn’t do again primarily because of the poor yield for the space given over to the plant means.
And finally, the question on everyone’s lips – what have we planted ourselves this year based on everything we have learned to date? This year we put in spinach, peas, dwarf French beans, lettuce, beetroot, leeks, carrots, parsnip, squash, courgette and cucumber and I cannot wait to reap the reward.
Eimear Hutchinson writes a Parenting and Lifestyle column weekly for WoW! The mum of four small girls runs a blog. She has a doctorate in Engineering but is taking time out currently, raising her four girls. She loves DIY projects, exploring outdoors and figuring out how to make life run smoothly in a busy house.
Starting your own vegetable patch gives you a huge sense of satisfaction, says Eimear Hutchinson... and the produce tastes pretty good too!
We have tried lots of different types of vegetables and this is probably the first year we have narrowed it down to things we know we’ll eat and enjoy... I cannot wait to reap the reward.