The popularity of a vegetable patch has exploded in the last few years

By Alan Battersby

The popularity of maintaining a vegetable patch has really exploded over the last couple of years. People now like to grow their own. It has also become very popular among young families.

Being green, and organic is very fashionable these days so that is also driving the trend. It’s a combination of many things, but there is no doubt that it is a healthy pastime.

The best time to start a vegetable patch is February. Start working on it and dig farmyard manure into it. Use the frost to break down the soil and the farmyard manure so that the worms can start working on it. As the saying goes “the early bird catches the worm”, the earlier you start in the year the better.

Getting good quality farmyard manure was at one stage only something gardeners who lived near a farm could get. Now we sell well-rotted manure in the Garden Centre and it does the job perfectly. It is actually better than getting it from the farmyard because it doesn’t have all the acids in it.

There is not that much work involved in starting a vegetable patch. Obviously it depends on the size, but there is a starting point for everyone. The first thing is to prepare the soil. Then make sure to have your seeds sown in by April and you are ready to go. Strawberries, potatoes, and other vegetables can all go into the soil around April.

The easiest vegetables to start with for the complete beginner are lettuce, scallion and radish. Vegetables that go nice in a salad are the easiest thing to start with. Also, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli may not be too challenging for beginners.

If you are really enthusiastic and you have a tunnel in your vegetable patch you can start growing the seeds in February, and then in April they will be ready to plant in the open air. An Alternative is to buy the plants ready to be planted from the Garden Centre in April and just place them in the soil, it just depends on what level you are at and how confident you feel.

There are many young families in the area that have little experience in gardening and they would like to cultivate a vegetable patch with their children, this is definitely something they should jump right into. If you have any questions just drop in to the Garden Centre and we will answer them for you; at one stage I was growing 30 million vegetable plants a year. I have a huge amount of experience that I enjoy sharing with people.

For those who started a vegetable patch last year, you should try to have some rotation between the plants that you are growing.

A professional grower would always rotate his crops because plants can get certain diseases that are soil born, and rotating them prevents that. As an alternative, if you have a new vegetable patch dig some of the soil out, bring in new top soil for a new bed. You can get two or three years of growing in the same soil but it would be preferable to change the vegetables around every year.

There is a method you can use if you want to stagger when the crops will ripen to ensure a longer harvest. For example you can buy a tray of ten broccoli plants, plant two or three this week, leave it for a week and then plant another two or three, then another two or three the week after. The plants will be fine in the trays that you buy them in.

Just wait, its all about planning. If you plant them all the same day, especially broccoli, it is likely to be ready at the same time because broccoli hasn’t got a long shelf life in the field, when it is ready, it’s ready.

For other crops like cabbage, it may be okay for a week or two in the soil. Broccoli and cauliflower are two vegetables that need to be harvested as soon as they are fit. The best way to do it is to widen out the planting period.

If you have any questions about your vegetable patch please get in touch.

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