How to set up a vegetable garden (and grow your own food!)
After a year spent largely at home, we’ve all had time to think about our impact on the planet. Highly-packaged meal deals, disposable coffee cups by the dozen, opting to eat out (and wasting lots of food in the fridge in the process) – some pre-pandemic habits weren’t exactly green.
Many of us have looked at our food habits and decided to do something about it. Last year, the number of people enquiring about allotments in the UK skyrocketed, with the average waiting time for a plot being six to eight months. Thankfully, though, there’s a much quicker option open to you: setting up your own vegetable garden at home. Here are a few pointers to help you…
Where to start…
Every good vegetable garden starts with a plan. Measure the dimensions of your garden (you can use a tape measure) and create a floor plan of the area – here’s a useful guide on making accurate garden plans to scale.
Get an idea of where the sunlight typically shines in your garden between the seasons and mark this on the plan. Assigning spots for a compost heap and a water butt is a great idea too, letting you generate free compost and water right next to your vegetable patch.
From there, decide on the crops you want to eat. Research their soil, light and area requirements and use this information to inform how much space you need to put aside on your plan, and where.
Prepare the soil
Whether you plan on making ground-level beds, building raised beds, or putting up a structure like a greenhouse, you need to thoroughly de-weed the planting area. Properly till the soil and leave it for a week or two so any residual seeds can germinate and easily be removed from the soil.
Next, you need to test the pH of the earth to make sure it will suit the needs of your plants. You can buy a meter or a test kit that’s sent off to a lab, but there’s also a DIY approach that uses simple vinegar and baking soda.
Then, using your plant research, get together any important soil materials – such as fertiliser, straw or compost – that your vegetables will need to grow successfully and mix them in based on your plan.
While you can dig up turf and repurpose flowerbeds for your vegetable garden, there are some structures you’ll need to create to suit certain vegetables. Beans and peas, for example, will need tall, thin structures to climb up, a job which is perfectly suited to bamboo canes.
For other vegetables such as tomatoes, you will need an enclosed sunny space like a greenhouse. Consider your financing options before making such an investment and if you opt to borrow money ensure you are able to meet the repayments.
Plant your crops
This step differs hugely depending on which crops you plan on growing, so be sure to follow the instructions on the back of your seed packets. This might mean propagating seedlings inside before planting them in your beds, or putting seeds straight in the patch during the right planting season. If in doubt, check the packet!
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