Warwickshire College - The Kitchen Garden
PUBLISHED: 11:49 21 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:36 20 February 2013
With 'grow your own' taking off as never before Bob Hares has some timely advice for the would-be vegetable grower.
Q Can you give me any tips on starting a vegetable garden?
A 1. Ensure the ground is free of perennial weeds, such as couch grass, dandelions, nettles, thistles and docks. (You may like to spray with a weedkiller containing glysophate.)
2. Consider using the bed system. This way you can do all the work from the paths, avoiding any damage to the soil structure, and you can concentrate any compost or bulky organic manure in the area where the crops are, rather than on the areas which are not used for crops. (Interestingly, this was the main method of vegetable growing before the introduction of the seed drill in the 18th century!)
3. Try to avoid growing too many different vegetables. This will cut down on the work allowing you to concentrate on the most valuable crops.
4. Choose high yielding crops if you have limited space, such as runner or climbing French beans, courgettes, sugar or mange tout peas, and ones that can be quite expensive to buy, such as asparagus, spring onions and sweet peppers. Im fond of those very hardy vegetables which can be left in the ground throughout the winter until needed, such as parsnips
5. Growing vegetables can be time-consuming, so lets grow those which we enjoy growing and eating! Growing your own tomatoes can give a great deal of pleasure, as theyre so attractive and high yielding, and there are so many varieties to choose from.
6. If in doubt with regard to the variety, choose one with the RHS Award of Garden Merit (these awards are often indicated on the seed packet and catalogues). These awards are not given lightly, and they are given to those which are proven to give good results in most conditions).
Q Why is it I so often get patchy germination with my outdoor sowings of vegetable seeds?
A Check first of all that the seed is still fresh, by noting the latest sowing date on the seed packet. If the seed is of good quality, it helps to remember three important requirements for good germination, which are a sufficient supply of oxygen, moisture and a suitable temperature, and in relation to this, the depth of sowing is important, and the avoidance of sowing too early in the year. A common problem is soil capping, when a crust or cap of hard soil forms over the sown seeds. This can restrict the amount of air for seed germination and form a physical barrier to the developing seedlings. This problem can be minimised by the use of organic matter, thus improving the soil structure, and I do find a good
way to minimise this problem is to take out a drill for the seed, and
soak the bottom of the drill (using a watering can with a rose) just
prior to sowing, and then cover the seed with dryer soil at the appropriate depth. A covering with fleece afterwards can be very beneficial in reducing moisture loss and wind chill.
Bob Hares provides a FREE gardening advice service to Royal Horticultural Society members every Monday at Pershore College from 9am to 4.30pm. Personal visits are by appointment. Bobs advice line telephone number is 01386 551145.