THE processes needed for a vegetable patch to come into profitable bearing are numerous, entailing a certain amount of labour that can be decidedly pleasant. Quickest, biggest and best possible results are natural objectives. They are secured not by haphazard sowing and planting, but by a well thought out sequence of operations.
When to Start.
There is neither beginning nor end to the vegetable grower’s calendar. A start may be made in January, August, or any other month; the ground comes into bearing in due season. Weather and time, and the obstinacies of some soils, are circumstances to be reckoned with. Seasons may conspire, by irregular behaviour, to interfere with plans. But these interferences may be countered, within reasonable limits, when a certain skill has been acquired. And soil that at first seemed quite unhelpful can be made a ready servant to the home food producer’s own particular needs, whichever of the 365 days is chosen to begin operations.
How to Start.
The piece of ground may be wild land covered with grass or weeds, and never yet have been under vegetables. It may be a portion of the home garden from which flowers are henceforth to be banished. It may be an allotment left derelict by a previous tenant, a 10-rod plot – roughly 30 ft. by 90 ft which is as much as the average man can handle in his spare time. It is a rectangle of hope, that can be made capable of supplying vegetables for a family of four or five.
Whatever the area and its immediate condition, it should be considered, by way of a start, in terms of a period of several months. There will be changes of occupant, a succession of crops. There will be periods when, a crop having been removed, part of the ground lies bare, presenting the opportunity for digging and manuring to prepare for the crop to follow.
Before any seeds or young plants are bought, note should be made of what vegetables are to be grown, and in what relative quantities. This is necessary to avoid a shortage of any particular crop or a glut at any time. It then becomes possible to make a rough plan, on paper, for a full year’s guidance.
A Working Plan.
The fact that seeds or seedlings or roots of those vegetables which one specially desires cannot all be got in at once makes planning easier and labour lighter. Not only do exact planting and sowing dates depend on weather and locality; the particular variety of a vegetable may have something to do with it. And dates may be varied with a view to securing a succession – -that is, a steady supply over a period – of a particular crop. The 10-rod cropping plan contains suggestions which the individual grower will adapt to his own special needs and circumstances. The vacant piece of ground will not be dug from end to end before any sowing or planting is done. The aim is to get it producing something as soon as possible. Therefore, as one section of ground is prepared it will be got into production, and so on until the whole plan is at last in operation.
The Potato Section.
Eight rows of potatoes, the rows spaced 2 ft. apart, should yield about 4 cwt. If that is not considered sufficient for the needs of the family, more space will have to be planted with potatoes, and other vegetables reduced as to number of rows or omitted altogether.
Local inquiry of enthusiastic and successful food producers will secure information as to which are the most suitable varieties to plant; most suitable, that is, for the district and soil. Potatoes have their likes and dislikes in regard to both.
The class (or type or group) of potato is also of importance. Varieties classed as first garlics are ready for use about mid-July and onwards; second earlies are ready in August; maincrops are ready for lifting in late September or early October for storing for winter use.
First earlies are planted in late February in very favourable (warm and sheltered) districts, mid-March being a safer date. In cold midland districts the end of March is early enough, whilst mid-April is more appropriate farther north and in Scotland. Good first early varieties are Arran Pilot and Epicure, good croppers en most kinds of soil.
Second earlies include Great Scot and Ben Lomond, both suitable for ordinary or heavy soil. April is early enough for these.
Maincrops include Arran Banner, for all types of soil, and King
Edward VII for fairly heavy, or medium, soils. Planting time extends to about mid-May.
How Many Potatoes to Plant.
A succession of potatoes is thus secured by planting a variety, or varieties, of each of the three main groups: first and second garlics for current use, maincrops for storing.
Three rows (across a 10-rod plot) of first and second earlies should yield about cwt. of tubers. About 4 lb. of seed potatoes will be needed to plant one row; the seed – that is, tubers each weighing about 2 oz. being planted a foot apart in the row.
Maincrop varieties are planted about 16 in. apart in the row, a 30-ft. row requiring 3 lb. of seed potatoes, the yield of five rows being approximately 2j cwt. There should be about 2 ft. between rows.
How Much Seed? Economy in small seed sowing means not only money saved but time saved in thinning out – that is, removing crowded seedlings; and time saving is a big consideration, whether a 10-rod plot or a small piece of the home garden is being worked. In many cases a small packet of seed of any one variety is sufficient.
For one row, as allowed for on the 10-rod plan, ½ ounces of seed is ample. Sow late April – early May; ready July onwards. Where there is not much depth of good soil suitable varieties are Globe and Egyptian Turnip-rooted; for deeper soils the long-rooted Blood Red.
Four rows, 1 ft. apart, will require § ounces of seed. Sow early varieties – Scarlet Horn, Nantes – in March; they will be ready from July onwards. Maincrop varieties are sown in April and thinned out for immediate use, mature roots being available from September onwards. A good stump-rooted kind, for shallow soil, is Favourite; for deeper soils the long-rooted St. Valcry.
Two rows of parsnips 18 in. apart take ounces of seed.
Sow February to March; they will be ready from November onwards. For deep soils, use the long-rooted variety Hollow Crown; for shallow soil, Turnip-rooted.
Allowed one row in the plan, sown February to March, ready in June, require J pint of seed. Varieties include Pioneer and Little Marvel, both about 2 ft. in height. For three rows of main-crop, 2.1 ft. apart, sow f pint of seed; they will be ready July to August. Varieties include Fillbasket and Senator, both about 3 ft. in height.
For two rows of each of the ‘greens’ on the 10-rod plan allow •& ounces of seed; this should be sown in the seed bed for transplanting.
Sow April, plant out July, rows 2 ft. apart, ready October onwards. Varieties: Winningstadt, Nonpareil.
Sow May, plant out July to August, rows 2 ft. apart, ready January to March. Varieties: Ormskirk, Dwarf Green Curled.
Sow late April, plant out May to June, rows 2 ft. apart, ready November to January. Varieties: Dwarf Gem, Matchless.
There are two types of broccoli – sprouting and autumn. For sprouting sow late April, plant out July, rows 2 ft. apart, ready April to May. Varieties: Purple Sprouting, White Sprouting. For autumn, sow late March or early April, plant out late May to early June, ready September to October. Varieties: Michaelmas White, Self-protecting Autumn.
Sow March to April, plant out July to August, ready November onwards. Variety: Large Blood Red (also for cooking).
Sow in boxes, under glass, in the early weeks of the year, 1 ounce of seed which will give plants for eight rows. Ready for lifting in September. Variety: Bedfordshire Champion does well on all soils, and is an excellent keeper.
One row will take forty bulbs at 9 in. apart. Plant January to February; ready in July for harvesting and storing.
Allowed one row, require pint of seed. Sow February to March, ready July onwards. Varieties: Mammoth Windsor and Green Longpod.
One row, pint of seed. Sow late April, ready July. Varieties: Canadian Wonder, Masterpiece. (for winter use). One row, J pint of seed. Sow late April or early May and allow pods to ripen on the plants; store for use from November onwards. For this purpose a variety of dwarf French beans, e.g., Green Gem, is suitable.
A J pint of seed is required for one row. Sow mid-May, ready for use July onwards. Stakes are not required if plants are kept low and bushy by removal of the growing tips at intervals after they have reached a height of about 2 ft. Varieties include: Scarlet Emperor, Painted Lady.
A line of tomato plants, 18 in. apart, might occupy the position shown on the plan. Set out in late May, tomatoes would be ready for picking late July and onwards. Varieties include: Princess of Wales, Sunrise, Golden Queen (yellow). could occupy a trench to the right of the tomatoes, twenty plants set out 8 in. apart in June; ready October onwards. White varieties: Solid White, Giant White; red: Major Clarke’s Red, Standard Bearer. for pulling in April and onwards, could be accommodated between tool shed and seed bed, three plants, 3 ft. apart. Planting time is March; varieties include Reading Ruby and Champagne. between the rhubarb and celery, would do well on the level ground (a mound is not necessary), plants to be spaced about 2 ft. apart. Sow outdoors in late May, or in a frame in mid-April for planting out in May; ready July onwards. A bush variety, such as White Bush, saves space; a good trailing variety is Long Green. (a single bush), and other herbs would run parallel with the tomato row.
Break the Cold Winds.
A row of Jerusalem artichokes makes an admirable windbreak (Figs.,4). In the plan they are positioned at the east end of the plot. Plant the tubers 1 ft. apart, in February to March; ready for use November onwards.
Lettuce, radish, spinach, mustard and cress and similar quick-growing small plants are most conveniently grown between rows of other vegetables which grow comparatively slowly and are longer in occupation of the ground, such as the cabbages and other greens whilst these are still small, and between pea rows. These catch crops will be cleared away before the rightful occupants of the ground are in need of the full space allotted to them. The sides of the celery trench can be utilized in the same way. Radish and spinach can also be sown between onion rows.
But there must be no attempt to crowd anything unduly, and as only small quantities of radish, lettuce, mustard and cress are wanted at a time, sowings should be small and made at intervals of several days.
When the early potato rows have been cleared turnip seed can be sown there as a follow-on crop to provide tops the following spring; a suitable variety is Green-top White. Alternatively, while the early potatoes are still in occupation young plants of broccoli or brussels sprouts could be set out between the rows.
When the onions have been lifted, spring cabbage (for use in spring) could go in – sown in August, planted out in October; suitable variety, Flower of Spring.
Shallots might be followed by colewort, a very hardy little cabbage, sown in June, set out in August, ready October onwards.
Early peas have a good follow-on in spinach beet. Leeks may be planted after the maincrop peas, and swedes sown after broad beans.
Rotation of Crops.
Change of position for vegetable crops from year to year is attended by such good results that it should be practised wherever possible. Permanent crops, such as rhubarb, seakale, asparagus, are best left undisturbed for a number of years; others are better for a change of site.
The 10-rod cropping plan provides for an effective change-over annually. The second year the crops would be disposed as in. Tomato, celery, potato, beet, carrot and parsnip would be grown on the section previously occupied by the early peas and the greens; the latter would be on the section previously occupied by the onions, etc.., whilst this crop would be in the top section which the potatoes, etc.., had occupied.
Third-year changes (, centre) would find the early peas and greens in the top section; onions, etc.., in the middle section; potatoes, etc.., in the bottom section. In the fourth year (, right) the crops would be back in the positions they occupied in the first year.
The practice of rotation is not essential but very desirable. Soil pests which have their own special food fancies cease to flourish when their particular crop is shifted out of their immediate circuit; wireworms, for example, and potatoes and carrots. Diseases, such as club root, which afflicts all members of the cabbage tribe (including turnips), are encouraged to die out in the soil when the vegetables which they concern are moved to another section of the ground.
As soil pests and diseases have their own special needs, so different kinds of vegetables have their own special food requirements which the grower can meet, to some extent, by providing an annual change of site. The cabbage tribe use up a considerable amount of lime but not much potash, which is the reverse of the requirements of potatoes and beet. So when the two latter are moved on into the greens section their needs are partly provided for.
Furthermore, members of the cabbage tribe do not send their roots far down into the soil, which means that plant food some inches down remains untouched, and is available for deeper-rooting vegetables such as beet, carrot and parsnip which may follow on.
The subject of plant foods is more fully dealt with in the section FERTILIZERS AND MANURES. North-facing sides of rows are cheated of their right. They get little if any sun. This is not such an important point in the case of onions and similar low-growing vegetables, but sunless sides of rows of taller plants such as peas and beans show plainly by smaller yield how very dependent such crops are on exposure to sunlight.
In the 10-rod plot layout it will be seen that a strip, about 6 ft. wide and the width of the plot, is occupied by various items the necessity for which is apt to be overlooked in the hurry to get a new piece of ground under a full load of crops. Tool shed and frame may be left to the last. The combined seed and nursery bed must certainly come first. This essential bed is for the raising of seedling cabbage and other plants, which will be transplanted to the nursery part of the bed to grow on for a space in readiness for setting out in the rows where they are to remain; other seedlings – lettuce, for example – will be transferred direct to die open ground.
It is a convenient space, also, for seed boxes containing young celery, leek and onion plants awaiting planting out. Vacancies not otherwise occupied from time to time could be cropped with radish, and mustard and cress.
Space for Fruit.
On the 10-rod plot plan space is indicated for a row each of raspberry plants and gooseberry bushes; black, red or white currants could be planted as alternatives. These divide the plot (exclusive of the 6-ft. wide top strip) into three equal parts. To utilize space to the full, blackberries or loganberries could be planted against the shed sides.
A Bit of Glass.
A frame of some kind, sheltered from the north if possible, and with the glass sloping to the south, is invaluable for raising early seedlings and for wintering others. A frame can be made of oddments, and may be of any size according to the glass available. An old glazed window frame makes an excellent ‘light’ (or top). Other devices to trap heat in spring and keep out frost in winter can be contrived with boxes and odd pieces of glass.
The grower will not be too ambitious if he visualizes a small greenhouse for securing extra-early crops. The management of frame, greenhouse and home-made hand-lights is dealt with in the section FRAME AND GREENHOUSE.
The Tool Shed.
For storing tools, wheelbarrow, seeds, seed boxes and so on a shed is a necessity. It should have a lock to the door, and an ample window that can be fastened on the inside; and below the window a bench for the comfortable performance of inside jobs. At one side, or end, should be a barrel to catch rainwater from the roof via a short length of piping leading from the guttering. This water supply will prove invaluable.
Fowls and Paths.
The piece of ground may be required to accommodate three or four chickens, in which case a wire run and a house (with lock to both house and run) will take the place of some part of the vegetable crop.
An allotment plot will be surrounded by paths, and to bisect it with another would be waste of valuable space. Where paths have to be made around a piece of ground they can be surfaced with stones raked off the ground, or with fire ashes rolled or rammed or left to be trodden firm. A narrow grass strip as edging looks attractive, but is a nuisance, inasmuch as it needs clipping to maintain neatness. All that is necessary is to throw the soil back with a spade from each of the four boundaries so that a slight dip is left as a division.
Rough Bit of Ground.
The rough bit of weedy ground, or the odd strip that cannot be dug and prepared properly because of lack of time, should be cleared of weeds by forking or hoeing and planted with potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes. These will help break up the soil, and any remaining weeds will be discouraged by the thick, vigorous growth of the crops. This is a makeshift measure which should be adopted only under pressure of time or in other special circumstances, for it is not productive of best results.
Too Late to Sow.
Young plants of the cabbage tribe, seedling onions, leeks, celery and other items can be purchased when seed sowing is not possible or convenient. Nurserymen have these available at appropriate seasons.
In the Home Garden.
When part of the flower garden is being sacrificed to vegetables, these, it must be borne in mind, will not consent to be mere Cindcrellas. Areas where flowers, shrubs or lawn failed because of shut-in conditions, poverty of soil or some other reason, cannot suddenly produce worthwhile vegetables. Crops under big, spreading trees or in ground not properly prepared cannot be other than leggy, caterpillar-eaten and disease-stricken.
Branches overhanging from a neighbouring garden, and their trespassing roots, should be cut hard back after amicable arrangement with their owner. If the plot is bordered by a hedge, the roots of this should be similarly dealt with; the hedge will not be affected and the ground will be vastly improved.
Old and unproductive fruit trees and bushes should be cut down and their roots grubbed out with axe and pickaxe. The ground they have occupied must then be dug deeply and manured so that vegetables taking their place shall have everything in their favour.
Under Fruit Trees.
Where these are fully productive they should not be spoiled by digging the coil close around them and packing the ground with cabbage or rhubarb; moreover, the vegetables would be in competition with the fruit-tree roots and would lack sun and air. But between amply spaced bush forms of apple and pear, cabbage and rhubarb may be planted after the positions have been dug and manured. But it would be better to devote such space to smaller vegetables such as lettuce, radish and herbs.
Sunny and Shady Borders.
Fences or walls that back a sunny border – one facing the south or south-west – can be made profitable with tomatoes, runner beans trained up strings, or blackberries and loganberries tied or nailed closely back. And, incidentally, the house walls can support fan-trained plums and apricots, fan-trained or horizontally-trained or cordon pears, and figs or a vine.
The sunny border of light (crumbly) well-drained soil will produce potatoes, dwarf French beans, turnips, lettuce, spinach, carrots, well in advance of any in exposed ground. And the earliest outdoor peas and broad beans may be secured by sowing in this position in November.
A small area of such a border in the home garden should be reserved as a seed bed for the production of seedling plants needed for filling the main, exposed beds.
During hot summer days the sheltered border which gets full sun is no longer suitable for lettuce, radish and other salad plants. These then require a certain amount of shade, and moister conditions than are afforded in light soil in burning sunshine. They will be happier sown between rows of peas or beans, where they will receive some shade from the tall growth; or in a border which faces north.