Some Useful Kitchen Garden Practices

Intercropping

This is of great use in the small kitchen garden. A quick-to-grow and mature vegetable is grown between two rows of a slower-growing vegetable. A good example is radish sown between two rows of peas. Two somewhat slower-growing vegetables may be ‘grown alongside each other. Thus lettuces may be grown in the vacant paces left between two rows of peas. A laterto-mature vegetable may be planted in between or alongside rows of another vegetable which will shortly be harvested. Examples: cabbage plants set out among lettuces about to be cut for use; Brussels sprouts set out alongside rows of peas; broccoli planted between rows of dwarf French beans.

Intercropping

Mulching

Mulches are soil covers. Their use saves time in watering and weeding. All mulches are laid down when the soil is moist. They prevent a loss of soil moisture by evaporation. They also smother weed seedlings and usually inhibit the growth of more weeds. Most mulches disintegrate slowly and Improve the garden soil. One only does not. This is black polythene sheeting.

Garden compost acts as a plant food as well as a mulch. The food is immediately available to plants mulched with compost. It may itself contain weed seeds. Well-rotted farmyard manure is excellent as a mulch for cucumbers, but must not be used as freely as garden compost around most vegetables. Granulated sedge peat contains little plant food but is the neatest mulching material. Lawn mowings are the most commonly used mulching material, but can attract slugs. Autumn leaves should be partially rotted before being applied. Several sheets of newspaper make a useful but unsightly mulch. It is best covered with a little straw. Straw should not be used around seedlings because loose straw may blow over and on to them causing damage. Well-rotted or raw sawdust may be used only if the garden soil is highly fertile. Sawdust robs a soil of some nitrogen during decomposition. Wood shavings are liable to blow around at first. Use them only on very fertile soil. They are rather unattractive to the eye. Black polythene sheeting is ugly when laid in position but is camouflaged rapidly by growing vegetables.

Rotation

A rotation of crops is very necessary in the vegetable garden. The main aim of rotation is as a preventive against pests and diseases. If cabbages and their kin are grown regularly in the same patch of ground there is the likelihood of the soil becoming cabbage-sick and infected with club root disease. Should onions be grown often in the same bed an outbreak of onion white rot may occur making the whole garden unfit for onion growing for several years. Where potatoes are frequently grown in the same patch or very near to it a build up of keeled slugs may be expected. A secondary reason for crop rotation has more bearing on a less fertile rather than on a highly fertile soil. The theory is that because all vegetables do not utilize the same amounts of plant food in the soil it pays to rotate crops each season. The tomato is noted for its need of sufficient potash and lettuce plants need a lot of nitrogen. By rotating beans and peas in the garden the soil in which they grow is enriched with nitrogen.

For the medium-sized garden, the following three-year rotation is suggested.

  • First Season: Potatoes. Soil dressed with manure or garden compost in autumn, winter or early spring.
  • Second Season: Cabbages and their kin. Soil limed if necessary in winter or early spring. Where available apply manure or garden compost later. Alternatively, apply manure during late autumn or winter when digging the garden. Apply lime where necessary in early spring.
  • Third Season: Other vegetables. No manure or garden compost need be applied for most other vegetables apart from greedy feeders as cucumbers, marrows and sweet corn.

In a larger garden the rotation may be based on a four-year plan. For this the garden is divided into four sections with planting as follows:

  • Section A: potatoes.
  • Section B: cabbages and their kin.
  • Section C: peas and beans.
  • Section D: root crops and other vegetables.

For the second season section A is used for root crops and other vegetables, potatoes are grown in section B, cabbages and their kin in section C, and peas and beans in section D. After the fourth season the rotation is complete and section A is used again for the potato crop. Successional cropping This term covers two different aspects of vegetable growing. Successional sowings of the quick growing radish and fairly quick growing lettuce are made on and off between April and August. Successional planting means that no ground is left vacant throughout the summer. As soon as one crop has been harvested, the soil is prepared at once for a follow-on crop.

Certain vegetables have varieties which are earlier to mature than other varieties. The good gardener chooses, if he knows there will be available garden space for them, early and later varieties. There is then a succession of the same vegetable for use over a longer period than there would be were only either an early or a later variety grown.

In addition to choosing early and late varieties a greenhouse, an unheated garden frame or a set of cloches can be put to use to extend the season itself. This leads to earlier than usual spring and summer vegetables and a greater choice of fresh vegetables from the garden in late autumn.

F1 Hybrid

This term frequently appears on seed packets and in seed catalogues. It signifies that the variety is produced by crossing two selected parents. Plants of the two selected parents are grown in separate blocks. Pollen from the male flowers of one parent is transferred to flowers of the second parent. Self-fertilization of the flowers of the second (female) parent is prevented. Seed has to be produced afresh each year and the cross pollination is effected by hand. F, hybrid seeds are, therefore, usually dearer. In favour of F, hybrids is their outstanding vigour. The plants also have striking uniformity. This fact is worth noting if you exhibit at local or national shows. With ordinary, non-hybrids it is not easy to find several vegetables which are almost identical and just what is wanted for the show bench.

Pelleted Seeds

These make sowing easier because the pellets may be handled separately and placed at a distance from each other in the seed drill. This replaces the old method of mixing such small vegetable seeds as carrots and lettuce with sand. Because pelleted seeds are evenly spaced, each seedling has room for good development. For the gardener there is far less tedious thinning of seedlings to be done.

Moisture must be present for the germination of all vegetable seeds. Where pelleted seeds are sown, even more moisture must be present to encourage the clay of the pellets to disintegrate quickly and permit rapid ger mination. Unless the soil is already very wet, always soak seed drills with water before sowing pelleted seeds.

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