No matter how small your garden may be it is still worthwhile to use part of it for growing vegetables. They taste better than the ones bought in the shops, do you more good and save you a lot of money into the bargain. It’s surprising how many carrots or cabbages you can grow from just one packet of seed costing a few pence a packet. If you are on a diet, whether for health reasons or just because you want to lose some weight, you will find fresh vegetables and salad foods straight from the garden will make it more enjoyable. With the minimum amount of work it’s possible to keep the family in fresh vegetables throughout the year. When there’s a bumper crop of any one sort, and it’s impossible to eat them all while they are still young and tender, you can store them in the deep freezer to use later on in the year to add variety to your meals.
If it is necessary to divide up your existing garden into kitchen garden and flower beds then use a sunny open position for the vegetables. You can screen it from the flower bed, if you wish, by using interwoven fencing which will also protect the young plants from damage by strong winds.
Set aside one corner of the vegetable patch to use as a seed bed. Seed sown in the spring can later be transplanted to the main garden and early plants can be raised in this part of the garden under cloches or glass and transplanted when they are large enough to do well in the open ground. Growing from seed is much less expensive than buying young plants so if you want to save money then a seed bed is essential.
To save having to buy artificial manure make a compost pit. It should be in a sheltered corner and into it should go all your lawn mowings, leaves, decayed vegetable matter and even kitchen waste. It should measure about 4 ft. across with vertical sides and be made in layers of up to 10 inches thick topped with a 2 inch layer of animal manure or a layer of sulphate of ammonia or other nitrogenous fertilizer. Or you can use one of the proprietary chemicals sold for the purpose allowing one handful per square yard.
THE TOOLS YOU WILL NEED
If you are already growing flowers then you probably have most of the tools necessary for growing vegetables. Just check that you have a Fork for digging when the ground is very hard, a Spade for general digging, a Dibber or Trowel for planting out seedlings, a Rake for levelling off the soil and for covering over newly planted seeds, and a Hoe for keeping the weeds down. There are several different types of hoes; the Dutch Hoe—the push type—is perhaps the most widely used and it’s the least back-breaking way I know of dealing with weeds between the rows of plants. There is also the Mattock Hoe and Fork which is a double sided tool with a plain blade on one side and a three-pronged fork on the other. Use this for chopping out weeds, earthing up soil around root vegetables or breaking up heavy clods of earth. A Garden Line is necessary to keep your vegetables in neat straight rows. You can make one from a length of twine or string and two stout stakes. A Wheelbarrow is useful and of course a Watering can. I have one with an adjustable spout and a set of different heads so that I don’t drown the very small plants when I water them. If you can find room for it on your plot it’s a good idea to put an old galvanized tank or something similar to collect the rainwater. This is better for the young plants than tap-water, and saves carrying cans of water long distances.
To keep digging and manuring to an absolute minimum I plan my vegetable garden in four sections. Each year I plant a different type of vegetable in each section so as to make the fullest use of the soil since different vegetables take different things out of it. I find a four-year rotation works the best. I manure it well the first year before planting cabbage and follow this the next year with potatoes and I only have to give it a very light top dressing of manure the following years.
I find that I get the best results by planting root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips or turnips the year after potatoes and follow these with peas and beans in the fourth year.
Whenever possible I try to stagger the planting of vegetables. For example, I find that if I plant a separate row of lettuce at two-week intervals then I am able to pull fresh lettuce straight from the garden for a lot longer than if I put in three or four rows all at the same time. Peas, beans, radishes, carrots and cabbages can all be planted in succession in the same way. I also plant one crop in between another crop so that while the first one is developing and ripening the other is being picked and cleared out of the ground. It’s one way of making greater use of the ground available. In some instances I sow seed in frames, or raise young plants under cloches, and then transplant them when they are big enough to plant out either in beds on their own, or in between other crops that are growing.
Try and find out just what kind of soil you have in your garden since it may be necessary to restore a balance to get the type of soil most suitable for the vegetables you prefer to grow.
SANDY soil is very ‘ light’, open and well drained. It is easy to cultivate, drains readily and its open texture allows roots to penetrate easily. It is very suitable for early crops. To maintain an adequate supply of plant food, however, artificial fertilizers must be applied in small quantities and fairly frequently since they are easily washed out.
CLAY soil is ‘ heavy ‘ and has virtually the opposite qualities to sandy soil. It is very rich in plant foods and therefore requires only the minimum of artificial fertilizer. It is not suitable for early crops.
CHALK soil is similar to sandy soil in that it is thin and needs a considerable amount of artificial fertilizers. It also dries up very quickly.
PEATY soils are usually very acid and are not suitable for root vegetables. Crops such as lettuce and celery, where quick tender growth is required, produce the best results. The texture of a soil can be improved by adding soil of the opposite texture, add clay to peaty or sandy soils; peat or sand to a heavy clay soil. Unfortunately, considerable amounts are required to make any real effect so it is only practical in the small garden. It is probably far better to identify the type of soil you have and then plan your crops to suit the soil.
MULCHING is also a valuable method of improving the soil and feeding the plants and also of controlling weeds around growing plants. A good mulch is a mixture of peat, well decayed garden compost, any kind of well rotted natural manure, mushroom compost and even a small amount of sawdust. Clear the ground of weeds before applying the mulch and do not use mulch before mid-April, thus allowing the ground to warm up first, otherwise the plant growth will be slowed up. When it is necessary to water, or to apply liquid fertilizers, allow an additional gallon of water per square yard to wet the mulch.
RECORDS are worth keeping. I find it helps to know how long it takes to grow each different type of plant from the time I sow the seed until it’s ready to pick. If you do the same, then you’ll find you have all the information to hand when you come to plan out your garden next year.
You will probably find that some varieties do better in your garden than others, depending on the type of soil you have and the position of the garden. The only way to find this out is by trial and error and by keeping a record. Do experiment and plant something new each year, even if it’s only a different strain of seed of your favourite vegetable. Don’t think that because the gardening books all tell you that you need a particular type of soil to grow a certain crop that it’s a waste of time trying it in your garden. I know a chap who grows first class tomatoes in a clay soil with very little attention to them at all and who even manages to get a very good potato crop from his garden even though he doesn’t dig it over very thoroughly and doesn’t bother to manure it. There’s a lot of luck as well as skill to growing vegetables and if you have green fingers you can probably grow anything anywhere. However, since you can only expect to get out of the ground what you put into it there’s no harm in clearing the ground after you’ve finished picking, digging the soil over to allow the air to get into it and freshen it, and then applying slow-acting fertilizer of some kind before planting your next crop. Try to do this in the autumn, then leave the ground fallow and let the frost and snow get at it and they will do most of the work for you.
As well as putting fertilizer on the soil, it is also important to give it a dressing of lime. Each year the soil loses lime steadily and continuously and unless this is replaced the soil becomes acid and sour. The exception is the plot where you plan to grow potatoes next year; this should be well manured but not given any lime.
The most inexpensive method of growing vegetables is from seed. Always buy a good quality brand and follow the instructions given on the packet. Whether you have sown in the greenhouse, under glass or straight into the open, it is important to thin out the seedlings as soon as they are an inch high and can be handled fairly easily. Unless they are thinned out early their growth will be retarded. Once you have thinned them out water them thoroughly. Keep them well watered if the weather is dry, allowing up to two gallons of water to each square yard. Make sure that seedlings are planted firmly and in the case of peas and beans they should be staked. There are several methods of doing this ranging from the old style of a row of poles running in a straight line, to separate poles at intervals with the plants set around each pole in a circle and trained up strings attached to the pole. Or, you can space poles at six feet intervals with wire mesh fencing between them for the peas and beans to climb.
Vegetables are prone to attacks from certain garden pests and unless these are kept under control an entire crop can be ruined. Inspect your vegetable garden once or twice a week from April onwards and treat any affected plants the moment you spot they have been attacked by pests. Spraying is one of the most effective measures and should be carried out immediately and repeated at intervals of about ten days.
PLOT MANAGEMENT AND SEED SOWING
STARTING OFF THE PLOT. Dig a trench out at one end of the plot. Carry the soil to the other end of the plot. It will be needed later on.
SOWING SMALL SEEDS (parsnip, carrot, beetroot, swede, turnip etc.) when fresh manure is not required. Dig back a couple of feet at a time, throwing soil over and forward to leave a level surface. Rake the top soil to a fine tilth. Place the garden-line in place across the plot where the seeds are to be sown. Make a shallow drill with the back of the rake and sow the seeds thinly in the drill. Cover over with fine soil.
SOWING SEEDS OVER A MANURED TRENCH (peas, beans, lettuces, potatoes etc.). Dig back from the previous row to the position of the next row (say 2 ft.). Place manure or rotted compost in the trench, mark its position and dig back about 18 ins. You are then ready to sow the seeds in the row just prepared.
[table id=3 /]
PESTS AND DISEASES
One of the best ways of controlling pests and diseases is to prevent them getting established in your garden. Keeping the ground clear of weeds and waste, regular digging and hoeing, and adequate fertilizer to ensure good strong plants which can resist attacks, will all help. Crop rotation is also important since if you grow the same crop on the same patch of ground each year this will encourage pests.
The important thing is to inspect your vegetables regularly so that you can deal with any infestation before your entire crop is ruined. Here are the main ones to watch out for:
APHIS. This covers pests known as greenfly, blackfly and whitefly. Blackfly can be particularly harmful to broad beans and to French beans and runner beans. To keep them under control, dust over with Derris or Malathion.
BIRDS. These can ruin peas and lettuces by pecking out the succulent growing point. Protect them from the birds with black cotton which can be supported on short sticks as soon as the seed has been sown.
BLACK FLY which attacks Broad beans.
Prevent pests and diseases getting established by:- (a) regular digging (b) using adequate fertilizer (c) crop rotation (d) spraying with insecticide & weed killer (e) burning diseased foliage
CABBAGE APHIS which appear as greyish powder patches.
CABBAGE WHITE BUTTERFLIES. Eggs appear in batches of 20-100 which in a fortnight hatch out into bluish or greenish black caterpillars with yellow markings on back and sides.
FLEA BEETLE which attack Turnip leaves and Cabbages.
LEATHER JACKETS. These are the grubs of the Daddy Long Legs and attack most vegetables.
MILLIPEDE will attack most root crops. Not to be confused with the Centipede which does not harm crops.
PIGEONS. Can be especially troublesome if you grow Red Cabbage but will also attack other green crops in certain areas.
SLUGS which attack lettuces.
SMALL WHITE BUTTERFLY. Lays eggs singly which turn into velvety green caterpillars.
SNAILS which attack lettuces.
WTREWORM which attacks potatoes, tomatoes and carrots. As well as treating with Derris, these pests can also be trapped in an old potato buried underground.
With pests it is usually possible to arrest attack by spraying just as soon as you spot them, but diseases have to be prevented since they cannot be cured. Diseased foliage or vegetables should be burned and never left lying around on the ground or even put onto the compost heap.
CHOCOLATE SPOT attacks Broad beans but it is not serious.
CLUB ROOT attacks swedes, turnips, cabbages, Brussels sprouts. The plants wilt and there is usually a large swelling on the roots. To prevent, dip the roots of young plants into a thin paste of calomel dust before planting.
LEAF SPOT attacks celery leaves but it is not serious.
MILDEW shows as a white powder on leaves and stems and can appear on almost any plant. Spray or dust with dinocap.
PARSNIP CANKER usually only attacks Parsnips, the roots rot at the shoulder in winter. By practising strict crop rotation this trouble is usually overcome.
POTATO BLIGHT shows as brown blotches on leaves and stems in June or July but the spores eventually affect the tubers. Spray with maneb or Bordeaux mixture.
TOMATO BLIGHT. This is very similar to Potato blight and should be sprayed in the same way.
WHITE ROT affects members of the onion family. Destroy the plants and next season dust seed drills or planting sites with 4 per cent calomel dust.
You can only expect to get out of your garden what you are prepared to put into it. This means that in order to gather good crops you must be prepared to feed the ground. Your compost heap should provide the bulk of the general fertilizer you need for this, providing you have looked after it well. Or use one of the general quick acting fertilizers like Growmore which can be applied at sowing time or even later.
Heavy manuring needs to be done about once in every four years and the best time to do it is just before you plant cabbages. This is why a rotation of crops is so important.
In addition, of course, some plants really do need special feeding and ‘ Harvest Gold’, which is the replacement for the old favourite ‘ Hoof and Horn’, is the ideal one for vegetables since it contains a high percentage of nitrogen. One feed is enough for the entire season since it is a slow release fertilizer. It should be applied in the Autumn before the season in which the crops are sown.
For tomatoes, there is a fast acting high potash liquid feed that contains seaweed extract with magnesium.
[table id=2 /]