Planning a vegetable and herb garden

Some points to be considered when planning a vegetable garden are:

  1. The plot should be positioned in full sun and in an open position, with some shelter from strong
    winds if necessary. It must not, however, be closed in to the extent that it is airless. Open trellis or palings covered in a fairly stout climber make the best wind­ breaks.
  2. If is it inevitable that some shade falls on the plot, the rows of vegetables should as near as possible run north to south. The midday sun will then shine along them, and not across them.
  3. The area should be adequately supplied with solid paths, providing a clean approach from which
    to work or to gather the crops in bad weather. They should be able to take a loaded heelbarrow: concrete or artificial paving are the best, but well-consolidated soil  or  grass  paths   will  suffice,   although   some gardeners claim that they encourage slugs.
  4. Ideally, a kitchen garden should, obviously, be situated near to the kitchen so that it is easily accessible, particularly in winter: in any case, the nearby scent of herbs is pleasant.
  5. A  vegetable  patch  must be  kept adequately watered which, in scientific terms, means the water content of the soil should be consistently maintained at a level of at least 10.8 litres per sq m. This is achieved by watering the ground thoroughly so as to apply this quantity once every 10 days during a dry spell. If the watering is to be done by hand, it will entail a lot of hard work. A better method is to lay a plastic hose along a side border of the vegetable garden, connected to a convenient standpipe.

The size of vegetable plot

It has been calculated that a plot of 418 sq m (500 sq yd) would be needed to meet the average household’s total vegetable requirements, but this area allows for storing and freezing to give all-the-year-round vegetables and fruit. In most cases, it is not possible to devote such a large space to vegetable production. The choice of vegetables should therefore be restricted to the best liked and most economical ones. Maximum use of a small vegetable plot can also be made by inter-cropping -growing a quick crop, such as Peas, between two rows of another slower maturing vegetable, and by catch-cropping – growing a quick-maturing vege­table in the short interval between lifting one main-crop and sowing another.
Keep in mind, too, that some vegetables, such as Potatoes, need a good deal of room, whereas others -Runner Beans, Beetroot and Carrots, for example -grow happily in pots and so are space savers.
To plan a vegetable garden for most effective use, you must first decide what you want to grow and then estimate roughly how much (by weight or number) you require to meet your full or partial needs, according to the space available. You must then plan how the area can be laid out. To help you do this calculation, the estimated approximate yield of the more popular vegetables, in terms of weight or numbers per length of row, is given under the general details of individual vegetables and summar­ized on p. 149. However, such factors as drought, cold weather, late seasons and noor soil, can all affect .

The different vegetable types

Vegetables can be categorized in various ways. First, there are three major groups which are chiefly related by the manner in which they are cultivated. These are:

  1. Roots, which include Beetroot, Carrot, Jerusalem Artichoke, Parsnip, Potato, Swede and Turnip.
  2. Brassicas, which   include  Broccoli,   Brussels Sprout, Cabbage, Cauliflower and Kale.
  3. Other  crops, which  include  Beans,  Celery, Chicory, Cucumber, Endive, Leek, Lettuce, Mar­row, Onion, Peas, Radish, Spinach, Sweetcorn and Tomato.

There is also a fourth group, which has no connection with the others and which contains the perennial vegetables such as Asparagus, Globe Artichoke, Rhubarb and Nine Star Perennial Broccoli.
Quick-growing crops, such as Lettuce, must be used immediately they mature, and successional sowings, i.e., sowing at intervals, will ensure a constant supply rather than a glut all at once.

Preparing soil for vegetable garden

For a new vegetable plot, first double dig the area. Thereafter, it may be single dug, and ideally given a double digging every three years. Fertilizer, manure and lime should be incorporated into the soil in the appropriate area during digging, but lime and manure should not be dug in at the same time as certain fertilizers. Digging is best done in the late autumn, so that the fresh clods are broken down by the frost, and can be raked over to make a fine tilth.

Planning for herbs

Probably the best site for growing herbs, from a practical point of view, is as close to the kitchen door as possible. However, there are many ways of growing them which will add beauty to the over-all appear­ance of the garden, and this is par­ticularly useful if the area is small. Many herbs are beautiful enough to be grown in a flower border, and an excellent way of doing this is to plant them at the kitchen end of a terrace running along the back of the house. Another attractive way of growing them is to divide the space devoted to them into square beds formed by placing 60-cm (2-ft) square paving stones on the ground so that their corners just touch. This forms a chequered pattern and the herbs are grown in the soil squares. Such an arrangement can be very ornamental if a variety of forms and colours of herbs are olanted. and creeoina plants, such as Thyme and Marjoram are allowed to stray, in moderation, over the edges of the paving stones. A formally laid-out herb garden, of the kind often seen in the gardens of stately homes, is a beautiful feature, but it needs, of course, a garden with space to spare. An adequate supply of many herbs can be obtained by growing them in window-boxes, containers and on balconies.