Consider how much time, space and energy you have for growing vegetables – use the colour coding as a guide – the easiest vegetables to grow are marked green wheelbarrow which is a good starting point; these vegetables give more reward for less time, for example peas, runner beans, Potatoes.
If growing vegetables for a successive year, check out Crop rotation. All vegetables are hungry feeders and thrive on good soil with plenty of organic matter muck and compost. If you don’t have time to dig, and who does, an alternative gardening tip is to spread compost on the veg plot when you get round to it – late autumn and early winter and let the worms do the digging. Whatever you are going to plant, prepare your plot carefully to ensure the soil is enriched, well drained and your plot is in a sunny position.
- If you are in the North of England or an exposed site, accept that some vegetables need a very sheltered spot or glass cover, such as tomatoes, French beans, melons, Sweet corn and squashes and a decent crop may prove very difficult, and more so in a poor summer. There is a difference of around 7 weeks between spring in the far South and the North. There is also a difference in temperature, and in some areas of light levels, which the books and seed packets do not always make clear.
- If you plant out early, March, & April you need to be ready to protect either with cloches or fleece to ward off the frosts. If the summer is poor, there may a correspondingly poor crop.
- If you don’t have the time for seeds and propagation, buy plug vegetable plants, which are still good value. Remember, some seeds are easier to germinate, as a rule of thumb larger seeds are easier. An easy starting point if you want to try germinating from seed are peas and beans, & courgettes.
- Salad crops need slug protection and here is detailed gardening tips on how to beat the slugs. Slugs love lettuce more than you do. The best protection if you have the time, is to water in nematodes just as the soil is warming up but there are many other ways. Follow the link for slug beating ideas but be prepared to tackle slugs or they will have your lettuce.
- To avoid vegetable gluts, it is best to sow or plant in succession, the usual gardening tip is sow every fortnight. Plants seeded at the same time, or planted at the same time, will produce fruit at the same time which can create a glut. To avoid this plant /sow a quantity of the veg and then a fortnight later repeat and continue doing through summer until the end date for planting, often around end of July. Even with care, some vegetables, notably runner beans always seem to come in a glut- step-by-step guide on how to freeze runner beans.
- If space is limited use tubs and containers for veg, bearing in mind that containers will need more attention particularly the need for watering. For gardening tips on growing vegetables in containers, follow this link. Tubs are a contained environment and as such they dry out more easily, which may present a problem over holiday periods. click here for gardening tips on looking after the garden whilst on holiday.
- Accept the weather, as you can’t control it. Torrential wet summers are a perfect condition for blight and dry summers cause plants to bolt and it never rains when you want it to.
Mulching is a top priority for a healthy garden. It does so much work that it’s hard to oversell the importance. Proper mulch maintains the integrity of the soil beneath it, protecting the earth from drying out under the sun and/or
washing away when the rains come and/or blowing away in the wind. It creates water retention, mulched gardens credited with requiring as little as ten percent of the watering that other gardens do! Mulching prevents weeds, provides habitats for useful insects and microorganisms, and moderates soil temperatures. The right type even feeds the soil as it decomposes. In other words, it’s a good idea.
- A barrier to weeds – to kill or suppress existing weeds, and to prevent seed from germinating and colonising.
- To prevent soil erosion by wind and rain
- To reduce water evaporation from the soil
- To clear an area of lawn or weeds, ready for cultivation
- To add organic matter
Pest & Disease
- Avoid using too much high nitrogen fertiliser as this promotes lots of soft leafy growth which is particularly appetising to garden pests.
- Erect physical barriers – covering crops with fleece or planting fruit in a fruit cage will often prevent pests from reaching your crops.
- Know your enemy – Many pests and diseases are specific to particular crops. Find out what is likely to attack your crops and the type of damage that it will cause. Once you know what you are looking for it is much easier to identify a problem when it occurs.
- Keep your eyes peeled for the earliest signs of attack and take action. Don’t let the problem get out of hand.
- Practise good garden hygiene. Keeping your garden, your greenhouse and tools clean and well maintained can prevent many diseases.
- Improve your cultivation practises. Plants can become stressed by poor watering regimes, lack of nutrients, inadequate light and ventilation, or poor soil conditions. These stresses make them more susceptible to damage attack by pests and diseases.
Encourage natural predators to the garden. Ladybirds and lacewings will happily munch their way through aphid colonies, preventing their spread throughout your garden.
- If you need to resort to using chemicals then make sure that you read the label carefully, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter. Never spray chemicals near ponds and other water habitats. Always choose a still, calm day to undertake to spray. Always wear appropriate safety equipment.
Sustainable Water Use
Water is our biggest cost by far. A high proportion of current allotment expenditure relates to water usage. Reducing unnecessary
water usage is therefore beneficial from a budget perspective, as well as having sustainability benefits for the wider
environment and community.
The Basics! Wasting water
Leaky taps and hoses
How often do you see this?
Five minutes spent fixing your hose attachment might save £5 a month in wasted water. Altogether we might be literally throwing thousands of pounds down the drain. We have to stop this. If you have a leaky hose then fix it. If you see a leaky hose, have a gentle word with the owner or report it to a site rep. This is costing us all money.
If you spot a leaking tap or notice a leak somewhere report it to the site rep immediately.
Hoses left on
Sprinklers are banned in the rules. If you see anyone using one, please report it, sprinklers waste gallons and gallons of water. It’s not against the rules (at the moment) to use a hose to water your plot but as we will see shortly watering this way is a massive waste of water. In our opinion, hoses should only really be used to fill water butts, and watering should be done by hand with a watering can.
Evaporation and Watering weeds! Use a watering can!
When you water with a hose you are sprinkling the whole surface. If this is done in the middle of the day, especially on hot days then a large amount of what you sprinkle will evaporate straight away anyway. Never use a hose in the middle of the day. If you really must, use it at dusk. Avoid daily sprinkles as this encourages shallow rooting and formation of soil crusts. When you water indiscriminately with a hose, you are also watering weeds. You will notice that you germinate all the weed seeds in-between the rows, and then help those weeds to grow. You are making more work for yourself! The
more indiscriminately you water the more weeding you’ll need to do in a week or two.
We should all be harvesting water. It is money falling out of the sky! Not only is it free, it is free from chemicals. The water that comes from the tap is chlorinated. So bear in mind that you are spraying chlorine on your plots when you water with a hose directly. Chlorine will adversely affect the natural biology of the soil. It will kill lots of the bacteria in the soil which do essential jobs in creating a healthy biome on your plot. If you grow organically, watering with chlorine will be detrimental to your success. Rain water, is pure water.
Sheds, gutters and water butts
Those of us that have sheds have no excuse for not fitting some guttering and collecting water in a butt. I know most of us do, but I still see sheds which are not collecting water. It doesn’t have to be pretty or cost a lot of money. I found some gutter in a skip and made a downpipe out of water bottles. It works fine.