We have been expanding our veggie empire over the last few weeks. With the price of fuel going through the roof bumping up the price of nearly all of our groceries, there is no better time, or excuse, to start growing your own. Being able to go out into the garden and pick food for tea gives me a great deal of satisfaction. It’s also very good exercise and the taste is far superior to most shop bought products, cheaper too. You can pick what you need when you need it, leaving the rest to grow in both size and nutritional content.
We have been cramming the vegetables in seven small 6 foot by 3 foot raised beds until recently, but this wasn’t nearly enough to feed the growing family for more than a few meals a year, so it was time to remove some more grass and spread out. To save our backs, a small mini digger, being used by a neighbour was brought in to scrape off the top growth of grass and reeds to create the initial bare bones of the plot.
We then began by deciding how the site was to be laid out. I like the idea of raised beds; they are beneficial in a number of ways.
Raised beds drain more effectively when the soil gets wet
They warm up sooner in early summer giving the young plants a head start.
You don’t compact the soil by walking on it like in a conventional vegetable patch.
They are easier to work on because you don’t have to bend over so far.
And lastly, I like things to look neat.
We wanted the beds to be a bit larger than the ones we have been using. As convenient as the existing ones are, they proved to be a bit restricting when growing larger plants such as courgettes and broccoli. Instead of using the treated fence panels as before, we decided to just mound up the soil into beds of about 14 foot long by 4 foot wide. The length isn’t too important but for the width, you need to be able to work on the beds without compacting the soil. We didn’t want to use anything too solid in the design so the paths in between the beds are made from recycled pallet wood ground up into small chippings by the local recycling centre. The wood acts as a very effective path that stops us getting muddy in wet weather and is sturdy enough to run the wheelbarrow over.
It all happened so quickly.
As soon as the beds were made we started to plant. Firstly we had some very poorly looking garlic and onion sets, which we put in the ground. These needed urgent attention and have made a miraculous recovery. The salad went in next. It only seems like a few days ago when the seeds were planted but we are already enjoying a bumper crop of lettuce, rocket, coriander, chives, parsley and radishes.
The young courgette plants had a bit of a slow start because we had to rely on watering with the hosepipe at first, as there was no rain. Plants don’t respond well to tap, but since the weather turned wetter the plants have just burst into life and we are harvesting the small delicious vegetables nearly every day. The first sowing of peas and beans are also working their way up the hazel rods and the spinach is young and tender and ready for picking. Let’s not forget the fruit, blackcurrants are forming and e are also watching the strawberries turning red.
Not everything happens so quickly in the veggie patch though. Some things are worth waiting for. The brussel sprouts will be ready in time for the Christmas period and the purple sprouting broccoli will be there in the early spring.
Help is at hand
Planned well, this vegetable patch could supply us with fresh, home grown food at all times of the year. I also like the fact that we are partly self-sufficient and not so dependent on the price of fuel and transportation costs dictating the price of everything we are buying. Starting small is the key so things don’t get on top of you. All that is needed are a couple of beds and a bit of forward planning.
If you want any help starting a vegetable patch, we have plenty of friendly advice and help on the forum site on http://www.gardening.ie/