Vegetable Plots and Fruit Producing Areas in the Garden

VEGETABLE PLOTS

There are many good reasons for growing vegetables. It is usually cheaper than buying them, they can be organically grown if you prefer, and the fruits of your labours can be eaten when they are fresh enough to be at their most delicious.

A well-planned vegetable garden will yield crops throughout the year, especially if there is some form of glass protection. In very small gardens, plants have to be grown in odd spaces, tubs or growing bags. Many herbs, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, lettuces etc. thrive in containers, which easily enable you to control soil pests and diseases. Runner beans form an attractive screen or climber even in a tiny garden. But if you have the space to grow more than summer salad plants and herbs, then you need to think out your plot before you plant. Where it is sited depends on whether you find a display of vegetables attractive, in which case site it within convenient reach of the kitchen, or whether you prefer it discreetly hidden away from the house. Try, however, to select open, sunny land.

The quantity and quality of your crops will reflect the thoroughness of your soil preparation. Dig the soil over very methodically, really clear it of weeds and if possible, plant a cleaning crop of potatoes. Rotational cropping is the system whereby closely related vegetables with similar soil and nutritional needs are grown on different plots each year. If they were grown on the same site continuously, then essential minerals might become exhausted and pests and diseases increase. The ** illustration opposite shows how this rotation works in practice.

By making small-scale repeated sowings throughout the season of crops such as carrots, beetroot and cabbages, you achieve a longer cropping period of ripe vegetables than by one annual sowing. To make the best use of your plot you should inter-crop, that is, plant a quick crop like lettuce between rows of slower growers like beans or peas. Seed packets give sound instructions for sowing, planting, thinning and distances and it is important to follow these for successful cropping.

HERBS

Herbs can be considered an adjunct to the vegetable garden and you could make an attractive edging to beds with chives, parsley or thyme. However, it is advisable to plant your herbs in the vegetable patch only if it is sited near the kitchen. If possible, select a part of the garden which faces west for greatest sunshine, and treat the ground with compost or manure before planting. Most herb plants are easy to cultivate and you may need to cut back rampant growers. Many herbs produce attractive foliage, colourful flowers or a strong perfume.

FRUIT PRODUCING AREAS

Most gardens are not big enough to devote much of an area to fruit-growing, so space should be used economically. If you move into a garden which already has some mature fruit trees, you will want to design the garden around them, but if you are able to plan from the beginning then, by careful choice, a succession of fruits can be enjoyed. When planting new trees or soft fruit, buy only quality stock or stock which is certified virus free. All fruits prefer a sheltered sunny situation.

FRUIT TREES

The development of dwarfing rootstocks has enabled gardeners to place top fruits such as apples and pears, cherries and plums in very small spaces. These varieties can be trained against walls or fences or act as divisions in the garden, making attractive features. For instance, cordon apple trees, that is, apples trained onto a single stem and planted at an angle of 45 degrees, can be used this way. Espalier-trained trees can serve the same decorative and space-saving functions. You can also train plums and cherries as fans. The advantage with cordons is that they can be planted as little as 0.75 metres (2.5ft) apart, making them ideal for gardens where space is limited.

Pruning of trained trees is important as they will only flourish in their intended shape if they are properly trimmed and supported. Cordons need cutting back several times a year for the whole crop to remain within reach. An espalier is trained as one vertical stem with the side branches tied on to wires in a horizontal position; the pruning of the horizontal branches is conducted in the same way as a cordon. Fan training is a variation of espalier and is particularly popular for cherries. Fan-trained trees have a basic point from which the stems are trained outwards. This arrangement is most useful for limited space and against a wall.

SOFT FRUIT

Raspberries, blackcurrants, blackberries and gooseberries will usually crop in most situations. Other soft fruit favours sunny protected planting, and most fruit prefers a slightly acid soil. Plant where you can take some action against birds, if possible by netting, if necessary with a fruit cage. Soil should be well drained and properly dug over before planting. Some feeding with compounds of nitrogen, phosphates and potash will improve growth, hardiness and resistance to disease.

What you grow will, of course, depend on your own preferences but these may be influenced by space and maintenance. Strawberries can be planted in rows 60cm (2ft) apart with 45cm (1.5ft) between plants. They need mulching with plastic or clean straw in spring. Strawberries are very suitable for growing under cloches, in polythene tunnels, or in tubs.

Currants are very easy to look after. Place them at least 1.2 metres (4ft) apart and when planting make sure that the crown of the plant is just below the soil level. After blackberries crop, cut out all the wood on which fruit has been borne and leave the new growth for next year. This should be carried out annually. Redcurrants are grown on a short stem and the fruit appears on the old wood so the branches should be trained to form a permanent frame, cutting back the laterals to form fruiting spurs. In later years, thinning can be undertaken. Gooseberries are grown in the same manner as red and white currants.

Raspberry canes are planted 45cm (1.5ft) apart in rows 1.8 metres (6ft) apart or along a boundary or fence but they should have plenty of wire-support. After planting, cut canes to 23cm (9in) and thereafter remove the fruiting stems to ground level immediately after fruiting and train in the new shoots for the following year. Tip the latter if they grow too tall.

Blackberries, loganberries and hybrid berries can be trained along fences but in the small garden care should be taken as they are somewhat vigorous and could take over in an area if not pruned after fruiting.

Unfortunately, there are many pests and diseases of fruit that cause top fruit in particular to become unsightly. Pests can be eliminated by spraying, but do not spray crops that are about to be picked. Aphids are a particular nuisance on a number of fruits and these should be sprayed whenever they are seen, as they are carriers of viruses which infect and reduce crop yield. Any fruit that is found to be infected with virus should be burnt immediately and a fresh virus-free stock planted. Strawberries and raspberries are particularly susceptible.

04. May 2013 by admin
Categories: Featured, Garden Management, Top Tips | Comments Off on Vegetable Plots and Fruit Producing Areas in the Garden

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