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Southern Inspirations Garden Design

A family-run business since 1997

Southern Inspirations
Vegetable Garden Design Essentials
Before planting a vegetable garden, you need to consider the following where's, what's, how's and do's:

Where will you plant it? What kind of soil do you require for your vegetables? What type of vegetable will be best suited for your needs and the needs of your family? What tools do you require for the job? What are the water requirements? How do I control weeds? How do I plant or sow seeds? Do I have the right weather conditions/climate?

Do I have the right weather conditions or climate?

Golden Thyme For vegetables light is essential. Vegetables don't do well in shade, the reason being that the light is absolutely essential for plant growth. Light enables chlorophyll formation and for the manufacturing of carbon compounds by the leaves.

No manure, compost, fertilizer or plant food can compensate for lack of adequate light. If you do have shady spots in your garden, plant these areas with cabbages, Swiss chard, lettuce or similar leaf crops, which will tolerate the shade.

Root vegetables will also tolerate some shade except for potatoes. Potatoes don't do well in shade. The tubers are simply storehouses for surplus starch produced by leaves in conditions of high light intensity.

Beware of planting your vegetable garden near large trees. Large trees crate heavy shade and the plants beneath them suffer during rainy periods. The constant drip of the rain water on the plants encourages serious fungal diseases. The trees also rob growing crops of plant food and moisture because of their extensive root systems near the surface.

It is a good idea to build a wind shelter of some sort next to your garden. Wind can damage tender plants. It can also whip out tomato stakes and cause immature green fruits to chafe against each other. A wooden fence, wall or plants that don't rob the garden of nutrients would be useful for this.

Where will you plant your vegetables?

  • You need to give the location of your vegetable garden some thought. Successful location means successful crops.
  • You need to level ground, if your ground slopes, fill in the bed with extra soil and build it up to that the gradient is even.
  • Next you need to have well-drained soil. This is essential. Plants don't like “wet feet.” The roots need air to function properly.
  • Do an experiment: Dig a hole 300mm (1ft) deep and fill the hole with water. If the water drains away within 3-4 hours, your ground is satisfactory. If is doesn't you need to consider constructing flower boxes on top of the soil out of brick or wood. Insert pipes to lead the water away. The pipes should be at least 450mm below the soil surface to be effective. Large stones should be placed on top of them and then your nourishing soil mixture.

What kind of soil do you require for you vegetable garden?

Major Plant Foods

Nitrogen: It promotes growth. Deficiency leads to slow, spindly growth and pale foliage.
Phosphorus: encourages vigorous root formation.
Potassium: linked with nitrogen in several plant processes including protein formation. This is essential for the growth of root and tuber crops.
Calcium: Plays a part in plant vigour and affects the reaction and physical condition of the soil.

Trace Elements

Boron, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Molybdenum, Sulphur and Zinc.

Most vegetables are heavy feeders. Almost any soil type can be modified to become a suitable medium for crop production. Soil consists of mineral particles of various sizes and the blackish residue of plant and animal matter.

These are graded into four classes: coarse sand, fine sand, silt and clay. The smaller particles of soil, the more moisture it will hold. Clay soils are hard to work with because they are sticky. Sandy soils are good to work with and must be nourished regularly with organic matter of some form. Organic compost every six months is useful in feeding and nourishing vegetable gardens.

What types of vegetables?

Organice Vegetable Garden The aim is to produce a consistent, satisfactory yield with a variety of vegetables over several years, so planning is essential.

Small gardens need smaller crops and large gardens can plant large-spreading crops for example: pumpkins, sweet potatoes, sweet corn and potatoes. Sandy soil is good for root and tuber crops. Where one has a choice, lighter soil is used for early sowings and heavier soil for late sowings. Lighter soil warms up much more quickly in spring.

When starting out growing vegetables for the first time, easier crops such as cabbages, leeks, carrots, beets, radishes, peas, Swiss chard and beans should be attempted. After a season when you have become more experienced, other crops can then be attempted. Always take into consideration the grouping and soil types of the plants.

Never grow the same crop in the same bed. Alternate beds and thoroughly nourish the beds every season. Crop rotation is absolutely essential. Botanically, vegetables can be grouped as follows in crop rotation:

Group 1

Cabbages, cauliflowers, Chinese cabbages, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, onions, leeks and celery. These crops are classified as heavy feeders and need to be supplied with lots of manure and compost to product satisfactory crop yields. These crops generally prefer cooler growing conditions.

Group 2

Carrots, beetroots, parsnips, salsify, turnips, kohlrabi and sweet potatoes. These root crops have similar requirements. Be careful not to manure the soil before planting root crops. The manure causes the roots to “fork” and also stimulates abnormal root hair growth. Because of a high nitrogen content in the manure, the tops of the crop grow too quickly, which steals from the growth of the actual root.

Group 3

Tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, egg plants, lettuce and Swiss chard. These crops enjoy warm and hot conditions. They will benefit from manuring of the soil, but it is not essential if the soil was prepared properly.

Group 4

'Snap' beans, Lima beans, broad beans and peas. Legumes and pod-bearing plants are relatively undemanding in their food requirements and don't usually require any additional special care.

Tools and Equipment

The basic tools required are: spade, digging fork, trowel, rake, Dutch hoe, garden line and a dibber.

Additional tools required are:
  • Measuring Stick, tined
  • Tined cultivator
  • Swan-neck hoe
  • Cantebury hoe
  • Push-pull hoe
  • Ladies spade
  • Ladies fork
  • Potato fork
  • Gardening gloves
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Hand fork
  • Secateurs

When do I water?

Potassium Deficiency Young seedlings require water every day. Established plants require watering less frequently. Hot weather will dry out crops and so will wind. As a guide, 30mm (1,2”) of water in the early morning once a week should be enough. Alternatively you could also water in the mid-afternoon. An irrigation system could automate the task for you.

If a mulch is placed on vegetable beds, it will stop the soil from drying out too quickly.

Cultivation and Weed Control

Weeds compete with crop plants for plant food, moisture, light and air and therefore need to be removed. By applying a layer of mulch on the garden beds, we discourage the weeks from growing, since they need sunlight to germinate.

If “volunteer” plants spring up in rotation beds where they grew the previous season (that is tomatoes, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, etc.) they must be removed as they interfere with the rotation process and use unnecessary nutrients.

Use organic weed killer only if necessary. Weed killer should be use sparingly and with exactness if required.

How do I plant and sow seeds?

Firstly, buy your gardening seed from a shop that specializes in good seeds. Good seeds render good plants. Before sowing seeds, seedbed preparation must take place:
  • Dig the bed over
  • Apply a thick layer of sterilant compost
  • Apply fertilizer dressing
  • Cover seedbed with a plastic sheet to allow sterilant to penetrate.
  • Fumigate for root knot nematodes
  • Drench soil with pesticide for cutworms, white grubs etc.
  • Consolidate the soil by breaking up surface clods.
  • Rake to a fine tilth
Many designers are very keen on companion planting as opposed to chemical usage. Before you apply pesticides, consider these options of planting good companion plants. For example: if you have carrots and are plagued with carrot root fly, grow alliums such as chives or leeks between the rows to them off scent. The smell of the carrots will deter potential pests to the alliums.

Marigolds are strongly scented and should be planted in between each row of vegetables. Their strong smell wards off root flies and white flies. To stop black flies from over-running your broad beans, grow egg plants beside them. Hover flies love the flowers of the egg plant and will devour any black flies nearby.

Ladybirds and lacewing larvae on the other hand eat green flies. Lure the ladybirds and lacewing larvae into your garden by planting some lovely herbs like lavender and catmint.

The old native American Indians use a technique called the “Three Sisters.” This involves planting sweet corn, pumpkins and beans together. The tall sweet corn provide a climbing support for the beans, which in turn fix nitrogen in the soil to feed the other two hungry plants. The pumpkins trail along the ground making a dense ground cover thus stopping the weeds from growing. One helps the other, proving again that it is what you know that counts.

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