One of the greatest joys in life is to be in your garden during the summer surrounded by beautiful flowers and picking your own vegetables for lunch. Nature does the growing but it needs a little help on the way to make that new garden.
If you have a large enough spot to choose from pick the area that has the most sunlight throughout the day. There are a large number of flowers that enjoy the shade but most vegetables do not. The best choice would be a spot that gets six hours of sunlight per day.
The location should be one where air can flow freely but not somewhere very windy, where plants could dry and break. The soil has to be well prepared and fertile for the plants to grow. This is where the hard work begins.
Choose the right weather conditions to work the soil. Pick up a handful of soil and see if it crumbles well. That’s an ideal time for work. Don’t dig when the soil is wet and stick to the spade. Remove rocks, gravel and any debris.
Most soils need some sort of fertilizer. The best type for a beginner is commercial compost. Follow the instructions on the package for how much to spread into the soil. Don’t use any fresh manure as that will spread weeds as well as burn the plants.
Once you have a feel for the soil, it’s best to think about which vegetables you will grow. Tomatoes and cucumbers are very greedy plants and need a special compost as well as support such as trellises and garden poles.
Remember that after two or three years of tomato plants the soil can get exhausted. It’s never a good idea to over-fertilize with chemicals so give the soil a rest by planting beans. Whether they are runner beans, dwarf beans or broad beans, they will fix nitrogen in the soil as they grow through the season from the seed into the plant and then flower and produce the vegetable.
Choose two plots in the garden where you can grow tomatoes in one and beans in the other. After two years, change over the crops. Change it again after a further two years.
Lettuces, cabbages and leafy vegetables need moist, fine soil to grow in. You can start them from seeds in boxes in the house or buy the bedding plants to plant outside. In a good summer, lettuce and spinach can produce about four or five harvests on the same spot.
Once you have eaten one crop, you can replant another. Cabbages, lettuce and spinach are the best plants for a beginner. Once you gain confidence, try broccoli and cauliflower.
Sweet peppers and chilli peppers will grow outdoors in some parts of Britain but generally they are better when grown in a greenhouse. However, these are not plants for beginners. Courgettes will thrive, however and are easy to grow. They may need a little support to keep the growing vegetable off the ground.
Herbs are quite easy to grow outdoors and will thrive on the edges of most gardens. Be careful with mint as it grows like wildfire. Basil and parsley need the sun while sage enjoys the shade.