Growing Vegetables in a Small Garden

Speaker: Geoff Hawkins
Date: 30th March
Year: 2022

Raised beds layout

Geoff started his talk by considerations of the different types of container that could be used to grow vegetables in a small garden. He suggested a variety of containers, including large tins, large bags for life, plastic pots, ladders, tyres, green walls and raised beds. Herbs do well in containers.

He went on to talk about allotments (if you are lucky enough to have one); and sizes in particular. He defined an acre as roughly “the area a man could plough in a day with a team of oxen”. A standard allotment is 1/16th of an acre. Geoff also discussed the units “rods, poles and perches”. (A rod is 250m²). Today, due to demand, ½ size allotments are often worked.

He said working an allotment can be hard work but can also be fun and creative. Initially costs outweigh the value of the crops in the first year.

The practicality of working your patch was then discussed, consideration of aspect, north to south or east to west which varies according to each garden and affects which crops grow best where. Access for wheelbarrows for example and facilities such as water butts.

The dig or no dig methods of cultivation were outlined and the advantages of each.

Digging

  1. opens up the soil and exposes pests
  2. helps remove perennial weeds
  3. removes the pan below the surface
  4. clears the stones

No Dig

  1. organic matter laid on the surface to be worked in by worms (there are 27 kinds of earthworms!)
  2. increases beneficial soil fauna and flora.

The soil can be improved by digging in green manure and rotating crops on a four year cycle. Start off with potatoes and put lime in afterwards. Peas and beans put nitrogen back into the soil.

Then decide on what vegetables you like and want to grow, those that are worth growing and in what quantities according to your needs.

Choose seeds carefully.  Look for:

  1. An Award of Garden Merit
  2. F1 variety – resistant to disease (clubfoot for instance in brassicas)
  3. Heritage seed library – traditional varieties not generally available

For compost – have a range of compost bins available with the tools to manage the compost heap, e.g., spades/forks/hoes. Most composts fertilize for 4-6 weeks maximum. A good compost will be needed for containers with additional fertilizer. Natural fertilizers contain trace elements. Vitax Q4 for potash. A useful all purpose fertilizer.

A greenhouse is ideal for propagation.

Geoff then went through a list of his recommended best vegetables to grow.

Root Vegetables

Beetroot, Carrots (can be difficult, choose stumpy varieties and cover to ward off carrot fly), Parsnips (gladiator F1 variety), Swedes and turnips.

Brassicas – Apply lime to deal with club root.

Cabbage (Hispi/pixie small varieties) and put up netting to protect from butterflies, Calabrese (Belstar/fiesta need space), Cauliflower (Gypsy/Clapton), Kohl Rahbi (do well in containers but watch out for slugs)

Lettuces – Little gem/Cos lettuce, Loose leaf are easiest to grow, can be grown between other crops.

Salad Onions – grow in cell trays.

Tomatoes – a huge choice.

Broad Beans – best if winter grown, pinch out soft tops in May to control black fly.

French Beans – sow in succession starting in May.

Runner Beans – white flowered said to be easier to grow.

Potatoes – early potatoes are easier than lates. Containers letting in the air are better.

Shallots – mild and ideal in small spaces.

Garlic –  success depends on type of soil.

Asparagus – A long term crop, watch out for beetle.

Sweet corn – grow in blocks.

Courgette – Only one plant per household needed.

Leeks/Parsnips/Brussel Sprouts need a frost to taste sweet.

 

Thanks to Michele West for taking notes

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