They are always such a wonderful idea.
They are always so much fun to plan.
Reality happens…. Along with the weeds, the pests, the watering and the summer holiday when the whole thing turns into an unkempt jungle.
Over the next few Sundays I will share my vast amounts of knowledge about the potager, or vegetable garden…. All from practical experience; none from actual education or training.
My first vegetable garden had to be hacked through with a machete after being neglected for a mere 4 days.
My last vegetable garden was 11 meters (36 feet) by 8 meters (26feet).
It took me a total of 3 hours per week to maintain it in pristine condition: no weeds, well-watered, no pests and an entire freezer full of food at the end of the summer…. plus 32 quarts of dill pickles.
I left it alone for 5 days at the height of summer…. You couldn't tell I'd been gone.
I'll talk about weed control, pest control, watering, general maintenance and preserving the harvest.
To start I'll talk about garden design.
"It's too late!" you say.
It may be too late for the planting, but, reassessing your current garden with these tips in mind, may make next year's garden a lot easier.
My first garden, here in France, was 50% bigger than my last (the above size), but with exactly the same amount of food produced.
I used to look at the directions on seed packets, read that the rows were supposed to be 24 inches apart and make them 18 inches apart. Less room for weeds, less garden to maintain was my thought.
Now I make them 36 inches apart.
And I plant something else in the middle.
Example #1: If you have 2 rows of tomatoes, spaced 24 inches apart, you have lots of room when the plants are young, but it gets pretty crowded when they are all producing tomatoes.
Space them 36 inches apart and you have lots of lovely room to pick your wonderful tomatoes…. And for those wonderful tomatoes to get lots of sun.
At the same time as you plant the tomatoes, plant an early crop, spinach, radishes or lettuce, down the middle – 18 inches from either row of tomatoes. You'll have lots of room in early summer, and, by the time the tomato plants are big, the early crop will be done.
Example #2: Sweet corn should be planted in blocks with each row spaced 3 feet apart and the plants 12 inches apart. That's a lot of wasted space.
Plant trailing vines like butternut or acorn squash. They'll find they're way in and out of the corn stalks, providing shade to keep the weeds down and the ground moist for the corn.
Or plant the corn 4 feet apart and put one or two (that's all you need, anyway) bush-type zucchini or summer squash (courgette) in the middle.
Example #3: Plant pole beans rather than bush beans. They're much easier to harvest, you can space the rows 3 feet apart and plant melons or cucumbers in the middle.
Example #4: If you want small gherkins for making pickles, let them climb, too,like the beans, easier to harvest…. And you can plant a row of dill down the middle.
I should point out that my 'rows' are not the length or width of my garden. I always have 1 or 2 paths in the garden (I'll explain why later). I'll have three rows of white sweet corn, each row 5 feet long. I'll have three 6 foot sections of pole beans; three 12 foot rows of tomatoes (1 slicing, 1 freezing, 1 cherry, heirloom, fun).
Smaller rows/sections give more variety, more fun and seem less overwhelming when working.
A well planned garden should have you eating well year.
Garden Salad: Radish, Fennel and Lettuce
2/3 cup (2.5oz, 75gr) julienned carrot, app. 2 medium
2/3 cup, (2.5oz, 75gr sliced radishes
1 cup fennel, (3oz, 90gr, sliced
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, cubed (2oz, 60gr)
8oz (2580gr) ham, cubed
red, green leaf lettuce
Slice, cut and cube all the ingredients. Prepare the lettuce. Put the lettuce in a large bowl. Add 2 tbs of dressing and toss well to coat. Add the remaining ingredients to the salad, toss lightly and serve, additional dressing on the side.
1/2 cup (4.5oz, 130gr) Greek yogurt
2 tbs ketchup
1 tbs white balsamic
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tbs fresh, snipped chives
Mix all ingredients well. Will keep for 4 – 5 days. Also good as veggie dip.
Next week: Part 2. the Weeds, control with minimum effort and no herbicides.