Although you will be able to strike lucky and grow mediocre vegetables at home or on the allotment without proper preparation, to grow successfully over time, it is greatly advisable that some effort goes into preparing the ground. Without going into too much detail, nutrients are vitally important to plants, how easily a plant can access these nutrients is greatly affected by the pH level (acidity/alkalinity) of the soil in which they are planted. Before planting, it is advisable to conduct a Soil pH test, this can be done at home using a soil testing kit or soil testing meter/probe. A pH of 6.5 – 7 is ideal for most veg. If required, the pH level of the soil can be simply adjusted. Apply sulphate of ammonia to acidify, lime or calcified seaweed to reduce acidity. Turn all beds to lightly break up the soil structure, double digging every 2 years.
Plants with specific requirements…
Brassica’s (members of the brassicacea family inc. Cabbage, Cauliflower, broccoli and brussels sprouts): require an alkali soil, this should be compact soil prior to planting to deter bolting( running to seed), lime the ground as required and apply base dressing of bonemeal 6 weeks before planting out. Brassica’s are High nitrogen feeders. Major problems encountered when growing these includeclub root: correct pH levels and choice of variety should prevent this. Cabbage white; plants can be netted to prevent this.
Cabbage, sprouts, broccoli – allow young plants to dry out a few times before planting to encourage root development, plant so bottom leaves are just above soil level, tread in to compact ground. Allow approx 90 days from planting out to cropping.
Cauliflower – once seeds germinate, allow 2 sets of leaves to grow, then repot into 3” pots, allow 14 days then repot into 1 litre pots, allow a further 14 days then plant out into the ground, as cabbage, without allowing to dry out.
Legumes: These high posash feeders require high levels of water when forming fruit. Main problems include; blackfly; remove terminal shoot on young plants as this tender young shoot is their preferred meal, spray with an approved pesticide for fruit and veg if problem occurs. Rust & mildew; spray with dithane. Peas, runner beans, French beans– prepare trenches in February, dig approx 18” deep and half fill with compost or rotted manure before refilling. Sow in 3” pots, 3 seeds to a pot, apply bonemeal to ground at time of planting. Feed with a a high potash feed fortnightly from sign of first flowers, watering liberally.
Root Crops: prepare beds in February if planting in ground. Apply bonemeal and superphosphate as a base dressing and work in well. sow seed direct to allow the long tap root to get as deep as possible.
Parsnip – plant in light sandy compost, if planting into ground, bore a hole 3ft deep and fill with compost to allow tap root to pass through easier and avoid forking. Thin to approx 4 – 6” apart after germination
Carrot – plant in light sandy compost, if planting into ground, bore a hole 3ft deep and fill with compost to allow tap root to pass through easier and avoid forking. Thin to approx 4 -6” apart after germination
Beetroot – was hybridised from marine plant thus it will thrive if a light run of sea salt is applied to drill at time of seed planting.
Potatoes – Stand on a windowsill to encourage shoots to develop Ground planting: dig trenches a minimum of 12” deep, stand potatoes 18” apart, as shoots continue to grow, gradually fill in the trench, leaving only the tip of the shoot showing, earth up as far as possible. Planting in pots: put approx 1” compost to line the base of the pot, sit tuber in centre of pot, minimum 10lite pot per tuber, cover tuber and gradually fill as haulms grow. Keep moist, as foliage begins to die back, lift and use.
Alliums: Prepare the beds with a base dressing of bonemeal lightly raked into the surface approx 6weeks before planting out. Tread down beds to deter bolting.
Onions: Seeds need planting late December, early January, sets can be planted March/ April. Avoid heavily working around plants, ie weeding as disturbance to roots can result in bolting.
Leeks: plant young plants 8” deep 8” apart cutting leaves by about a third to encourage new leaves to form quickly.
Sweetcorn: sow mid May, plant out mid June, prepare beds with bonemeal, 6 weeks before planting. Plant 12 – 18” apart in blocks to improve pollination.
Crop rotation: Is a system used to reduce the chances of soil borne diseases, and to limit the stress on the ground. Basic 4 area rotation system: BED A Year 1. Nitrogen fixers, high potash feeders; peas beans etc Year 2. High Nitrogen feeders, Brassicas Year 3. Alliums Year 4. Rootcrops, high phosphate feeders BED B Year 1. Rootcrops, high phosphate feeders Year 2. Nitrogen fixers, high potash feeders; peas beans etc Year 3. High Nitrogen feeders, Brassicas Year 4. Alliums BED C Year 1. Alliums Year 2. Rootcrops, high phosphate feeders Year 3. Nitrogen fixers, high potash feeders; peas beans etc Year 4. High Nitrogen feeders, Brassicas BED D Year 1. High Nitrogen feeders, Brassicas Year 2. Alliums Year 3. Rootcrops, high phosphate feeders Year 4. Nitrogen fixers, high potash feeders; peas beans etc