A regular column on Treading Lightly Upon The Earth
There are few sights so rewarding as a basket of your own freshly picked home-grown vegetables.
All that digging, weeding, watering and inspecting pays off in summer and autumn when, if everything goes according to plan, you can harvest the fruits of your labours.
Whether it is potatoes, lettuce, fresh herbs or the most wonderful-tasting carrots, it’s worth it.
You know that the vegetables you have grown in your garden are the best you can get, and so they are the best for you and for your family.
The learning curve is steep because there are so many aspects of vegetable growing to contend with, whether it’s coping with pests, soil types, varieties of seed and ensuring that you are using environmentally friendly products, but there are ways and means of doing it all
Enrich poor soil with natural fertiliser, add nutrients with home-produced compost, and add mulch to fast-draining soils.
Second-hand (or new) garden books will advise on which plants are best planted next to others so that certain kinds of pest are deterred.
Join a gardening club if there is one near you and take advantage of the opportunity to listen to experienced growers living in your area, who have cultivated vegetables for years and have learned how to cope with the district’s problems, whether it’s heavy soil, low rainfall, slugs or high winds.
Simple tasks like setting up tubs to collect rainwater from down-pipes can make all the difference by ensuring that extended dry periods do not spell doom for your veggie patch.
That little corner of weeds left on the edge of the carrot bed will suddenly take over and threaten the whole crop if you don’t deal with them early in the season.
If you don’t deal with unwanted greenery in the asparagus bed, you’ll end up with less in the way of asparagus as the plants struggle with all manner of weeds for the available water and nutrients in the soil.
Going away for a couple of weeks, or even a few days at the wrong point in the growth cycle will pay you back, unless you can persuade a neighbour to care for yours by offering to do the same for them.
Bumper harvests can never be guaranteed but we can learn how to prevent frost damage, and other gardeners are always happy to share knowledge about the varieties that will thrive where you live.
In spite of the example set by much of modern cereal production, the home vegetable grower has to use crop rotation.
Failure to do so will encourage pests and diseases, and, as eco-warriors, we would rather not resort to chemical products that guarantee to deal with the problem but which are likely to have questionable side-effects.
It’s quite simple really - effort expended in the vegetable garden does, literally, reap rewards and, conversely, any skimping of attention will soon show