A vegetable garden should ideally have full sunlight through the day. In temperate areas, where the temperature never drops below minus 5 Celsius (23 degrees Fahrenheit), it is possible to have a vegetable garden that is productive throughout the year. If the area is large enough, a brick wall round the garden will absorb the heat during the day and keep the garden warmer at night. Any wall is an advantage for this reason and, if the wall faces the sun, a bed at the bottom is the ideal place for heat and sun loving plants such as tomatoes.
The vegetable garden design is formal and regimented and completely unlike the carefree and free
The vegetable garden has four large rectangular plots in the centre. (Even in a very small garden it is necessary to think in terms of four patches of ground with different requirements, growing different types of vegetables). The plots are edged with, for example, thick wooden planks, brick edging, concrete edging, or metal edging and are divided by gravel paths. There is no place for grass in a vegetable garden â it invades the beds.
At one end of the garden, the shady end if there is one, are the tool shed and the compost heaps, which are contained within untreated rough plank wooden walls with the front open. The heaps are filled and emptied in succession, so that there is always one heap being emptied, one heap which is breaking down, and one heap which is being filled. In this same area is a bin for leaf mould and an area where garden stakes and canes are stored. In a sunny corner there is a potting shed or greenhouse and next to it is a row of glass-covered cold frames for growing throughout the winter.
The vegetables are divided into four groups and these groups are rotated round the four beds each year so that a four year rotation is established. This ensures that diseases are not built up in the soil.
Group 1: the brassica plants, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, kohl rabi. These are heavy feeders and the ground needs to be limed in the winter and heavily manured before they are planted.
Group 2: the root vegetables, carrots, beetroot, parsnips, onions, garlic, leeks and celeriac. These are plants which do not like a freshly manured bed and are grown in a bed which contained brassicas the previous year.
Group 3: potatoes, sweet corn, peppers and the squash family, courgettes, pumpkins, cucumber. These are also heavy feeders, like the brassicas, but should not be given lime and prefer a mixture of well-rotted compost and manure. They succeed the root vegetables in the rotation.
Group 4: the legumes, peas and beans. These are tolerant plants which will do well on the bed that contained the third group in the previous year.
Within the beds the plants are grown on a north to south axis. The brassica bed has lines of plants 11/2 yards apart with the same spacing between the plants. This may seem ridiculous in March when the plants are a few inches high. By December the plants will fill the whole area. The root vegetables are sown in rows 2 feet apart. This seems generous but allows for regular hoeing between the rows. Carrots and onions are planted in alternate rows (this discourages carrot fly). In group 3, potatoes and squashes, the spacing is 2 yards apart. The squashes are grown on mounds of well-rotted manure â one of the few areas of relief in the garden. The peas and beans are grown up metal trellises which are fixed at least 11/2 yards apart to allow both hoeing and easy picking when the pods have formed.
A birds-eye view will show the vegetable garden as an area of perfectly straight lines with patches of soil between. As the year progresses, the patches of soil disappear under the foliage.
There is a place for flowers in the vegetable garden, but not for the wildly exuberant and over-filled flower beds of the flower garden. Flowers should be planted in straight lines between the rows of vegetables. This is part of what is known as 'companion planting'.
All flowers attract bees and wasps and orange coloured flowers such as the marigolds, escholzia and calendula attract hoverflies, who eat aphids (greenfly) and the bean blackfly. In the brassica bed, rows of flowers which attract bees will deter the cabbage white butterfly which lays its eggs on cabbages, broccoli and cauliflowers and leads to caterpillar infestation of these plants.