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Creating a vegetable plot garden

(Article by the Greenstow Team, providing a professional approach to the management of your greenspaces)

Vegetable Gardening

So you want to create a vegetable patch
but not sure where to start?

The most important thing to remember is that you do not need to be a gardening expert to have a productive veg plot. Follow our simple plan and you will soon be well on your way to tasty veg straight from the garden.

The first place to start when planning a vegetable garden is positioning. It’s a good idea to choose an area that gets plenty of sunlight throughout the day. An area that is not heavily overlooked by trees is ideal. You also need to avoid areas that are too open and exposed to cold winds. Don't worry if you don't have the ideal setting, vegetables can be grown in a wide variety of places including within containers on balconies. Watch out for further articles by us as we will explain all about this in our further issues.

Other important considerations are water supply. How do you intend to water the plot during hot summers – yes one of these years we may have a hot summer. Do you have a shed or garage you could utilise for rainwater storage? Could you water the garden with watering cans should a hose pipe ban be imposed? Ensuring your plot is well watered is an essential part of getting good yields.

Put in the efforts and you will soon be rewarded with a plentiful supply of fresh salad and vegetable crops to last throughout the growing season. Yes they may not be the same as the vegetables in the shop, and yes they may cost more in time and inital set up, but from the moment you bite into your first produce you will be hooked, vegetable gardening is addictive, so now what's next?


There are two main types of vegetable plots you can choose; the first option is raised planter beds, made from railway sleepers, boards or prefabricated plastic. These are great for people with back problems or who have difficulty bending down, they are also a good option if your soil is not of a good quality for instance being littered with brick rubble or having poor drainage. The downside is initial cost will be higher as extra topsoil and materials are needed at the start. The second option is constructing beds within the ground; this is done by turning over or rotovating the soil.  Whichever you choose, aim to make the beds longer than they are wide. We suggest a maximum of 1.5 metres. This enables the whole bed to be reached from the perimeter avoiding soil compaction. Treading or walking on your vegetable plots is not good, as soil compaction can limit your crop growth.

Now that the site has been chosen, it's time to start the hard (but enjoyable) work.


There are a few basic rules to consider about the soil with vegetable gardening, first you must know your soil type.

Main Soil Types

Clay Soil
Identifiable by rubbing through your finger. If it appears slightly sticky and smooth, chances are your soil is clay. If you have clay soil it is wise not to begin working on it until it has dried to a crumbly consistency, working whilst wet could further exacerbate any soil compaction and limit drainage. To improve the structure of clay soil, add organic matter via composts or manures. Cover the surface of your vegetable plot annually with around 2 inches of compost or manure for several years, reducing to 1 inch once the soil has begun to improve. It is best left on the surface to allow earthworms to incorporate, however if you prefer you can also incorporate it with a fork or a powered rotovator. Avoid the use of fresh manure which may burn crops or their roots, ideally you should use stable manure with straw content. Drainage can be a problem within these soils, and they can easily become waterlogged. It is possible to add horticultural grade sand/grit to the soil to improve drainage, but care must be taken to get a good balance. The sand/grit will also help with the workability of the soil.

Sandy Soils
Watch out with sandy soils as they are prone to drying out during hot spells, and do not hold nutrients very well. The best course of action is to apply organic matter in the same way as described for clay, and monitor moisture levels in the soil during key periods.

If you are lucky you may have this type of soil. Loam is the best soil for vegetable gardening and will save you preparation time. When wet it should break into loose chunks but not be gritty like that of sandy soil. Loam is easily worked, has a high water holding capacity and provides a good supply of nutrients which are all essentials to growth. You may be thinking brilliant I know this is the soil I have but be reminded that this soil does still need annual application of organic matter however at half the application rate of either sandy or clay. A 1 inch cover will be perfect.

Soil pH

Sounds technical, but it's not! Most garden centres have pH testing kits for sale. These are relatively inexpensive and will give you a rough indication of the pH of your soil. Ideally you will need to take several samples from different areas of your plot especially if it's large. From experience make sure you label each area in case you need to add treatments. It is best to test annually, at least 3 months before or after applying lime, fertiliser or organic matter.  Once you have your results you can work out whether your soil is acidic, neutral or alkaline.

Lime is applied for acidic soils and acidifying materials such as sulphur or leaf mold and wood chips for alkaline soils. Neutral soil? Lucky you.

You can construct a vegetable patch at any time of the year, however it's worth noting that organic matter can take a while to break down therefore autumn is the best time.

So now to begin construction of the bed. Plan out the perimeters of your chosen site, construct raised beds or remove turf dependant upon your choice of patch. Beds in the ground will need to be turned over with a fork or a rotovator, ensuring that the soil is worked to a depth of 6 – 8 inches and is a fine tilth, adding organic matter as appropriate.

Now the fun can begin, the options of what to plant are endless and I can guarantee that if you have the space you will extend your vegetable plot year on year.

All the best,

The Greenstow Team

We hope you have found this article helpful, keep a look out for our next topic:
Growing Vegetables in difficult areas and will include Container Gardening.

In the meantime, visit for more hints, tips and ideas.


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