Garden design with fruit and vegetables: 7 top tips for designing a fabulous fruit and veg garden
As far as we are concerned, there are few more rewarding experiences than picking the first home-grown tomatoes of the season, or watching a bumper crop of courgettes develop from a few tiny seeds sown so optimistically a few months previously. It is always a joy, therefore, when we are often asked to include a fruit and vegetable areas in the gardens we design for our customers.
Growing our own fruit and veg need not be hard work, and it needn’t take up too much space. It is a great way of encouraging our children to enjoy nature and being outside, and it enables us to know the provenance of some of the food we eat. It can also potentially be very cost-effective too, so what's not to like?
If you grow your own produce then we hope it is a positive and worthwhile experience for you. If you haven't tried your hand at growing fruit and veg, perhaps we can tempt you with Tythorne Garden Design's top 7 tips for designing a successful fruit and vegetable garden:
1. Less is definitely more
For once in life, there is an awful lot to be said for not trying to be too ambitious if we are trying growing fruit and veg for the first time. We need not devote too much of our gardens to fruit and veg, and we needn't sacrifice the best parts of our garden for it either. A modestly-sized part of our plot is all most of will need to keep ourselves more than busy.
Similarly, it is very easy to get carried away when buying seeds, so for the first year or so at least we always recommend concentrating on a few things that we really enjoy eating. Rather than rows and rows of potatoes or onions we should think, perhaps, about salad crops, specialty vegetables, maybe a few strawberries and a clump of rhubarb. Let's choose things that are easy and relatively quick to grow, and then take on more as our confidence builds.
2. Location, location, location
To give ourselves the best chance of succeeding it is vital to pick a good sunny spot for our new veggie garden. It doesn’t need to be in full sun all day, but a patch of ground that gets direct sunlight for around four or five hours a day is ideal. Avoid locations next to large trees as well, as they will cast shade and take too much moisture from the soil. We don't need to design our whole garden around the veggie plot, but we need to give ourselves a fighting chance by picking a good location. The old days of the veggie plot always being at the end of our gardens is thankfully gone, so let's find the right spot and make the most of it.
3. Raising our beds for fruit and veg
We much prefer growing vegetables in raised beds. They don’t have to be very large or structural masterpieces, but raised beds make it much easier to control the depth and make-up of the soil. If, for example, our garden is predominantly heavy clay we can add lots of sand, grit and drainage to our raised bed and this will generally make it possible for us to grow a much wider variety of crops.
Ideally, raised beds should be constructed so that they remove the need for us to walk on the soil- this prevents soil compaction and reduces the need for regular digging. (Try searching online for ‘no dig’ gardening…there’s lots of information available.)
4. Saving space with plug plants rather than growing everything from seed
Raising plants from seeds can be really rewarding, but many varieties need somewhere warm to germinate and this means either giving up more of a garden for a greenhouse or keeping a propagator in the house. Both are definitely worthwhile investments for committed veg growers, but if we are new to this then we are probably better waiting a year or two before we splash the cash.
As an alternative to seeds, our local garden centres and online plant retailers are selling an ever-increasing range of plug plants. Plugs are small young plants that are ready to plant out in the garden. They tend to be rather more expensive than growing from seed, but they can save a lot of time and space initially. Plugs can also offer a better chance of success with some plants, saving an enormous amount of time and frustration for the new grower. Definitely a sensible short-cut and space saver for some crops.
5. Design for crop rotation
If the same plant is grown in the same place year after year then there is a very good chance that a build-up of pests and disease will make it all but impossible to grow a successful crop in future seasons. To avoid this happening to us, it is really worth planning our veggie garden to allow for a simply crop rotation system. It may be as simple as building three independent raised beds, and there are lots of crop rotation advice available in books and online. Check them out- they may save us a lot of frustration.
6. Designing with pests and diseases in mind
No matter how good our crop rotation is, there’s still a good chance that we will encounter the occasional pest or disease. Different crops suffer from different problems- carrots, for example, can be attacked by carrot root fly, whilst cabbages and turnips are susceptible to the cabbage white butterfly.
We can, of course, inspect our crops regularly for any signs of trouble and seek advice from gardening websites and books as soon as issues arise. On a practical note, we can also design our veg garden to include simple netting systems to keep pests at bay. Similarly, fruit cages are a really effective means of protecting vulnerable fruit crops.
7. Planning for how we will look after our veg garden
Depending on the varieties we choose to grow and the size of our veg plot, growing food crops needn’t be hard work. It is, however, really important to ensure that our precious plants are kept regularly watered and weeded, particularly in late spring and early summer.
With this in mind, it is worth considering including provision for water and electricity (for lighting and power tools) in our vegetable gardens, as well as somewhere handy and secure to store our tools.
Well, there we are- a whistle-stop guide to designing our own fruit and vegetable garden. We’ve only covered the very basics here, but hopefully we’ve done enough to tempt you to try your hand at this really worthwhile activity.
Tythorne Garden Design provides professional fixed-fee garden design solutions for customers in Grantham, Stamford, Newark and surrounding areas. Let's see how we can help you to enjoy your garden more. Call us on 07900 224 239 or 01529 455 355.