The properly maintained home vegetable garden will not only provide supplemental food for you and your family’s needs, but will also turn out to be the place where you can unwind and find yourself in closer harmony with the Earth. So let’s take on a whole new outlook on the “home vegetable garden”.
In the average moderate-sized place there will not be much choice as to land. It will be necessary to take what is to be had and then do the very best that can be done with it, since most homes do not exactly have a large piece of land to work with. But there will probably be a good deal of choice as to first, exposure, second, convenience, and lastly, the soil suitability.
The vegetable gardening spot should be near at hand and convenient to access. I wouldn’t mind walking a dozen yards to my vegetable plot, but I do mind walking a few hundred yards! Time is of the essence these days, and all we really have is 24 hours a day. Not until you have had to make a dozen time-wasting trips for forgotten seeds or tools, or gotten your feet soaking wet by going out through the dew-drenched grass, will you realize fully what “convenient access” means.
The next thing is the exposure of the place. Pick out the “earliest” spot you can find. A plot sloping a little to the south or east, that seems to catch sunshine early and hold it late, and that seems to be out of the direct path of the chilling north and northeast winds.
A building or an old fence might help in shielding your vegetable plot from the winds. If that is not available, a hedge of some low growing shrubs and evergreens might substitute. Getting the location right is important if you expect to see your vegetable garden get established for the long term.
Most soils are not the best you can get, but take heart even if you can’t find a good location where the soil is nutrient rich. You want nutrient rich soils for your vegetables to grow in, so that they can convert those minerals into organic minerals which you consume later on. Unless the soil is truly devoid of nutrients or poisoned, as in former mining lands, it can definitely be “rehabilitated” or improved to the level such as the average home vegetable garden requires.
Large tracts of non arable land have been rehabilitated so that in just a few years, been brought into cultivation for large scale commercial crops; so you definitely can do the same for your vegetable garden. Proper treatment of the soil is much more important, and a garden patch of average run-down, or “never-brought-up” soil will produce much more for the energetic and careful gardener than the richest spot will grow under average methods of cultivation – provided you get to work on it.
The ideal garden soil is described as “rich, sandy loam”. These soils are not common, so the” less fortunate” gardener will need to create this soil. Let us analyze that description a bit:
When gardeners talk about “rich” soil, they mean soil that is packed with plant food ready to be used by the plants. So the soil needs to supply ready “plant food”. Practically no soils in long- inhabited communities remain naturally rich enough to produce big crops. They are made rich, or kept rich, in two ways; first, by cultivation, which helps to change the raw plant food stored in the soil into available forms; and second, by manuring or adding plant food to the soil from outside sources.
“Sandy” means soil that is friable enough. Soil that rainwater will pass through, and not end up leaving the soil mucky or waterlogged. This type of soil should easily crumble and fall apart in your hand after being pressed.
Finally, “loam” usually means soil in which the sand and clay are in proper proportions, so that neither greatly predominate, and usually dark in color, from cultivation and enrichment. Such a soil, even to the untrained eye, just naturally looks as if it would grow things. It is remarkable how quickly the whole physical appearance of a piece of well cultivated ground will change.
“Rich sandy loam” is not really too difficult to achieve, but requires some effort. Not too much out of the ordinary, for gardening anyway. Regular additions of muck or compost heaps will aid greatly in bringing your soil fertility up, as will ploughing using a shovel and hoe. If your soil contains too much clay, try adding a little natural sand and ploughing them together. Occasionally adding inorganic fertilizers which can be bought from the local gardening can help too, that is unless you’re totally into organic gardening.
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