Planting and planning new vegetable beds

How you plan your vegetable beds will help you immensely in the long run. It will save you time and effort, ease retrieval and likely prevent you from developing a sore back.

Planting and planning new vegetable beds

Plant your greens in the sunniest and flattest part of the garden to ensure a bounty of vegetables all summer and fall. Plan your vegetable and lettuce beds well so that they're easy to maintain, accessible for weeding and watering, and protected against garden invaders.

Making a new bed

Keep vegetable beds no wider than 1.2 metres (four feet). To make sure they're accessible on all sides, don't place them right next to a wall or a hedge. The paths between individual beds should be about 30 centimetres (12 inches) wide.

  • Lay simple boards on the paths to keep from sinking in the mud during rainy weather.
  • Divide your vegetable bed into two: one with things you harvest daily, such as carrots, radishes and lettuce, and the other with permanent crops such as herbs, horseradish and cabbages.
  • Use berry and hazelnut bushes to provide attractive protection against cold wind.
  • Plant fighting veggies: pumpkin and squash restrict weeds; potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes loosen the soil.
  • Add basic fertilizer, preferably with compost, about three weeks before the first planting.
  • Plant low-growing veggies on the sunny side of taller ones so that they get adequate light.
  • Allow for varying ripening times when laying out the bed so you can grow different plants close together.

Seed propagation indoors and sowing

  • Use plastic starter flats. They're easy to clean, which makes it difficult for diseases to take hold.
  • Don't forget to label individual starter flats with the name of the vegetable and the date of planting.
  • Don't plant too many seeds in one container; the fewer seeds you plant in a container, the less work you'll have when it's time to thin out the plants.
  • Sew larger seeds farther apart, singly, or in pairs (just in case one of them fails to sprout).
  • Scatter smaller seeds — such as spinach and chard — directly onto the bed.
  • Mix very small seeds with a little sand so they don't fall so close together and are easier to spread.
  • Soak seeds from legumes or vegetables (like squash or tomatoes, which are really fruit) in a milk marinade for 24 hours — they'll sprout faster.
  • You can do outdoor seeding earlier if the ground is covered with a black tarp or black plastic sheet a few days in advance to warm it up.
  • Make optimal use of space by planting slow-growing vegetables such as carrots between fast-growing lettuce.

An herbal extract for seedlings

What you'll need:

  • 50 g  (1 3/4 oz) stinging nettle
  • 10 g  (1/3 oz) sage
  • 10 g (1/3 oz) rue
  • 10 g (1/3 oz) wormwood
  • 20 g (2/3 oz) wood ferns
  • 20 g  (2/3 oz) onion peels
  • 10 litres/quarts water

Soak the herbs in water for 24 hours, then boil and strain. Dilute the completed slurry 10:1 and sprinkle on the seedlings to strengthen them. Repeat weekly.

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