Anyone can produce a respectable crop, bearing the following in mind.
The Ten Commandments of happy vegetable growing
1. Always make sure your soil is in good heart. In spite of the ‘no digging’ cult, I am a firm believer in attempting to dig the area thoroughly once a year.
2. Attempt to add as much humus-forming material as possible (well-rotted manure, garden or mushroom compost, etc.) about once every three years. Some vegetables will not grow well on freshly manured ground.
3. You will need to ‘top up’ the plant foods in the soil periodically when you start to crop the ground regularly. Once you begin to go into vegetable growing seriously you will encounter many specific fertilizers which can be used for individual crops, but these are bewildering to the new gardener, so for a start you can add a balanced fertilizer such as growmore or blood, fish and bone to the ground a week or so before sowing or planting out with quite satisfactory results.
4. Make sure you break the soil down to a fine tilth before sowing seeds. If you are planting out young plants the surface need not be as fine.
5. Always read the instructions on the back of the packets. These are put there to enable you to get the best results from the kinds of vegetables and the varieties you have chosen, but you may be able to space them slightly closer than the recommendations on the packet. The yield per plant may be reduced but the overall crop may be as high, or higher. However, if in doubt, stick to the instructions.
6. Keep the ground moist in dry spells. If not, leaf crops will be small and tough, roots will be woody, and crops such as runner beans will cease to produce their beans. Mulch if necessary.
7. If possible, try to rotate your crops so that no two similar types are grown consecutively on the same piece of ground. As well as utilizing the plant foods in the soil to the best possible advantage, it also prevents the build-up of pests and diseases specific to a certain type of crop.
8. Do not sow too much of a certain thing. Although home freezing has eliminated to a large extent the ‘glut’ experienced in the past when too much of too many crops all matured at the same time, there is nothing like fresh food – and, in any case, many vegetables (for example, salads) cannot be frozen. Small amounts of a crop should be sown at intervals to mature so that some are always ready.
9. The use of crop-protection fleece, or netting, will considerably increase your yield and substantially reduce pest infestations.
10. Do experiment with new vegetables and varieties. Once you have achieved satisfactory results with a certain thing, the temptation is to stick to it. Of course, you may find you still prefer the variety you always grew, but you do not know until you try.