Building a Vegetable Plot
Whatever the size of your garden you can set aside and area for vegetables, even if it means growing your plants in containers rather than using 'Raised beds'. Before you start digging up the patio however lets just look at the location you plant to use.
Choose your location
For the vegetables to grow well they will need shelter, sun, food, and water. So a good vegetable plot should be sheltered from poor weather but open enough to get maximum sunlight. It should not be covered by trees that will use all the nourishment and drink all the water. But it should have good quality soil with good drainage, but enough organic matter to hold on to any nutrients.
If your plot is too open the plants can suffer from damage by the wind, and you will need to erect a windbreak to protect them. The windbreak could be a hedge or a screen similar to a Willow hurdle as they let air pass through the windbreak rather than form vortices over the top that can break or damage heavy crops.
Soil fertility and manuring
You have selected the ideal location for the vegetable garden, and now you need to investigate the soil. In a perfect world you will have a 'Friable Loam' with good drainage, and full of nutrients. It should have a slightly acid pH of 6-6.5. In the real world however you will need to do a little work to reach that stage. So don't worry if you are living in a heavy clay area, or chalky ground with an inch of topsoil, there are solutions to all of these problems.
Organic matter added to any soil will improve the soils ability to store nutrients and moisture, it will attract worms and other organisms, including bacteria, which will help to aerate the soil and allow the organic matter to breakdown more quickly.
There are a couple of ways to introduce organic matter to your soil. You can grow 'Green Manure' which are plants specifically grown so you can dig them back into the ground, like Borage or Rye Grass. Or you can dig in a well rotted compost, preferably your own, but a good, general, organic compost can be purchased from all garden centre's. If you don't have a compost bin, or a Wormery then this is a good time to buy or build one.
The process of enriching your soil can take several years to achieve, and you will need to continue with the feeding of the soil as long as you are wanting to produce crops from the it.
Planning your garden
Now is the time to consider the layout of the vegetable garden, careful planning now will save a lot of time and trouble later. Consider the following:
If you will be growing perennials, set aside a portion of the plot for them.
The same should be done if you are going to have a greenhouse.
Divide up the remaining plot into four distinct areas for crop rotation.
Plan out pathways to define the boundaries of each section as well as providing access to the plants
If space is at a premium place some vegetables into flower beds so as not to use up valuable space. Bulb Fennel is particularly good for this as it provides an excellent structured form and will compliment the flowers in the bed.. This practice of planting Vegetables and Flowers together is known as 'Potager Gardening'.
Geographical location and climate
When considering the location of your vegetable plot you will need to look at the climate conditions in your area. Consider the temperature, rainfall, sunshine and wind direction. All of these considerations will affect the way the plants grow. If you live on the south west tip of Cornwall you will be able to grow vegetables almost all year round where as in the Scottish Highlands it is possible to get frost in June or July. Only you can decide how to cope with your local conditions, as they can vary so much. Carry out experiments to see what works best.